“How are you doing today?”
This seemingly simple phrase turned out to be an attention-grabber today.
As you know, I read (listen to) a lot of books—more than most. In fact, earlier this week, I finished book #82 for 2022 entitled “The Ultimate Sales Machine.” It’s an old book, published 15 years ago by Chet Holmes. He has an impressive resume, including earning his way to top salesperson for Charlie Munger in one of his many businesses. (Charlie Munger is the vice chair of the multinational conglomerate holding company Berkshire Hathaway. And, in fact, it was Charlie who suggested that CEO Warren Buffet change his investment strategy to “buy great companies and hold them forever.”)
I decided to read “The Ultimate Sales Machine,” as it was highly recommended in a newsletter I get. I have become a voracious reader and lifelong learner because, as the old saying goes, you should spend more time sharpening your ax than you do chopping down a tree. (I call it “sharpening my ax 101.”)
In Chet’s book, he talks about the qualities of the best salespeople—and the worst salespeople. He emphasizes what it’s like from the buyers’/decision-makers’ point of view. Can you imagine if you were a decision-maker and spent a lot of your time each week listening to salespeople? Salespeople giving endless PowerPoint presentations where all they do is talk about themselves and their company? I cannot even imagine.
One of the phrases Holmes cautions against is “How are you doing today?” as a conversation starter. In the book, I listened to example after example of role-playing and what this phrase must sound like from the buyers’ point of view—it’s a throw-away line that seems to say, “I’m not prepared.” I won’t be using that phrase ever again.
Today I got to experience this gem of a phrase firsthand. Like everyone, I get random phone calls on my mobile phone or at my office. If I don’t recognize the number or area code, I let it go to voice mail. But something made me answer my cell phone this afternoon, as I thought I recognized the area code.
“How are you doing today?” was how this guy started the call. Are you kidding me?, I thought. He may have thought he got me on a bad day, but frankly, this phrase was a tip-off that the person on the other end of the phone was not a trained professional. And I only want to do business with trained professional salespeople.
I’m guessing most of Frieda’s clients feel the same way. They don’t like pitchy salespeople who are insincere, who try fake rapport-building techniques, or who aren’t prepared. There is nothing worse than a salesperson who has not rehearsed ahead of the client presentation.
How about you? Are you the salesperson, or the client? It’s likely that you fill both roles at different times during your day/week/year.
Do you want to be considered a professional salesperson? I’ve always considered the other person’s point-of-view before starting a conversation. Lean into what makes them tick. A professional salesperson studies and researches their client and what drives them. They are not trying to sell something—they want to help their client buy.
You may not think that you are a salesperson. That may not be your official title or role at your company. But everyone is a salesperson some of the time.
What about when you go on a job interview? Ever thought about that one? When you’re applying for a position at a company (or for a promotion), you certainly are the salesperson—you’re selling yourself! Approach that next job interview or performance review that way. Would starting the conversation with a mundane phrase like “How are you today?” get you noticed? Would it make you memorable? Would it prompt the interviewer to want to know more about you? If you make a habit of filling that initial void with small-talk phrases like this, consider a new approach. What new steps would you take and what results might you get?
Think about it.
Los Alamitos, CA (October 2022) – Alex Jackson, who was recently promoted to Director of Sales and Procurement for Frieda’s Branded Produce, has been named to Progressive Grocer’s 2022 GenNext class of Future Leaders. Alex will be celebrated among her fellow honorees during Grocery Industry Week at the GenNext Symposium this November.
Each year, Progressive Grocer recognizes under-40 individuals who have displayed leadership in building the future of grocery. GenNext honorees come with backgrounds in retail, supply, and solution-based organizations. Their experience with new capabilities and technologies in grocery, from omnichannel marketing to fraud investigations to digital fulfillment and sustainable food supply chains, sets them apart from their peers. They have been selected based on their deep commitment to inspiring and serving shoppers and their communities, among other criteria.
