Oktoberfest & Sales Lessons Learned While Waitressing With an MBA
I think that they almost deliberately mislead tourists by calling the world’s biggest beer festival Oktoberfest, when it really starts in September and runs until the first weekend in October. You don’t know how many disappointed tourists arrive in Munich later in October to find the festival has come and gone.
I waitressed my way through my MBA university days and for a time found myself waitressing in Germany, despite barely speaking German.
It all happened by asking a simple question.
I was sitting in my favourite Munich beer garden when I noticed that the guy clearing the empty beer steins from the tables was wearing a University of Toronto t-shirt. I was somewhat homesick for Canada at the time, as I had been away for almost 6 months, so I innocently asked him, “Where did you get your t-shirt?”
After a short conversation, where I happened to mention that I once worked as a waitress, I was taken to his boss and briefly interviewed for a job. My lack of fluency in the German language was overlooked because they desperately needed an experienced server to handle the summer rush. Little did I know I would get my most important German language lessons on the job.
It also showed me the importance of asking a simple question. If I had stayed quiet, I would never have had that experience of waitressing in Munich–dressed up in the traditional folk costume too! Yes, that is me in the photo above. What you don’t see in the picture is the huge safety-pin keeping my body private, as German women tend to be well-built and the uniform was at least 6″ too big in the bosom.
Sales is all about the quality of the questions that you ask and how you respond to their answers.
Not being fluent in German, I was forced to listen intently as they ordered “Schweine…something or other”. The Germans love their pork and the extensive menu featured many pork dishes. I didn’t have the finesse to ask anything but simply, “You want pork what?” It was rude but I did the best that I could do under the circumstances. And that was another lesson I learned.
To be this bumbling incoherent waitress was humbling after graduating with the obligatory chip-on-my-shoulder MBA, but I did my best.
“Doing my best” served me well, as a few months later I had my first professional job in Germany. You cannot do more than your best. It’s amazing how much pressure was released once I realized that.
Previously I had tried to be perfect. But I knew in Germany and in German, I could not be anywhere close to perfect and could only try my best. That had to be good enough. And you know, good enough from me, is pretty darn good!
I’m a hard worker and even though selling was difficult for me in English and doubly so in German, I was being paid to do a job, so I would do the best I could. That was the incentive for me to overcome my introverted and insecure tendencies and have a more confident and outgoing facade. Luckily, now my outside matches my inside. There’s no more faking, I LOVE to sell and I’m great at it.
Having come from such a position of being the least likely sales success (I barely passed my intensive Sales Training course at IBM), I can empathise with my clients who hate or are afraid of sales. I, too, was there a long time ago. But now I can offer them the shortcuts they need in order to have simple sales conversations that are no-stress for both parties and will lead to a win-win situation that makes everyone happy and is profitable.
Remember, if you’re not having fun, then who cares about the money!
Contact Patti to book your free, 30-minute Business Challenge call to see if we’re a match to work together. 416-951-3842 Patti@SmallBizSalesCoach.ca