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Sell me this tomato...

The best explanations are always the most simple, and if wrapped in a story, they have a better chance of being remembered.

With this in mind I’m going to recount a story I read recently in a post by Noah Goldman that explains Sales perfectly.

I happen to believe that everyone in the world should know this story because every single person, almost every day, has to sell or be sold to. The story will, hopefully, remind buyers that done well, sales people can add real value to their purchasing decision.

1) Prospect: I want a tomato.

Sales rep #1: We have terrific tomatoes. In fact, they're on sale! Here's the price! Would you like a cucumber too? (Sounds like something a bot could do... hmmm)

2) Prospect: I want a tomato.

Sales rep #2: Sounds great. We have some awesome ones but before I go get one for you... question: what sort of meal are you using it for?

Prospect: A salad. What do you care? Just give me the tomato.

Sales rep #2: Will anyone be joining you?

Prospect: Yeah, my date. What's it to you? (getting annoyed)

Sales rep #2: Nothing much. Knowing that, you might also be interested in some of these farm fresh cucumbers I got this morning that will really make the dish, plus a nice delicata squash for an appetizer -- I have some super-simple recipes to make you look like a culinary master with only a few minutes of work.

Prospect: I like it. Now that you mention it... I was thinking of steak for the main course but maybe there's something more unique than that. Any ideas....

(Guy walks out with four grocery bags)

Sell the value, morons. Not the tomato.

Now ask yourself how your sales people are selling your tomatoes...

Do they take the order and simply say "have a nice day". This is NOT sales, it is order taking. If you have too many order takers - you may have to review your hiring and coaching policy (alas, this is way more common than many like to admit).

Do they suggest buying two tomatoes for the price of one, just to make the sale? This instantly undermines the value of your tomato, but come the end of a sales period, I see this happening far too often.

Perhaps, if they’re like the McDonald's newbie, they ask if you would like a super-sized tomato instead. Worryingly, this would be a huge improvement in the way many sales people sell.

If they’re a Billy-Two-Star McDonald's employee they might try to up-sell you AND sell additional products by asking if you want a drink to wash down your super-sized tomato.This behavior mostly sums up those within your sales team who make budget.

Sales Rep #2 describes the type of behaviors the Lee Bartlett’s of this world might display when selling your tomato.

So where do you think most of your team sit?

My money says far too many of them sit just below the average McDonald's employee.

I suspect many companies know this and so they are trying to reduce their Cost of Customer Acquisition (CoCA) by eradicating under-performing sales people from their sales process - and you can hardly blame them.

How are they doing this?

By allowing, just as McDonald's do, customers to self-serve rather than talk to someone at the counter.

Many buyers appear delighted by this proposition - they don’t want to deal with sales people either (as explained here).

Particularly when the likes of Amazon have taken things a step further by finding a brilliantly automated way to up-sell their tomatoes that really adds value to buyers (who doesn't value knowing what other readers of the book you want have also purchased)?

But the really good business transaction, where a buyer derives genuine value from dealing with a sales person, is in danger of being lost as we strive to automate (or 'shrink-wrap' as Mike Kunkle puts it) the sales process.

So as a sales leader or a CEO you have a choice - do you keep spending an inordinate amount of training money in trying to bring the majority of your sales team up to the level of the average McDonald's employee?

Or is there a way to get your Lee Bartlett’s to have more conversations with your prospects?

By using the division of labour you will not only allow your best sales people to have more customer facing conversations, you will know that you’re not leaving huge amounts of money on the table by allowing order takers (or worse yet, value destroyers) to have those conversations instead.

P.S. I am NOT having a go at training organisations, but I will contest that too much training money is spent on the wrong people. Targeted training, at the right people, is and always will be, a good idea (even though my personal preference is for targeted coaching)!

P.P.S. If you want to know how to create great business stories for your organisation - just ask Mike Adams.

If you run a company, or a team of sales people, and want to understand how the division of labour can increase your revenues while reducing your Cost of Customer Acquisition, give me a holler on +61 418381829, message me through Linked In or email on

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