Mise en place is the religion of all good line cooks. Do not %&$# with a line’s cook’s ‘meez’ – his set-up, his carefully arranged supplies of sea salt, rough-cracked pepper, softened butter, cooking oil, wine, backups and so on.
- Anthony Bourdain, celebrity chef and host of Kitchen Confidential
What does Anthony Bourdain know about B2B sales? Probably not much…but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn a thing or two from him and the chef’s kitchen about the importance of having a repeatable process.
Sales and cooking have more in common then you might realize. For starters, both entail working through an array of complex, incremental tasks whereby the quality of your input at each step can dramatically impact the end result. Further, both involve complicated supply chain management skills to ensure that your sales pipeline – or fridge – will still be full the next day.
In the world of professional cooks, a philosophy known as “mise en place” – literally translated to “putting in place” – is embraced by most to work through their daily tasks in as effective a way as possible. In a professional kitchen it refers specifically to the set of ingredients, in various stages of preparations, that cooks keep on hand to make it through a night of service. Its base principals of speed, discipline, organization and repeatability are injected into many of the work flows and methodologies a restaurant uses to keep their doors open. These are principles that a sales Business Development Rep should be intimately familiar with.
Here are 6 things I learned from my time in a kitchen that translated into my work today as a BDR.
Keep everything you need within reach
As a chef, you should always have the tools and ingredients you need for that day’s service at your fingertips. The same goes for sales – you should set your leads up to have all of the necessary information accessible when you call them. You should never have to open up a new tab when you call a new lead to read the About Us page on their website – put it in your CRM notes when you do your research well in advance of the call, so you have that information on hand to refer to at a moment’s notice.
Break up and manage your time
Time management is the key to keeping a restaurant running smoothly. Understanding how long each task will take you and coordinating the timing of different dishes so they all come out together has a massive impact on your customers coming back again in the future. This kind of management goes well beyond dinner service, and many head chefs segment the time of their staff to make sure they are working effectively. A pretty normal schedule would be Open, Set-up, Prep Time, Service, Breakdown and Close – where each step along the way contains specific minute task that have to be finished. This helps prevent a buildup of work for the end of day, or the passing of too much work to the next shift.
Similar time segmentation can help a sales rep effectively work through their day and prevent the same kind of backlog of work. Tasks like prospecting, dialing, emailing, and research can be broken down into chunks of time to help prevent them from falling through the cracks. Important tasks can be prioritized ahead of other less-important ones. There are only so many hours in the day – both chefs and sales reps must use them well.
Break processes down into parts, master each step, and then follow your recipe
Cooks have to be able to reproduce the same product over and over again, perfectly. But in sales, we need to be a little more flexible. However, understanding the steps in your process lets you become the master of each. Check out this blog post I wrote about cold calling to see an example of how you can turn that process into something systematic. As your organization and sales team matures, you will eventually have to develop a more structured process and a codified sales playbook.
Do as much work as you can upfront, but not too much
Let’s talk about French Fries for a moment. This is a deceptively complex and time consuming dish, considering that you can buy a pile of them for $0.99 at McDonald’s. You’ve got to peel the potatoes, cut them to size, blanch them in tepid oil, allow them to drain, then set before finally having a French Fry ready to deep fry and serve. That’s an impossible amount of work to do when a customer is waiting for their pile of greasy deliciousness to arrive.
To help speed up the process, a chef does almost all of that work beforehand – peeling, cutting and preparing the dish to as close to finished as they can. A sales rep can do the same thing by leveraging an email tool like Yesware or Toutapp, which will let you template a ton of the emails you will write to prospects, and schedules them to go out at the right time.
However, anyone who’s ever had a soggy French Fry understands the danger of trying to do too much work up front. Don’t ruin all the effort you and your team have put into a lead by souring the relationship with an overly canned email template.
Respect every step
It’s easy to be complacent in a sales role and not take the first email or a check-in call as seriously as closing. Next time you feel yourself zoning out, think about what it would be like if the guy cooking your food decided to be lazy about a step in the middle – overcooked food, bad textures from strangely cut food and other forms of dining and dietary shenanigans could ensue.
The truth is that every step matters and deserves your full, undivided attention. Research shows that customer retention is impacted by a prospect’s experience in the sales process. Keep this in mind next time you’re going to send a lame email – it could cause a domino effect throughout the rest of your sale and cause you to lose the deal.
Kill the close (The last step is as important as the first)
Never forget the finishing touches – a sprig of parsley, a sprinkle of sesame, or a thoughtful follow up email. Don’t let the moment they sign the contract be the last time a prospect hears from you. See the sale all the way through and make sure you treat the last step with all the care that you treated the first.