What We Can Learn about Sales from the Rookie Mexican Teppanyaki Chef

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We just returned from our family vacation. It was a great time at an all-inclusive resort just south of Playa del Carmen. As my son and I were reading in the setting pictured above, he smiled and said it looked like we had found our Corona TV commercial spot.

All-inclusive resorts seem to have a unique subculture. There is a lot to appreciate about the convenience of the concept, but the two resorts I’ve visited certainly have their share of negatives – and food quality is right near the top of the list. If asked to evaluate the place we just stayed, I’d be forced to give it two independent grades. The facility (massive campus), beach, pools, swim-up bars, service, staff, and setting were wonderful – worthy of 4.5 stars for sure. The food, not so much.

The most humorous (and also most painful) experience occurred one of of our last nights. The Japanese-themed restaurant was supposedly one of the higher-end spots and more in-demand than the other a la carte dinner restaurants. So much so, that it required a reservation two days in advance. My kids love eating at Teppanyaki style restaurants at home, and on the walk to dinner we were guessing which typical jokes and tricks the chef would dazzle us with that evening … the butter-fly, the onion volcano, the egg-roll, etc. Turned out that there were no jokes, and if there was one, it was on us for believing the hype.

After the waiter took our orders and served up the appetizers, we excitedly waited for the chef to appear. And we waited. And waited. Finally, Adolfo emerged pushing the cart of raw meats and veggies. Adolfo, you might guess, was not Japanese. He was a polite and overtly nervous 25-year-old local, with slightly less personality than the average server we’d experienced during the week. With no smile, an unsteady voice, and sweat building on his forehead, he asked if we were ready for the show. Oh, we were ready. Adolfo began what must have been a two-minute “show” of tapping and banging, tossing and juggling the cooking utensils. Except that he was awful. It was embarrassing to watch and my wife said she was embarrassed for him. He fumbled and bumbled, dropping the spatula and catching the fork on the wrong end several times. Adolfo had neither confidence nor panache. His voice trembled and his head was now dripping with sweat. He knew it wasn’t going well and didn’t have or couldn’t muster up the charm to make up for it.

Adolfo’s cooking skills were not much better than his juggling.  You don’t need a detailed play by play to get the picture. Just know that he tossed the steak, chicken, seafood and vegetables on the grill all at the same time and pulled them off in exactly the wrong order. Not exactly the premium “reservations required” experience we were hoping for. We were just thankful he didn’t attempt to flick small pieces of shrimp from the grill to our mouths as is often customary at these cooking tables!

You know the sad truth? I’ve witnessed my share of sales calls and presentations where the salesperson conducting the meeting was about as competent as Adolfo on the grill. Any of this sound familiar? Insufficient practice. Inability to engage the audience. Can’t use the equipment or execute the basics. Boring. Nervous to the level that it was physically evident to all. Lack of product knowledge and confidence.

Shame on the management of that resort and restaurant for putting Adolfo in front of customers. Everybody lost: the resort, Adolfo and the customers. But, shame on you salesperson if you’re not investing the time and energy to properly prepare yourself for going face to face with a prospect. Are you practicing your craft? Watching seasoned pros and observing their best practices? Reading and rehearsing? Do you know your material well enough to allow you to focus on the audience, instead of your “show?”

We did have a wonderful vacation and I am thankful for the entire experience. While the tone of this post turned out meaner than I intended, the point remains:  None of us in sales would want prospects or customers saying about us what my family is saying about our nervous rookie chef. Let’s be prepared and professional!


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© 2023 Mike Weinberg

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