Executive Careers Blog

The Yummy Factor—Spice Your Message


The other day, I was working with a global leadership team that wanted to move from "product selling to solution selling."

That's an important distinction. But it's abstract. And if you're trying to explain it, you need some concrete examples.

The concrete has power.

Suppose, for example, I told you that this morning I ate:

a) foodstuff (something that may or may not have been food)

b) a bowl of cereal

c) an entire carton of Fruit Loops

d) "two four-minute eggs, a rasher of broiled bacon, orange juice and milk"

Notice how this list starts with the abstract (foodstuff), and gets more concrete.

Fruit Loops and four-minute eggs are easy to visualize. And if something's easy to visualize, it's more likely to grab your attention and be remembered.

Eggs and bacon
Andrew Unangst | Photographer's Choice | Getty Images

About those four-minute eggs and bacon: that's the winner. Not only can you see it, you can smell it, taste it, and hear it (sizzling bacon).

It's also, by the way, what John F. Kennedy ate for breakfast every day, according to Theodore White's "The Making of the President 1960."

That's the only thing I remember from the book, although if JFK had been consuming vast quantities of Fruit Loops, I might have recalled that too.


Spice your info with an occasional food reference.

Sound crazy? Then Google: the Peanut Butter Manifesto; the Sandwich Technique; the Swiss Cheese Method.

And if not food, try something else. But make it visual. Otherwise you risk being too abstract.

(You may, of course, have the opposite problem: you're too concrete—you provide too much data and detail, too few conclusions. In that case: hold the mayo.)

It doesn't matter what you say; it's what your audience remembers.
Express Potential
Paul Hellman

Here's how a Fortune 500 company explains, abstractly, what they do:

"Aecom is a global leader," according to their web site, "in providing fully integrated professional technical and management support services for a broad range of markets."

What, exactly, does that mean? I suggest they drop everything, and make an immediate acquisition—preferably, a food company.

They could buy Annie's.

Annie's web site says, "We bring you yummy comfort foods . . . like Annie's macaroni and cheese—totally natural, totally delicious!"

Even the name, Annie's, is concrete.

If Aecom bought Annie's, they could boast, "We provide fully integrated management support services, and fully integrated macaroni and cheese."

That would be better.

Tip: It doesn't matter what you say; it's what your audience remembers. They'll remember concrete examples.

Consultant, author, speaker, and founder of express potential® (  Paul Hellman has worked with CEOs, executives, and managers at leading companies for over 25 years to improve performance and productivity at work. His latest book is “Naked at Work: How to Stay Sane When Your Job Drives You Crazy,” and his columns have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post and other leading papers.

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