Planting Seeds in Conversation (Issue 526)

In which we are reminded that the seeds for future sales come from the sales fruit we harvest now.

The strawberries are in! In Massachusetts, at least.

On Saturday, Verrill Farm (, a local favorite in our community, launched their annual Strawberry Festival featuring … strawberry shortcake, quarts of ripe, juice -runs-down-your-chin strawberries, strawberry recipes, and pick-your-own strawberries for those with boots or courage to step into the rain soddened strawberry rows.

Although strawberries are COVERED in seeds, the you-pickers plucking berries from their bushes were thinking about the strawberries, not the number of seeds.  (When was the last time you heard someone exclaim, “Oh, look, Mable, I have a 350 seed strawberry here!”?)

We have the same experience when we’re selling.  WE are interested in plucking sales strawberries – the larger and juicier the sale, the better (the bigger our commissions, perhaps).

And yet, the seeds are important, too.  Just as we can cultivate real strawberry seeds, stripped from the strawberry, to produce new strawberry plants, so we can cultivate the seeds on a sales strawberry.  (Sales strawberry seeds are now-tiny issues related to the current sales strawberry that we can cultivate to become future sales strawberries.)

For a banker, the “sales strawberry” might be a company’s primary checking account; the “seeds” might be challenges related to managing cash, receivables, or payments.  For a dentist, the “sales strawberry” might be revenue from hygiene appointments and routine exams; the “seeds” might be other oral hygiene and repair work the need for which is discovered during the cleaning and exams.

When we’re stripping seeds from real strawberries, we don’t pick off individual seeds.  We scrape off whatever seeds are convenient.

When we’re stripping seeds from sales strawberries, we can be more selective.  We can hold up a sales strawberry to look at the seeds, and decide which individual seeds to scrape off and plant for future harvest.

We do that by “planting seeds” in conversation.  As we pluck a sales strawberry, we can say, “Dr.  Smith, there seem to be a number of related issues to the main point we’re discussing, for example, staff time devoted to handling patient payments.  Let’s come back to them in a future conversation.”

That said, while it seems easy enough to scrape off a few seeds and then wait for them to grow, people are usually disappointed.  Either the seeds don’t grow at all or the strawberries produced don’t look or taste anything like the strawberries they came from.

The problem is: With real strawberries, growers developed plants that can self-pollinate and their seeds don’t produce clones of the parent plants.  With sales strawberries, clients also can “self-pollinate,” meaning that they either do it themselves (without us) or they take no action.”

To get around this with real strawberry seeds, gardeners plant the seeds of several different strains of strawberries so the flowers cross pollinate and make a new kind of strawberry, one that looks and tastes as good as the parent varieties.

With sales strawberry seeds, the same process works.  Rather than placing our bets on one seed, we can plant several seeds in conversation, “cross pollinate them” (relate them to each other), develop them through further discussion, and support them until they become healthy bushes bearing juicy fruit that tastes as good as the first sales strawberries.

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