Greg Hong had a sales theory that went like this: “I wasn’t just there to sell them something, but to be their customer as well.” When he cold-pitched restaurants, he’d show up between 4 and 5:30 p.m., order a drink -- so that he was a customer -- and then casually ask for the manager. Then he’d explain his app, called Reserve: It enables diners to make reservations, rate restaurants and split the tab among friends.
“That’s the worst idea I’ve ever heard of!” one manager blurted out. Hong’s first 15 attempts went the same way; no restaurants signed up. Maybe, Hong thought, this app is just a bad idea.
But he kept going. And as he did, he started to realize something: Managers needed to see that he understood them, not just that he could buy a drink. So rather than talk about the app’s functionality, he asked about the restaurants’ clientele. “When we started talking about how to make their customers happy, that’s when we started getting yesses,” Hong says. The first came after four months of sales calls. After a year, he had 400 in seven cities -- and a formula to keep getting more.