As a third-generation business leader, Alex is a produce industry growth driver and the youngest professional ever to graduate from the United Fresh Leadership Program. Her ability to leverage inclusivity, along with a charismatic approach to sales, drives a team of Boomers, Gen Xers, Millennials and Zoomers to deliver results for Frieda’s retail and foodservice partners.
Alex’s commitment to innovation has led her team to embrace a coordinated stage gate/initiative management process, where Frieda’s products and future growth opportunities for branded produce are evaluated, resourced, and measured. This plan has resulted in clarity and direction on product launches, ensuring that strategy is met with flawless execution.
“I’m humbled to receive this prestigious grocery industry recognition,” expressed Alex. “To be named among this year’s field of young professionals reimagining grocery is an honor and shines a spotlight on the importance of fresh produce to the future of the essential grocery retail industry.” Other winners of the 2022 GenNext award have included startup CEO’s, category managers, and marketing leaders. Share in the celebration with Alex during International Fresh Produce Association’s Global Produce & Floral Show, October 28-29 in Orlando, Florida, where she will be joined by the Frieda’s team in booth 2042.
About Frieda’s Inc. Frieda’s Branded Produce has been inspiring new food experiences for friends, families, and food lovers everywhere since 1962. From kiwifruit and dragon fruit to Stokes Purple® sweet potatoes and habanero peppers, Frieda’s has introduced more than 200 unique fruits and vegetables to the U.S. marketplace. Founded by produce industry trailblazer Dr. Frieda Rapoport Caplan, subject of the 2015 documentary “Fear No Fruit,” the family company is owned and operated by Frieda’s daughters, Karen Caplan and Jackie Caplan Wiggins, in Orange County, California. Find Frieda’s on Facebook, @FriedasProduce and Friedas.com. Inspire. Taste. Love.
First, if you are not in the produce industry, you may be wondering why I’m so often asked this question. Let me explain.
The produce industry encompasses every segment of the life cycle of fresh fruits and vegetables, from seed companies to growers, packers, transportation, and logistics to wholesale distributors and retailers. Several times a year this unique network that make up the produce industry, comes together to highlight their paramount innovations. Companies delight in sharing their new products or services, and buyers are on the hunt for business solutions and connections with their suppliers. Next week, the largest North American produce trade show is taking place in Orlando, Florida.
Of course, trade shows occur in every industry, from technology to the beauty industry and everything in between. It is one of the most efficient ways to meet a bunch of people, versus traveling to meet all your customers or suppliers, in person, at various locations.
But trade shows do not replace the intimate, in-person visit to a company headquarters. They are just a plus. And you get to see what other companies are doing.
My first produce convention was during my time in college. I was living in the San Francisco Bay area and the big produce convention happened to be in San Francisco that year. So, my mom, Frieda, encouraged me to skip classes and drive over to the convention hotel to “work the booth.”
I can vividly remember all the growers and customers – it was a definite whirlwind as a first timer. But the buzz, the people, the enthusiasm, was intoxicating. Plus, I am a people person, so meeting all those new people completely inspired me. It is not a surprise that for the next three years of college, I would “skip class” to join my mom at the various industry trade shows.
Over time, the number of trade shows increased each year. In fact, at one point, I counted more than ten regional and national produce trade shows occurring in one year. With so many options, buyer attendance at shows decreased and the only thing that was increasing was the cost for suppliers to exhibit and staff a show.
In fact, in 2017 I encouraged my company to scale back. We stopped displaying at 90% of the trade shows, and after experimentation, we chose the events with the highest client attendance and engagement. My prediction was that trade shows were dying, and few would be viable in the future.
And then COVID hit.
Now, there were zero opportunities to see growers and clients in person. Zoom and Teams meetings were the new norm. Ever heard of “Zoom Fatigue”? Well, I can tell you it is real. And one of the worst parts of Zoom meetings, is when people do not turn on their cameras, so you have no idea if anyone is there.
Well, now that vaccinations and boosters are here, and large companies are allowing their employees to travel on business, the trade show business has become active again. I attended my first in-person produce industry event in July and I’ll admit, it was a little strange. No masks, lots of handshakes and hugs with rooms filled with people sitting close together listening to speakers. But I survived. And it was nice to reconnect with people in person, after two and half years of living behind a screen.
