Fable Friday:  Hatch chiles and killer questions

In the little town of Hatch, New Mexico and in the surrounding area are grown one of the most delicious species of chiles, now known as the Hatch Chile.  Hatch Chiles are harvested in late summer, come in varieties from mild to very spicy and are delicious in soups, stews, sandwiches and other similar dishes, including chili itself.

Gregory at Medtronic 10-2010 CroppedMy son Hudson works for Market Street, an upscale supermarket here in Texas and every August the store puts on a huge Hatch Chile Fest.  They roast hundreds of pounds of chiles in a huge hopper over a charcoal fire, and they have Hudson and several other high school age kids out there selling the chiles.  And despite the intense heat and smoke and obvious discomfort of being outside in Texas on a hot summer day, the kids have a ball selling those chiles.

One day after his first assignment at the Chile Fest, he related this story.  “As customers approach the store, we were asking them, ‘Do you want to buy some Hatch Chiles?’ and most of them would say no, so we talked about different ways of engaging the customer. Finally we hit upon a much better question.  We started asking, ‘Would you like to learn about Hatch Chiles?’ which made a lot of sense as many people didn’t know what the chiles were and it didn’t put them on the spot to buy anything.  After that we sold a whole lot of chiles!”

He went on to explain that in “educating” the customer about Hatch Chiles, the kids could also point out the many benefits: limited season for a delicious chile, affordably priced, can be frozen, variety of uses, and that the store roasts them for the customer.  After that, almost everyone who got the “education” then bought some chiles.

Now here is why I’m sharing this story, aside from being proud of my son.  What those kids had was a sales meeting, where they discussed a sales performance problem and came up with a very simple change in their sales skills, one that had an immediate impact on sales results.

What about your sales meetings?  Do you discuss and practice minor changes in skills, e.g., “How would you ask a prospect to describe a pain point without saying ‘What keeps you up at night?’ or ‘Where are you feeling the pain?’”  Do you then conduct quick role play practices of those skills?  If not, you should, because that’s where the money is, what you actually say to the customer.

I’ve sat in on hundreds of sales meetings and I rarely see skills addressed.  I do hear a lot of sales progress to goal review, or someone being asked what made a given deal successful, and those are not bad topics. In the review of the successful deal however, the focus is usually on what the salesperson did, rather than what was said, e.g., “I continued to pursue the sale even though the prospect told me no originally.”

So my sales management tip for today is to look for those small behaviors that work and focus on the skill, which may involve a key word or two.  If you read my newsletter earlier this week, you recall that eliminating the word “just” on the phone made a world of difference in how the customer perceives your pitch.

What those kids at Market Street did was observe the customer’s reaction to “Do you want to learn?” as opposed to, “Do you want to buy?”  One word.  That’s all.

Think Like Your Customer!

About Gregory LaMothe
I teach people how to sell things. I own the company ActionSystems. Visit my website at www.actionsystemstraining.com.

One Response to Fable Friday:  Hatch chiles and killer questions

  1. Graham Duryee says:


    This is a great story about engaging others! Thank you!

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