Ask for the order without saying a word. A fish story.

Ask for the order without saying a word. A fish story.

Written By Jeffrey Gitomer

KING OF SALES, The author of seventeen best-selling books including The Sales Bible, The Little Red Book of Selling, and The Little Gold Book of Yes! Attitude. His live coaching program, Sales Mastery, is available at



Ask for the order without saying a word. A fish story.

A piece of fish cooked and served on a piece of wood.

Cedar Plank Salmon is featured on the menus of some of the finest restaurants in the Pacific Northwest.

Harry Aldrich and David Maddocks had an idea that they would introduce the home cooking version of this famous cedar plank method of fish preparation. And so, The Oregon Cedar Grill Company was founded to manufacture a cedar “plank” (piece of wood about 6″ by 12″ and 1/2″ thick) for grilling Salmon on your home barbecue.

Two questions loomed big for this idea to be a winner:

1. How does a small startup create an entirely new market?

2. How do they convince retailers to carry their new product?

Two answers: 1. Get appointments with big retailers (grocers with seafood departments, barbque equipment sellers, and gourmet food stores) by begging for small amounts of time, AND, 2. Develop creative sales strategies to WOW and generate excitement (in other words make big sales fast).

To develop a new category new category, David Maddocks, a 10year marketing veteran said, “It comes down to positioning. We made the product appeal to a more discerning customer. One who enjoys the informality of a backyard barbecue with friends, but wants to serve a fine Pinot Noir wine instead of a ‘nice cold one.'”

“We included easytofollow and bold ‘123’ stepbystep instructions and recipes for people whose tastes may exceed their culinary abilities. And, the package had to merchandise well in specialty food stores and major chains.”

Supply sources in place, and retail package designed Aldrich made a phone call to the Seafood Buyer at Fred Meyer stores in Portland. He was told by a disinterested buyer that he would have 15 minutes to present the product, and that he was not to be late. The appointment was set for 11 a.m.

On the morning of his appointment, Aldrich went to his local Fred Meyer retail store when it opened, and purchased the nicest filet of salmon in the case. Then headed home and prepared and cooked the salmon on his Oregon Cedar Grill plank. He dressed the filet with two different sauces one on either end of the filet.

The moment the fish was finished cooking, Aldrich wrapped the fish and plank (still smoldering) in tin foil and rushed to his appointment. He arrived at the Fred Meyer Headquarters with five minutes to spare. He was shown into the (disinterested) buyer’s office, unwrapped his “presentation” and handed the buyer the plank of hot food and a fork and said, “I’m here for one reason: to help you sell more fish.”

The buyer tasted, looked up, still chewing forkinhand, and said, “Where did you get this fish?”

“I bought it at your store this morning,” replied Aldrich.

“You couldn’t have,” exclaimed the buyer. “This is too damn good!” He then leapt from his desk and began pulling in all the available staffers he could find to come try the salmon in his office. One woman, who insisted she hated salmon, flipped over the flavor.

(SALESPEOPLE NOTE WELL: At this point in the sales presentation less than 5minutes the sale has been made notice how many words have been spoken. Under 50. Notice that Aldrich, the salesman, said nothing about his product, nothing about his company, nothing about himself Aldrich just walked in with a finished product and a fork.)

At the close of his 15minute “presentation,” Aldrich gave the buyer of some orderteaser facts. He pointed out the fact that the Oregon Cedar Grill plank doesn’t spoil (like fish does), and that the fish department would make a substantially higher profit margin than usual. Aldrich then cleaned up his mess, and said he would telephone a few days later. The buyer assured Aldrich that he would show the Oregon Cedar Grill up the ranks.

With a fun product, a new twist on spoilage, and increased profitability, Aldrich had given the buyer a vested interest in seeing the Oregon Cedar Grill product succeed at Fred Meyer stores.

Within a week Aldrich had an order for more than 100 stores. About his decision to bring in a visual/edible product display Aldrich said, “Most people don’t get it until they try it. I knew I could talk to the buyer until I was blue in the face, but nothing was going to convince him as much as one taste.”

We wanted to get the product next to the fish where would could ‘set the table’ for the consumer.” Aldrich said, “More importantly, the seafood department does not enjoy the same profit margins as some of the other departments in the company. We wanted someone who would jump at the chance to make a substantial margin on a nonperishable product. Still, this was secondary to experiencing (tasting) the finished product firsthand.”

This column is a story about fish AND your sales presentation as it relates to fish.

You have a short time to make it, show your best side.

It better be fresh and served with a flair.

Don’t serve something to someone else until you know how it tastes to you.

If it’s cooked to perfection, the aroma alone will make the everyone want to buy.


If the presentation is old it will stink.

The problem with your sales presentation is that the odor may be there, but not be evident.

Can you make a sales presentation in under five minutes that results in the buyer jumping up from his desk and calling other people in the room? If not, you may not be serving the right (sales) meal.

Aldrich concentrated on “setting the table” in his prospects’ minds. His simple demonstration was far more effective than any verbal discription or sales literature could have been no matter how beautiful or carefully crafted.

What’s next? For Aldrich and Maddocks? Instore samples and recipes Aldrich plans to serve food prepared on the plank to shoppers. He will sell the retail buyer the same way he sold the wholesale buyer.

FREE GitBit … The customers point of view AND a fish recipe. A page on how to take the customers perspective in a sales presentation, and the famous cedar plank salmon recipe are yours free. Just go to click FREE STUFF then GitBit register and enter the secret words, “FISH SALE”.

Jeffrey Gitomer, author of The Sales Bible, and Customer Satisfaction is Worthless, Customer Loyalty is Priceless. President of Charlottebased Buy Gitomer, he gives seminars, runs annual sales meetings, and conducts training programs on selling and customer service. He can be reached at 704/3331112 or email to

1999 All Rights Reserved Don’t even think about reproducing this document without written

permission from Jeffrey H. Gitomer and Buy Gitomer 704/3331112