The Waffle Cone and the Mass Production of Salespeople

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Jul 02, 2013 @ 05:07 AM

waffle coneDo you remember when freshly made waffle cones became popular?  Back then, you could smell the waffle cones from outside of a gourmet ice cream shop and the smell alone would be enough to get you in.  Originally, it was quite novel, with only a few shops making those soft, tasty, and very aromatic cones which could hold SO MUCH MORE ice cream than traditional cones.

And then they screwed it up.  It became too labor intensive, time-consuming and costly for most shops to continue the practice of making fresh waffle cones.  And today, while you find waffle cones at nearly every ice cream shop, they are mass-produced, much smaller, and have the taste and texture of regular sugar cones.  Despite the mass-produced nature of today's waffle cones, the shops still charge anywhere from .75 to $1.50 extra for the waffle cone.  For me, today's waffle cones are a constant disappointment because they always fail to meet my expectations.

What does this have to do with selling?

Think about salespeople as a version of the waffle cone.  In some companies, they are made fresh, and in other companies, especially bigger companies, they are mass-produced.

There are many ways of looking at this:

  • The company that hires kids directly out of college could be producing fresh salespeople, but if they are like a financial services firm, they are mass-producing dozens of them to wind up with a handful that all look, sound and act the same way.  Salespeople in a box. 
  • The company that puts a lot of effort into recruiting special salespeople, that have the talent, expertise and experience could be producing fresh salespeople.  They may not be right out of school, but they put the time and effort into selecting the right salespeople so that they have that special appeal - the equivalent of the smell and texture of the freshly made waffle cone. 
  • The sales manager, who invests time into coaching, mentoring and teaching the business to one salesperson at a time, is investing the time and effort into developing special salespeople. 
  • The sales manager, who hires salespeople and teaches them how to demo a product or do web presentations, creates the effect that these salespeople come right out of a box - they're all exactly the same. 
  • Salespeople with scripts?  From a box. 
  • Salespeople who sell consultatively?  If they're good at it, they are freshly made. 
  • Salespeople who customize their demos based on customer needs and requirements?  Freshly made. 
  • Salespeople who provide the same demo for everyone?  From a box.
Can you add some analogies of your own that compare waffle cones and sales?
Any company can mass-produce a bunch of people who all recite the same things, follow the same script and demo their products the same way.  It's mass-production at its finest and these salespeople fail to differentiate, fail to make an impression and fail to provide value.  In the end, the only way for them to make sales is to compete on price.  As salespeople go, these always fail to meet my expectations.
On the other hand, it really does take time and special handling to develop great salespeople.  And like freshly made waffle cones, the results are worth the effort.  

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Consultative Selling, sales process, sales training, sales tips, buyer focused selling

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Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Sales Thought Leader.  Dave Kurlan's Understanding the Sales Force Blog has earned medals for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog award for eight consecutive years. This article earned a Bronze Medal for Top Sales Blog post in 2016, this one earned a Silver medal for 2017, and this article earned Silver for 2018. Read more about Dave.

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