Sales Programs, Instant Coffee and Pour Overs

Contrary to what you may be thinking right now, this article isn’t a rehash or debate over the whole “Coffee is for closers” sound bite. Did you see the movie “Glengary Glen Ross” in which Alec Baldwin’s character, the head of a high-pressure New York real estate sales office, tells his salesmen to step away from the coffee machine?  “No coffee,” he exclaims.  “Coffee is for closers.”

Take a look around, there are plenty of people drinking lots of coffee that aren’t closing anything!

A few years ago, I was walking through the ferry terminal building in San Francisco. I had a bit of time before my next meeting. It was a chilly day in San Francisco by the water, which meant it was a “wet cold” day. What I really wanted was a cup of coffee. Some type of coffee better than a Texas truck-stop brew. My standards at that point were low, because mostly I just wanted something hot. Being super perceptive, I noticed a sign that looked like a coffee cup (see disclosure below as sometime the brain is sneaky). Then I saw a line; a LONG line; a really long line. I asked the person already in line what they thought the wait time might be.

“Well, probably about 20 minutes,” he said. I added some type of witty retort about how there was no way I am waiting that long for coffee. Then he added, in a tone accompanied by body language that intimated a conspiratorial edge to the words, “But it’s worth it.”

OK, now I was intrigued.  “Come on, a twenty-minute wait just for coffee? It can’t be THAT good,” I said.

“Well, it is THAT GOOD and it’s not a 20 minute wait, it’s 20 minutes until you order and then another five minutes or so before its ready,” he responded. Huh? I can brew a whole pot in 5 minutes. I guess my curiosity got the better of me and I waited in the line. It was actually 23 minutes until I placed my order and then seven more, so a total of 30 minutes, to finally get my hands on the cup of coffee (a small cup at that).

Was it worth it? OH YEAH! And thus began my love affair with coffee pour overs.

In a world full of the latest gadget, gizmo, tech stack and, dare I say, “sales enablement tool,” there is something elegantly simple in a pour over. Few ingredients, few steps, and an incredibly satisfying outcome. Who couldn’t use more of that in their life?

The ingredients are few, the tools relatively simple, the process straight forward BUT the real magic comes from the practitioner. Sounds like a good sales lesson to me!

Ingredients: Freshly ground coffee, water.

Tools: Filter, filter holder, cup, human.

Process: Three simple steps. Wetting, dissolution and diffusion. Linked together, each being affected by the previous step. While each of the steps sounds impressive and a bit mysterious (sort of like that last sales service that promised their proprietary process would spit out 41 million perfect prospect records for you to upload), they are inherently simple. Wet:  make the ground coffee wet. Dissolution: dissolve the solutes in the bean’s cells. Diffusion: transport the dissolved solutes from the beans into the water and then the two come together in the cup. Each step has a very specific role and is very specific in nature.

The magic? It lies with the practitioner.

He must enjoy the process, be willing to measure, monitor, take specific actions that are in a sequence and lend his own skill. And one more thing… he must have patience. Yes, patience. Certainly not because he wouldn’t like it to happen faster, but because he knows that the best result takes time. Instead of jamming a pod into an electronic boiler and walking away for a minute or two, a pour-over barrista must stay engaged the whole time. Pouring the water slowly, watching the level go down, adding a bit more, and repeating until the beverage’s completion.

What matters is the process, not the tools. A simple change in the flow of water (level before gently adding a bit more) and the temperature changes by five degrees.

What’s this have to do with sales? And, in particular, sales programs and progress? That’s a fair question. The popularity of pour over coffee is analogous to a successful sales program. Here’s how:

  1. Simplify your process. I recently saw a mind map of a sales process. It was awesome in its detail and complexity. And it was entirely unrealistic. Even if it could work, it won’t because no one in their right mind has that much time to do all the details. The patience required in the making the pour over is very different from the waste of time that is consumed from making a program overly complicated.
  2. Select your tools with great care. Implement only the necessary tools to support the process. There will be a shiny new app tomorrow. I don’t care how many “influencers” are talking about it, unless it helps you streamline the process, provide real efficiencies and ultimately can drive greater results with less effort, walk on.
  3. Test at each phase. See the impact on each phase (ultimately the entire process is impacted).
  4. Slow it down. Sure, you can rush to jam your customer relationship management software full of names and contact information for anybody who you think you could ever maybe sell. Perhaps those pour-over vendors might have considered selling the equivalent of a 40-cup urnful of funeral coffee.  This shot-gun approach sometimes works.  Or you could add only those ingredients (prospects who may benefit from what you can deliver) and then work those with great care and great expectations.  This latter method assures a better experience for all involved.
  5. Enjoy the outcome. Savor the richness. The best sales program creates a rich, full-body experience that leaves everyone satisfied.

Hopefully this next statement does not come across as overly harsh. If you only care about getting the coffee ready to drink, keep using your instant-coffee producing Keurig. You are more interested in a mediocre outcome than you in making something spectacular. That’s ok, you are in good company. There are millions like you. Just don’t expect to enjoy the company of those that savor the taste of rare success.

If you are one of those who can fall in love with the process, and not merely “grind for an outcome,” you will enjoy a much richer cup. The fun is the elegance, the time it takes, the tweaking and changing ever so slightly just to see what happens and if a new richness can be discovered.

And for the final step, share it with friends. Great things are meant to be experienced with others. Take your customer out and enjoy a good pour-over coffee together.

Here is that disclosure: In doing the research on locations and checking some facts, it is apparent that it was not a coffee cup in the sign that drew me towards that specific location, it was a wine bottle. It was a chilly day in San Francisco after all.

If you want a big pot of good, old-fashioned black coffee, and the desire is more for a mediocre outcome but in large scale, there’s a process and an outcome that fits.

If you want the savory goodness of a small-but-mighty-powerful experience, then it’s time for your first pour over.

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