Fast forward to next week. The recently merged Produce Marketing Association and United Fresh Produce Association are now the International Fresh Produce Association, and they are holding their inaugural global produce and floral trade show. Formerly, this October trade show had attendees from all over the world and attendance was close to 20,000 people. It consisted of three days dedicated to meetings, cocktail parties, keynote speakers, panels and of course aisle after aisle of booths.
This year, the vibe and attendance are a bit less intense. The exhibit hall has fewer booths, and we’ve noticed many companies are not exhibiting. Pre-registration is barely at 10,000 people. And surprise, surprise, my company decided to exhibit this year, after a 5-year hiatus.
Why are we exhibiting? We have changed a lot since COVID and the best way to demonstrate that is in-person. We have a 10 ft x 20 ft booth and are taking several members of our sales, marketing, and buying teams. And we are excited to show off the fresh look and feel of our brand. You see, we leveraged the pandemic to our advantage. We conducted consumer research and refreshed the look and feel of our packaging. If you have seen our products at your local market, or online, then you know what I mean. Our new look rocks! (Oops, guess I should be more humble)
But that is not the entire reason we are attending this trade show.
We are going because people do business with people they like and people whom they trust. And the best way to get to know people is by meeting them in person. Face to face. Smile to smile. Make eye contact.
I love people and to be successful in business you must like people. I anticipate that next week’s trade show in Orlando will be energizing, stimulating, and inspiring! And I can’t wait!
I know this may be a complicated question for some, as we all have some version of a “love/hate” relationship with family members. Most of us would say that, in general, we love our kids. We love our spouse. We love our parents. And we want to be there for them.
But my real question is about how you take care of yourself and your physical and mental health, as many of us are not thinking long term. If you really loved your family members, then would you be taking better care of your own health, both physically and mentally?
Would you make different choices? Would you schedule time weekly to do cardio exercises, ensuring you are heart healthy long term? I’m not talking about a slow walk around the block with your dog. I’m talking about working up a sweat and burning some calories, on a regular basis.
Would you be mindful of your food choices when buying groceries or when dining out? Would you think twice about ordering a burger and fries when healthier options are available? Would you try intermittent fasting to get your blood sugar in line and consume less calories? Would you eat more fresh fruits and vegetables, cut down on red meat or stop eating fried foods?
What about getting enough sleep? Do you set yourself up for a restful night of sleep (7-8 hours)? For me, that means planning ahead for when I need to be up in the morning and counting back 8.5 hours, ensuring I get enough rest.
What about times of emotional distress? A death of a relative or close friend, marital or relationship challenges, or a serious illness. Do you reach out for help? I remember what it took for me to see a therapist the first time, over 25 years ago. It was a real process to realize I was not broken, but rather that there were professionals out there who could help me process the emotions I was experiencing.
This past week I saw a dear, lifelong friend. He’s a few years older than me and we don’t see each other very often. Something was not right, as he wasn’t his usual vibrant self that I’ve come to know so well. One of his closest friends had recently passed away and I sensed that he was experiencing tremendous grief. As we get older, we experience the passing of people who seem “too young”, far more often and it’s easy to fall into despair.
We might drink a little more. Eat some unhealthy foods and stop our exercise routine. All while our sleep patterns become erratic. It can quickly become a downward spiral. We chalk it up to “being sad or in mourning”.
So, I ask the question: “Do you really love your family?”. The family that is still alive. It could be your kids, grandkids, or other important people in your life.
If you really love your family, you will make changes that guarantee a healthier, longer life. And you don’t have to be in your 60s, 70s, or 80s to be thinking about these decisions. Start living now and share the best version of yourself with your family.
Contrary to popular belief, none of us are invincible. Take some time and think about how you show up for yourself. You don’t have to love the reflection in the mirror, but you should strive to get to a place where you like the person staring back at you. Once this happens, you’ll begin down a path of prioritizing healthy choices and create a space that promotes self-love.
