Poor old Pizza Express. It’s been hammered in the press for training its customer-service staff in a “scandalous” new technique – flirting.
Ex-actor Karl James was hired by Pizza Express to teach flirting, or, as he puts it: to “engage with customers in a way that is playful and enjoyable, but where the customer experience comes first. It’s how to flirt subtly with someone so they are more relaxed. It’s fantastic when somebody really engages with you, looks at you and appreciates you.”
Those sniggering as they read this are actually showing themselves to be ignorant. Flirting has always been unofficially acknowledged as part of sales. Now flirtation lessons for business people are a growth industry. Karl James’ customers include unlikely institutions such as Unilever and the BBC.
‘Flirting for Dummies’ by “flirt guru” Elizabeth Clark is now available in the Wiley business books range. The book promises to “teach you to boost your confidence to magnetic proportions, ooze charisma, inspire your staff and impress your clients”. Clark is keen to emphasize that flirting is all about inter-personal skills – not sex. She also points out the two different types of flirting: flirting for fun, which can be done with virtually anyone; and flirting with intent, which is clearly a bit different.
Peter Spalton worked in sales and marketing for 22 years. Now, he runs courses combining selling skills with the science of body language and the art of flirting and seduction. His slogan? “Flirt your way to the top! ” And, he notes: “The skills of the seducer don’t have to be used to manipulate and mislead. They can be used to sell your ideas, get people to do almost anything… at work we call it influence, negotiation and persuasion.” Well, that’s ok, then!
In my experience, all really good sales people flirt, because flirting is about making someone else feel good. When they feel good, they’ll be more likely to listen to what you have to say.
The people who are in touch with your customers are the shop-front of your company and if customers and potential customers feel good round your people, you’re going to profit. Poor Pizza Express is being criticised for one simple reason: as identified by Karl James, flirting is something that the British are very embarrassed about.
I think it’s time we all took a course in the arts of light-hearted banter, turning on the charm and giving the odd admiring ogle. If not for the feel-good factor, do it for your bottom line.
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