Catersource is part of the Informa Connect Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

The Number One "Thing"

I am often asked what the number one “thing” a client is looking for in a sales consultant.  Sure, we all want our sales consultants to be honest, responsive, trustworthy, detail-oriented, friendly, fun and intelligent. But the number one “thing” a client desires? A client wants a partner as a sales consultant that evolves into a long-standing, fruitful relationship.

The client benefits from the consultant’s expertise, knowledge, great product offerings and the return on investment from producing spectacular events. The sales consultant benefits from another notch in their experience portfolio “belt” as well as a boost to their paycheck. But how that relationship is nurtured and developed is the key to a continued, returned success.

Our business is not always tangible: How a client feels is often more important than how the event looks or how the food tastes. Clients will overlook price variance if they will be taken care of by someone they trust. Clients want you to listen and they want to be heard. Clients want to win sometimes. Let them. Be accessible, show genuine interest and provide honest feedback to each other to continue to grow in the relationship together.

Sales consultants should never say,“Let me ask my boss and I will get back to you”. Or even worse, “Sorry, that’s our policy.” Be in the client’s court and be the decision maker. But stand firm when something is not right and educate the client on the why for next time. Showing self-confidence in your own abilities is a very strong “statement” above and beyond what is in your sales toolbox.


Next year will be the 20th anniversary of my relationship with Jo and Newt, two of my all time favorite “clients” if I even call them “clients” at this point. I met Jo and Newt in 1998. They were planning their 50th wedding anniversary celebration and were shopping around for a caterer to produce the event for their special evening.

I say we are celebrating “our 20th anniversary” next year because we are still remembering our first meeting and how our friendship and business relationship has since developed. There have been several events since that first large one. I bet, at least one a year, all much smaller in size but none less important.

I see Jo and Newt about four times a year. We catch up over lunch. We talk about our lives, families, children, politics, Chicago, friends, travel, movies & television. Catering is the least of our interests and topics to talk about. I often call Jo just to check in and say hello and see how she and Newt are doing. We have become lifelong friends. I absolutely love and adore them both.

Now I no longer work at a catering company. When Jo and Newt need an event, I stay involved. I know what they have come to expect in the past 20 years. I know their likes and their dislikes. Where they keep everything in their kitchen. I am there out of respect for them and the time we have built into our relationship. That’s what friends do for each other. I will be their “caterer” forever. And they will be my “client” forever. But it didn’t start that way. It started with the one “thing” Jo and Newt were looking for in a sales consultant 20 years ago.

See Jennifer Perna at #Catersource 2018

Jennifer will present two sessions at Catersource in Las Vegas this February. Click here for a full schedule of sessions, including Jen's.

Jennifer Perna

Jennifer Perna

Owner, Fulton Market Consulting, Chicago, IL
Jennifer Perna started Fulton Market Consulting in May 2017 after developing an event experience and sales management experience portfolio for over 25 years in the downtown Chicago catering and special events industry. Jennifer presently works with owners, managers and all team players at hospitality-related companies on increasing sales and creating business development strategies, streamlining processes for operations and event production and developing best practices for human resources and administrative management. This is especially imperative as we continue to manage a diverse and young talented pool of employees today. Jennifer brings a dynamic, approachable and relatable communication style to all levels and members...