Imitate (Issue 994)

In which we are encouraged to develop our skills by observing and imitating "the masters". 

Regular readers will recall that the author is on a quest to develop a hummus recipe that matches a flavor he remembers from an earlier time. The story continues….

“You’ll have to experiment with it.”

I was standing at the cash register at a middle eastern bakery near my home in Cambridge, buying a tub of their hummus to taste as an inspiration for the batch of my own I was planning for that evening.

“I’ve heard your hummus is really good so I wanted to taste it.  I’m making my own and I’m not happy, yet, with my balance of garlic, lemon, and tahini.”

She handed me the bag in which she’d placed the hummus.

“Enjoy,” she said with a broad smile. “Keep trying.”

Exploring new reserves of restraint, I drove home without touching the hummus (I didn’t have a spoon or a bag of chips in the car) and once there….

The bakery’s hummus looked about the same as the hummus I’d been making.  Same ingredients.   Same color. Same consistency. I scooped a bit with a tablespoon and tasted it. Hmmmm… significantly more tahini than I’d been using and a bit less garlic.  Maybe a touch more lemon. Quite nice!

So, I decided to match that flavor. From my base recipe, I reduced the garlic by half, (roughly) doubled the tahini, reduced the reserved water by a bit and increased the lemon juice by about the same.

Beginner’s luck, maybe, I hit it EXACTLY!   I couldn’t tell the difference between the bakery’s hummus and mine.  Brilliant!  Set for the week!

After making my first batch of hummus from a recipe (and repeating that recipe a few times), I’ve collected more than a dozen hummus recipes – Israeli hummus, Greek hummus, Lebanese hummus, Armenian hummus – and I can see small differences, one recipe to the next.  With each, ‘though, I look at the recipe words and pictures and wonder, “Yeah, and what does it TASTE like when they make it?”

I seem to learn faster when I  taste the end product and work backward, learning by imitating,  rather than working forward only from a recipe (‘though recipes are terrific support resources) and there are many great hummus providers to imitate.

I think, maybe, the same is true as we develop as salespeople. It’s extremely useful to start with a recipe, to  participate in a well-structured foundation sales training course early in our development and from time to time. But, thinking of the sales training or sales book authors, I always wonder, “yeah, and what does it SOUND like when they  do it?”   I’ve found that my biggest steps forward came when I invested the time to watch others who are strong in the craft, feel inspired by their work, ask questions, and imitate rather than working forward only from “a book” or a training class (‘though the books are terrific support resources).

Nick Miller and Clarity train banks and bankers to attract and develop deeper relationships with small businesses. Many more Sales Thoughts like this and a host of other articles and resources at .

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