Sales lessons from the kitchen

September 11. 2012 9:00AM - Last modified: September 11. 2012 9:32AM

Patrick Morin

Jorge moved with the speed and precision of a surgeon.

There wasn't a wasted movement of any kind, and his focus was laserlike. He didn't talk, he didn't look around, he was never distracted. He'd grab three or four at a time with each hand and neatly and gently tuck them into place on the rack. When it was full, he'd send it through.

"That's remarkable," I stammered.

"Yes," replied the hotel GM. "But look at the other side of the dishwashing machine. He can outwork all three of them."

It was true: Racks of glasses and dishes were already backing up behind Jorge's co-workers as they scrambled to unload and put them away.

We had just spent the last three days with the senior team of this world-class resort hotel in a discovery and training session. They had opened their doors and operation to our group so we could learn more about the way they do business.

The final part was a comprehensive tour that started in the kitchen. And Jorge.

After watching him for a minute or two, I approached and introduced myself.

"Jorge, how long have you been working here?" I asked.

"Seven years, sir."

"Do you like working at the (hotel)?"

"Yes, sir! I love it here. The people are wonderful!" he replied.

"You've been here seven years. Didn't you ever want to be — I don't know — head dishwasher?"

"Well, sir, they offered it to me. I turned it down."

"Why?!" I asked, somewhat dumbfounded.

"Well, sir, what I do is important. I do it very good, and I'm proud of that. Our guests cannot have a (hotel brand) experience with a dirty glass."

In a lesson as stunning today as it was then, we were schooled in the difference between having a purpose and having a function.

A purpose is a driving, inspiring reason that compels us to do our best, ignore difficulties and hone our craft. A purpose is bigger than ourselves and drives us to serve others by becoming exceptional at what we do. It's part of our core and connects us with people and, hopefully, our employer.

Our function is our job description — that list of tasks that we check off every day upon completion. It's the things that we do — sometimes mundane, sometimes not, sometimes obvious, sometimes not — that are necessary to achieving an objective. Fulfilling our purpose.

Function is what we do. Purpose is why we do it.

Function is cold calling. Function is prospecting. Function is preparing proposals. Function is filling out expense reports. Function is reporting in sales meetings. Function is listening to a customer's complaint. Function is putting together budgets.

Purpose is knowing that completing those things above helped YOUR company deliver on a promise to a customer. Purpose is knowing those things made a difference in the customers' experience. You, your firm and your product made a difference to them.

People who either confuse the two or (worse) lose sight of their purpose end up miserable in their occupations. People who clearly understand the difference are happier, more tolerant, more resilient and more successful. They are admired by others and offered greater opportunities. This applies whether you're in sales or not.

It just took a dishwasher to show us.

Patrick Morin is a partner at BrightHammer, a team of experts that work directly with company leaders nationwide to develop and implement sales strategy, deliver targeted sales training and effect sales-oriented culture changes. Email him here, follow him on Twitter or connect with him on LinkedIn.


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