3 Things French Cooking Can Teach You About Better Sales Performance

Selling Skills | Sales Enablement

During the pandemic, stuck at home with few restaurant options, I taught myself how to cook.

As I became more obsessed with cooking, particularly French cuisine, I realized that cooking and sales share important similarities.

No, I’m not suggesting that working on your knife skills can improve your sales results. But I believe applying the best practices of world-class French chefs can improve your sales team’s performance. Let me explain.

1) Create a Playbook

How did French cuisine come to dominate the modern world?

One answer is that it’s delicious, but so are many other types of cuisine. Dig a little deeper and you’ll find that much of French cuisine’s dominance is rooted in the codification of French cooking recipes and techniques by famous French chefs.

For example, Auguste Escoffier, whose seminal cookbook Le Guide Culinaire, published in 1903, included recipes and documented the first systematic approach to food preparation—governed by rules and principles.

Foundational concepts such as “mother sauces,” the kitchen brigade system of organizing a professional kitchen, and food presentation were covered. In short, the French created the original playbook for creating a scalable, professional kitchen. This then provided any skilled chef in the world with the knowledge and processes to create delicious French cuisine consistently.

Likewise, codifying your sales process and critical sales plays in a sales playbook is essential for you to have a productive, scalable sales team.

A well-developed sales playbook will help your team boost productivity and onboard new reps faster. It will also give your team more clarity around their roles, responsibilities, methods, tactics, and best practices.

You can start building your sales playbook by focusing on the following areas:

  • Company overview
  • Product and service details
  • Sales process—this should be built around the customer’s purchase process
  • Buyer personas, use cases, and pain points
  • Lead qualification criteria
  • KPIs and goals
  • Sales plays
  • Sales resources—e.g., email templates, call scripts

A great sales playbook guides your sales team through the sales cycle using proven, tried, and tested strategies. More importantly, it gives you an essential tool to efficiently scale your sales team.

2) Use the Mise en Place Method

A foundational French cooking technique is mise en place, or “set in place.”

The mise en place method of food preparation is taught in culinary schools around the world and maximizes efficiency and reduces errors. It refers to the setup required before cooking. It's often used in professional kitchens to refer to preparing, organizing, and arranging the ingredients, workspace, and tools that a cook will require for the menu items that are expected to be prepared during a shift.

For a sales team, mise en place means that the salesperson knows what they're supposed to do daily and has the tools, knowledge, and resources to do it.

That means the salesperson:

  • Knows who they're supposed to call every day
  • Prepares for each sales call
  • Knows what they're going to say—i.e., they’ve mastered basic sales plays and selling skills
  • Is proficient in using their sales enablement technology stack—CRM, LinkedIn Sales Navigator, Outreach, Calendly, etc.
  • Understands how to manage a sales opportunity through their pipeline
  • Manages their time well, including eliminating distractions and reducing inbox clutter

Mise en place in sales is the alignment of good work habits of salesperson, training, sales enablement, and sales management.

3) Create a Training Culture

Whether practicing your knife skills to perfectly julienne cut your vegetables, or learning how to create a soufflé that doesn’t collapse, French cuisine isn't an impenetrable mystery.

It’s a set of skills and techniques that can be learned, practiced, and mastered. Once your proficiency increases, you can then improvise, improve on, or develop your own techniques and recipes. The French were early adopters of formal culinary training, and their great chefs are constantly learning and innovating.

Likewise, you should instill a sales training and coaching culture into your team as a sales leader.

Developing a great sales training program can help you recruit and hire star sales talent and improve sales productivity. Today, sales teams need training on modern prospecting tactics, consultative selling, virtual selling, and negotiation skills. They also need to be coached by their sales managers to ensure that new selling skills are being applied in the field.

Some of the concepts that help propel French cuisine to the forefront of the culinary world can also help your sales team.

Defining your sales processes and plays, encouraging organized work habits and consistent skills training are always recipes for sales success—bon appetit!

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About David Jacoby

As a Managing Director at Sales Readiness Group, David helps large B2B sales organizations improve sales performance. Previously, David was a Principal at Linear Partners, a sales consulting firm providing sales strategy, sales operations, talent management, and interim management services to emerging growth companies. In the past, David has served as Vice President of Business Affairs of Xylo, Inc., where he was responsible for the Company's business development, sales operations, legal affairs, and financing activities.