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Subtle Selling and Milk Tea

By November 5, 2015 September 27th, 2017 No Comments

Subtle Selling Works

Nothing beats a week-long holiday, unplugged from internet yet getting to learn about subtle selling.

Today’s article would interest most business owners and sales folks.

This subtle selling I experienced in Hong Kong last week took me a while to realise, 15mins perhaps?

Perhaps I was sooo tired and that I let my guard down. You be the judge.

The story goes like this…

My family of 6, after a Disney trip, were late and tired for dinner. We found this traditional cafe near our accommodation and crawled up the stairs. (location from an old street map before the cafe existed)

Opened the menu and just point-order ala carte. This kind waiter in his 40’s conversed with us in mandarin, took the order.

As it was already 10pm, as a health-conscious Singaporean, we ordered only 3 portion to be shared among us.

Soon, he returned with the printed receipt (Hong Kongers are fast!) and proclaimed a free cup of their famous award winning milk tea and a round of double-boiled soup.

On top of that, he explained that he wanted to help keep our spending to the minimum, so he has repackaged our order as set meals instead of ala carte.

Initially, I thought he was being sarcastic, categorising us as cheapos.



What he did next made me believe he was genuine.

The hot milk tea came together with other drinks. He took time to remind us again it is award-winning and that it’s really bitter. Advise us to add at least a packet of sugar.

It took me a while (and for the sugar to resume my normal brain function) to realise that he just subtly sold me the idea.

The idea that he cares for his customers!

Despite we ordered to share.

To me this is one of the subtle selling at it’s finest.


Because the very next dinner, we ignored all other eateries, returned and splurged! One portion for everyone.

So much so that we had to packet and bring back a complete pork chop burger (see that picture above).

Subtle Selling waiter and a very satisfied customer

The Subtle Selling waiter and a very satisfied return customer!

How did this wise waiter do his subtle selling?

A few quick points:

1. He didn’t look down on us and understood our situation (tired and late, with 2 kids)

2. He didn’t go for the ‘kill’, but instead focused on lowering our spending.

3. Free soup and drink!

How can anyone resist these goodwill gestures?


How can we learn and apply subtle selling in our business?

1. Every client has a need. Sometimes the budget can be a challenge. Serve anyway.

2. Focus on helping them to solve their need first without looking at maximising profit.

3. Any product or side service you strongly believe will help your clients, recommend them well.

Even if it is perceived as a want than a need. (We need a drink, water would be good. Fancy hot milk tea is a want.)

Real life application of subtle selling

As you already know, I’m very into email marketing.

Recently, I get to propose to a company for their website revamp.

The overall marketing strategy involves email marketing and drip campaign in order to optimise the website to capture leads.

From there, the drip campaign can educate them and subsequently convert them into customers.

Apparently, their focus and budget only allow for a website. They want to push the email marketing part to a later stage.

Lack of budget and resources were the reasons (usually a polite way of saying no).

I know I’ll be irresponsible to decline them the opportunity to have their conversion and sales grow just because of the budget constrain.

So what I did was to offer them 2 months FREE trial of the email marketing set up and drip campaign.

Pay only if they get leads from this set up at the end of 60 days.

Basically there’s nothing to lose for them. If it works, we’ll carry on. If it doesn’t, no payment for that module.


What do you think? Do you think such an approach would subtly convince them that email marketing is a necessity. No longer a luxury item.

★★★ Do you know of any business looking to gear up their website for Christmas season?

I can help to optimised the website to capture and convert more visitors to sales. Do introduce me to them.

I’ll offer the free tea email marketing trial to them too.

And we’ll have a milk tea session together! ★★★

Want to read about another subtle selling?
See how Tesla and National Geographic do it.

Everything is possible!

Kok Wai

Kok Wai

Author Kok Wai

Kok Wai is a content producing marketer, media trainer at Kelvin Sng Productions, a dad of two and photography contributor to multiple magazines. A sponsor of B60 Charity Run 2017, Kok Wai's goal is to help busy and ambitious business owner focus on running their business even with their limited time and lack of marketing know-how. He especially loves kids, playing the guitar, and exploring with software. You'll find him pondering on the exhilaration of securing two more good clients on a retainer basis. Connect with him on Facebook (thePF)

More posts by Kok Wai

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