The Modern Sales Professional: Chef vs. Cook (Part 1 of 7)

Steve Jobs quipped this simple, yet profound idea that I’ve reflected on often since hearing it more than a decade ago:


This is the world I sought as a Sales Leader and I know in my bones there are other leaders out there that seek this for themselves and their organizations.

This is a job where we get out from under the endless administrative, task-oriented management functions, or, be that super player-manager who does a lot of the heavy lifting and selling for our team – to enter the role of coach and mentor and leader: We leave behind – “do-this-do-that; say-this- say-that.” Our value becomes – “How can I help? How can I best orchestrate our resources to do what our sales professional is directing us needs doing?”

If the idea of coaching, mentoring and developing your sales team to higher performance (in place of micro-managing every move and decision) hits you as a remarkable concept, but it seems impossible to get there with the team you have now, stick with us for this series of insights on – The Modern Sales Professional.   We may be able to help by providing our roadmap, as we cover the essentials of what it takes to be this high performer and to develop these folks in today’s ever-changing digital world, referred to by many as Sales 3.0.

For our first stop on the roadmap, we should define what ‘smart’ is. In the context of the sales professional, we’ve identified a super analogy that hopefully resonates with you as it did us, and, that (hopefully) will forever keep you from going back to what you do now when you arrive at the place you want to be:

Here’s our analogy – the modern sales professional is a chef, not a cook. And, what makes a chef a chef? A cook a cook?

The “Reluctant Gourmet” puts it this way:

The Chef

  • A two- or four-year culinary degree
  • Extensive training under a chef with the goal of gaining a culinary education equal to that of a degree (also known as a culinary apprenticeship)
  •  Responsibilities that include a supervisory role
  •  The ability to create and implement menus in a restaurant setting
  •  Management roles in the kitchen

The Cook

  • Prepare food on a daily basis
  • Perform kitchen duties, as needed and directed
  • Clean and wash the kitchen
  • Use recipes and follow someone else’s menu plan

The difference is stark, right?

The modern sales professional is indeed a chef. And, dependent, transactional sales people are the cooks.  So, now we can define ‘smart’ for our purposes: The sales talent who has an expanded circle of competence to perform at the highest levels of the craft. Like the chef.

If you have a team of cooks who execute the sales process by following ‘recipes’ – what to say, when, – and something is happening to create the need for more chefs, the question to ask is – do they have the right stuff to become a chef?

What’s the right stuff?  Attitude. Learner. Curious. Trustworthy. Interested. Other-directed. Likeable … this for starts.

If this concept of the modern sales professional is beckoning you to know more, watch for Part 2 of this series to get ideas for how to get started with your team.

In the meantime, to learn more about The Modern Sales Professional and what it takes to be successful, download our free report.