Are you a Chef or a Cook?

I know what you are thinking.  What in the world does cooking have to do with sales?  Stick with me for a minute and I think I can make a connection.

So what is the difference between a chef and a cook?  I guess I should say…when it comes to cooking, I am a cook.  A cook can take a recipe, purchase the ingredients and prepare the food according to the directions.  A chef is different.  A chef can look at the food available to him or her and prepare a meal.  A chef has the skill to be able to see a meal where others just see the ingredients.  Cooks are a dime a dozen.  Chefs are much harder to find.

So what does that have to do with sales?  Sales reps are either cooks or chefs.  A sales rep that is a cook, is great at following a process.  They are adept at following a system for their activity.  In my book, So You Want To Be In Sales, I talk about looking at your quota and determining what level of activity is needed on a weekly basis to hit your quota.  Cook-type sales reps are able to use this detailed amount of required activities and produce sales for you.  Their success as a cook-type sales rep is determined solely on their ability to follow the recipe and the accuracy of the recipe.  If the organization has given this type of rep the wrong recipe…meaning they required activity is wrong, they are going to miss the mark.

A sales rep that is a chef not only can cook but has the ability to go create their own recipe.  They can see not only the recipe given by the company but can look at all of the ingredients available to them to make sales.  Some of these other ingredients could be building a strong network, developing thought – provoking articles or finding ways to create value for the customer.

So which one do you hire?  There is not a cut and dry answer to this question.  I think it depends on the maturity of your company, product, and market.  It can also depend on the sophistication of the sales management and marketing team.  Most good restaurants are going to have both cooks and chefs. So, I think it would be safe to say that most good sales organizations need to have both cooks and chefs.  I also see in most restaurants that the chefs are placed in leadership positions.  Chef-type sales reps, once identified, need to be placed in roles where they can help shape the go-to-market strategy (create the recipes).  They should be placed in sales operations, sales management, or a team lead.

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