Using words to sell

My family has a tradition of eating out on the first day back from holiday. It used to be fish and chips in a steaming hot newspaper cone. Now it’s more likely to be Pizza Express.

I’m not fussy about much but I am fussy about tomato. I just don’t like it (raw is OK, but I can barely abide being in the same room as the cooked stuff – yuk!)

So you might wonder what I was doing in a Pizza Express.

I’d just flown in from New Orleans via Atlanta to find nothing but a block of cheese in the fridge, so I went out for dinner.

They are one of the few pizza chains who will happily make me a pizza without any tomato on it. What’s more, I can Google to get a discount code almost any day of the week.

So I checked the menu carefully and ordered a pizza with no mention of the dreaded T word. When it turned up, OMG, tomato everywhere. On the base, on the topping, in the salad in the middle…

“I’m sorry. I didn’t order this,” I said. The waitress brought me a menu: “Oh yes you did, look here, see.”

I pointed out: “That one says tomato, and that one says tomato, but this one doesn’t say tomato.”

“Oh, so you thought it didn’t have tomato in it?” she asked.

“That’s right,” I said. “Because it didn’t mention tomato on the menu.”

“No problem,” she said, would you like the same pizza without the tomato?”

“Yes please,” I concurred. And off they went to make my tomato-free pizza.

It was lovely. Admittedly, a bit like cheese on toast, but what can you expect (rhetorical question) ?


Now for the important bit

When the waitress was taking orders, she obviously been taught to ‘upsell’. So, no matter what diners asked for, she’d say: “Any side salad for you?”

They all said no. I wondered what would happen if she said:

“Can I tempt you with a crunchy healthy side salad with your pizza on this sweltering hot day? It’s made with fresh ingredients delivered this morning and looking especially tasty!”


As I was eating, a chap came by asking: “Roses anybody?”

There were no takers. And off he went to tour the local pubs.

I wondered whether he’d get a different result if he changed to a story-telling sales message instead:

“How much do you love your lady friend? Show her right now with a lovely red rose. Yes, I know it’s corny. Yes, I know it’s cheesy. But I bet it makes her smile and give you a little kiss!”


Later, “Dessert menu for you?” the waitress asked, in a desultory tone.

How much more persuasive if she’d said:

“Chef has added some amazing new desserts for the summer season. My favourite is the [insert most expensive option here]. What will you be having?”

(Note the presumptive close / it’s harder to get out of.)


At yoga the next day, the teacher asked: “Does anybody want a bolster?”

Obviously, no one said yes. People who needed it would be more likely to respond if she’d said:

“If this position hurts your lower back raise your hand and I’ll bring you a bolster to lie on.”



About the Author: Jackie Barrie
jackie barrie

I specialise in writing without waffle. Why? To help businesses improve their marketing communications. Why? So they can make more money.

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2 replies
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