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Serious in Preparation, Fun in Execution

Who says work can’t be fun? Recently I was asked to describe my business style and off the cuff came up with “Serious in the preparation but fun in the execution.” Since I’m not a huge fan of surprises, I prefer to over-prepare so they are limited, and then by the time the event occurs, whether a presentation, speech, tasting, webinar, or conference, the stress is minimized and I can just have fun.

Occasionally I get teased that I’m very serious in a work environment when people first meet me. In fact, most people who’ve met me in a professional environment, especially early in my career have gotten the impression that I’m a no-nonsense kind of guy, which to anyone who knows me well knows isn’t true! In fact, one salesperson nicknamed me “the mullet” as I was all business up front but a party in the back once you got to know me. I don’t have the haircut to match that personality!

So, what does “Serious in the preparation, fun in the execution” mean exactly?

Let’s say you work for a company looking to sell products to a major chain. Serious in the preparation really stems from doing your research, doing your homework, and putting significant thought and effort into a presentation you will give when you call on a potential customer. At Dunkin’ I could always tell when a supplier was serious about my business by the way they did their homework. The best would cover the following areas in their research:

  • Brand Strategy and Vision - Do you know your customer's brand strategy and core values?

  • Menu Strategy – They knew what a menu strategy is, and common ways they're developed and implemented across chain types and would ask questions to ensure they understood our menu strategy.

  • The Importance of Limited Time Offers (LTO) - Often overlooked by newcomers to foodservice, LTO's are a great opportunity to get your foot in the door, and great suppliers knew they could earn their stripes this way.

  • Restaurant Visits and Product Evaluation – The best suppliers visited the restaurants to better understand the operations and how their products would fit into the menu.

Then after these suppliers did their homework they spent time really understanding who they were and why they had a right to win. This is their Value Proposition and includes the specific differentiation around why a chain should choose them to work with. What is it you do better than anyone else, and how are you showing that target customer that they need to change or evolve? After you can articulate your company value proposition, you apply that unique offering to what you learned when you did your homework on the target. This is where you take what you've learned and the insights you've found to create meaningful and relevant innovation to share, and this is where the fun comes out! You've done your homework, you've defined your value, and you've applied that to the account - now it's time to put everything into a compelling presentation to create that perfect pitch!

Fun in the execution is about knowing you’ve prepared so well that you can relax and enjoy the fruits of your labor. When you’re prepared as a presenter, when you know the material well everything becomes easier. I never minded at Dunkin’ if companies would joke around, have fun – people like to see when you and your colleagues are enjoying yourself. That kind of confidence comes through very naturally and is endearing. People also want to work with others who are fun and likeable, but also get the work done at a high quality. Of course, this all takes for granted you’ve done the work to creating meaningful, on trend product innovation that makes sense for the account.

That fun can the extend into building lasting relationships in a variety of areas throughout the organization as you navigate a complex sale. As I think of world class suppliers and the best salespeople I worked with, I would look forward to their calls, their visits, and our dinners together. I wanted to spend time with them because they brought value through their serious preparation, but were able to execute in a manner that was fun and engaging. It appeared effortless and clearly earned them business for many years to come. I hope this gives you a few new ideas to incorporate as you prepare for your next great presentation!


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