I went out to dinner recently for a special occasion with friends; it was a fairly new restaurant and I was excited to check it out. The food was delicious, the ambiance was perfect, but the service was really the icing on the cake. Our waiter was a consummate professional. He seemed to personify the concept of hospitality, and the genuine enthusiasm he brought to his job was impossible to miss. He had answers for all of our questions, gave us great recommendations, and truly elevated our experience to a higher level. There are many parallels between being a great waiter and a great salesperson.

Here are a few of the lessons that business owners and sales people can learn from the work of the best restaurant waiters:

  1. Be professional. Any time you are working with a client, you are representing your colleagues, and your entire company. Our waiter was very welcoming and friendly, but his body language was sharp and he was a polished speaker. He looked alert and came across as intelligent and engaged. All in all, he was a great ambassador for the restaurant.
  1. Know your product. The restaurant we went to had a variety of wines from all over the world. Our waiter was able to tell us about each one we inquired about, describing the various flavors we might expect to find from each one and the different techniques used to make them. It was clear that he had spent some time “doing homework” and learning the details of all the different wines he was serving his guests.
  1. Don’t always go for the hard sell. Our waiter found out we were celebrating a special occasion, but instead of pressuring us towards an expensive bottle of Champagne, he went through the wine list and pointed out an array of options at different prices, and ultimately helped us select a modestly-priced bottle that was better suited to the particular flavors of the food we had ordered.
  1. Listen to your client’s needs. My dinner companion had several food allergies, and our waiter carefully listened and wrote down all of them so that the kitchen wouldn’t inadvertently serve them something that they shouldn’t consume. He also pointed out the various dishes on the menu that would be great options for my friend. Even towards the end of the meal when we were considering some desserts, our waiter referenced our earlier conversation and made a helpful suggestion on what to order. It really made us feel like he was looking out for us and paying attention to what we needed.
  1. Be gracious. Our waiter thanked us profusely as we paid the check and made our way out the door. There is a lot of competition out there, but one way to help gain an advantage is to just be nice! A sincere and heartfelt “Thank you!” can go a long way in building a warm relationship with your clients. We’re all trying to sell a product or provide a service in some way. Expressing your gratitude when you’ve inked a new deal or made a sale with a client should be automatic and authentic. Follow up to say thanks – by phone, in writing, or both.

The wonderful dinner we had that evening made me an instant fan of the new restaurant. I’m now inclined to patronize this restaurant more frequently, since they clearly strive to provide a thoughtful, personalized experience for their guests. It can be hard to find exemplary customer service these days, but when I get it, I’m happy to reward it with my business. If I have the same waiter again at my next visit, I might tell him that he should consider a career in sales.

Read more: Recommended Restaurants in St. Louis