During the month of August, I was fortunate to spend 3 weeks traveling in Australia. My life partner, Jack is a professional speaker and scheduled seven gigs there, which is how I ended up in “Oz” for so long. It was a great trip; I made many new friends and learned a few things along the way:
- It’s really not that far away! From Los Angeles to Sydney is a 14-hour flight. Like Jack says, “that’s just a meal, a nap, and a movie away”. When you board international flights, they usually depart in the late evening. Right after boarding, they provide a meal and then it’s time to sleep (it’s late at night, so a 6–8-hour snooze works out). I highly recommend noise cancelling headphones and an eye mask to help eliminate outside noises and light. If you need a sleep aid, I suggest bringing that along, as well. Before you know it breakfast is served, and you are on the ground. Voila!
- Australians have their own slang and it’s wildly amusing! For example, I had to get used to people asking, “How are you going?” compared to the American version of, “How are you doing?”.
- Footy = Football
- Ankle Biter = Child
- Coldie = Cold Beer
- And my all-time favorite, “Seppo”, which loosely translates to American. I’m not sure how they arrived at that, but it goes something like this: Yank > rhymes with septic tank> abbreviation for septic is “seppo”. Thus, Jack and I were referred to as “seppos” and we were not supposed to be offended. For more: check out the Australia Slang Dictionary.
- We visited 4 major cities in Australia: Sydney, Adelaide, Melbourne and then Brisbane. Each city has its own personality and vibe. Melbourne brings a strong business feel, where people dress up and are less likely to give a standing ovation after a performance. Sydney is quite metropolitan. Both are great walking cities. It was my first visit to Adelaide, and there, out in the country I felt like I was traveling from village to village. We went out to breakfast one morning and found out that breakfast places didn’t even open until 9:00am. Maybe because I have always been an early morning person with my work and all, but 9am seemed quite late to open a breakfast spot.
- Each evening that we went out to dinner with friends and business colleagues, we noticed the same pattern. A few moments after you were seated, you were expected to order. Unlike in Europe where meals are more leisurely, or in America where you order drinks first and then your meal, requesting a slow-paced service if you desire. In Australia, you are expected to order right away, and you are served almost immediately. Another unexpected element is that everyone orders an Entrée and a Main. An Entrée is what we call an appetizer, and a main, is well, your main dish.
- Driving on the left side of the road looks difficult but it’s surprisingly easy. While in Brisbane, I wanted to get a manicure, so I borrowed a friends’ car. It was the second trip I had been on where I would be driving on the left side of the road, and I admit I was a bit apprehensive. But once I got behind the wheel and took off, it was not that hard. Admittedly, I drove slower than usual and took my time parallel parking or backing out of a parking space. Thank goodness for the rear cameras that are now standard in cars.
While down under, we did some unique exploring and had a lot of fun along the way.
We golfed at the World’s Best Backyard Golf Course in Brisbane (as featured in GOLF Magazine!). This course is owned by Jack’s longtime friend and colleague, Rob Nixon. We tried to perfect our wedge and putting game for 3 days. 9 holes, 3 greens per hole; all in one backyard. There were 34 of us in the tournament and I am very proud to say I came in at #33. I gave Mario a big hug and a handshake for saving me from last place.
After we left Australia, we stopped in Auckland, New Zealand for a couple of days before heading back to California. I still can’t believe I rode to the top of the Sky Tower, the tallest structure in Auckland, at 1,076 feet above sea level. You don orange jumpsuits and ride the elevator to the top. Then you get hooked onto multiple safety straps and go to the tower outside, near the very top and walk around the entire tower platform (with no fence or bar to protect you). Thankfully, I am not afraid of heights, but I was happy to be back on solid ground after an hour. I highly recommend you check it out with a friend!
So, next time you are thinking of a great place to go for an extended vacation, consider Australia. Another bonus is that they have opposite seasons to us (since they are in the Southern Hemisphere). In August, it’s almost spring and the weather was mild. Make a bucket list for your travels and check them off.