Differentiating Consistency (Issue 935)

In which we are reminded about consistency in the elements that differentiate us from other sales people and suppliers.

My family were out of town last night so I got fancied up and took myself out to dinner at a restaurant I’ve been wanting to go to for quite a while. Since I was going on my own, I chose a seat at the “chef‘s counter,“ a perch overlooking the restaurant‘s kitchen.

When I first sat down, I regretted that I had chosen that spot. It was noisy, pots banging, kitchen supervisor calling out, “runners!“, very couple of minutes and shouting out orders as they were coming in, “I need two veg pasta, one cod“… “Change that, two regular pasta, one veg pasta, one cod,“ and the returning confirming cries from the kitchen.

To my left, a staff member was preparing the black bean hummus and chips complimentary appetizers. Behind her, someone else was preparing the one of the other appetizers of the evening, a raw scallop salad. In front of me, two of the team were preparing, mostly, the pasta dishes and one of the evening specials, Za’atar-rubbed Delicata squash with hen of the woods mushroom, du Puy lentils, and a fava bean purée

The rolls arrived with a big round of salted butter (oh, my goodness, that was good). One of the serving team took my order – the in-house smoked Scottish trout appetizer followed by the farro pasta with pork sugo, chopped nuts, chanterelle mushrooms, arugula, and a bunch of other stuff, followed by the Delicata squash entrée – and I settled down to watch the kitchen.

The two guys in front of me doing the pasta, the squash entrée, and the cod moved so quickly it felt like they were sprinting. During the roughly 30 minutes I waited for them to serve me my pasta, they must have made the appetizer portion and the entrée portion of the farro pasta 30 times.

The routine was the same each time: Snag a plastic bag of the pasta from under the counter and dump it into boiling water. After a few minutes, pull it out of the water, drain it, and dump it into a frying pan with olive oil and who knows what. Add the pork sugo and other ingredients, grate some cheese on it, flip it around a few times, pour it into a bowl, sprinkle in the chopped nuts, grate more cheese on it, lay on the arugula, take a small cleaning pad and clean the edges of the plate so there were no drips, and deliver the plates of pasta to the pick-up counter for the runners.

Over, and over, and over, and over again. Same way each time. And each time, the taller of the two chefs would pick up a small tasting spoon and taste each of the servings to make sure it was right. And, every so often, the kitchen supervisor would take a small spoon and taste the pasta before it went out to the customer’s table.

Lightning speed, deft and measured movement, each pasta dish made to order in about six minutes. Beautiful presentation, dramatic tastes, and absolutely no special orders and no creativity in what was happening in the kitchen. It was the same way every time. Fixed price meal. Fixed food process.

Doesn’t sound like our sales process, at all, does it?

No, no. “I have my own way of doing things,” we say. “I adapt what I’m doing to each customer,” we say. Of course we do, we’re in sales. There are always special orders or special circumstances. Each client is different.

However, people come to this consistently “top of the town” restaurant because the chef/owner and team have established a reputation for a particular style of food and preparation, a particular feel in the restaurant. That’s how they compete – on the basis of that reputation and their consistency.

Like it or not, so do we. It’’s important for all of us to compete on that basis – to establish a clear identity, a clear reputation, a reason for people to come to us versus others. The question we all face is, “what is our signature?” – what we’re remembered by – and what do we do “special” according to customer tastes or requests.

Nick Miller trains banks and bankers to attract and expand relationships with business clients. More profitable relationships, faster. He is President of Clarity Advantage based in Concord, MA. Additional articles on Clarity’s web site.

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