While walking down the aisles at Publix, we commonly see out of the corner of our eye…an employee quietly hawking a morsel of a new cookie, or a sampling of a different type of cheese, or perhaps offering coupons for dryer sheets.

In most instances, we will stop out of sheer indulgence (or hunger) and chow down on the thimble-sized portion of cookie; and sometimes we graciously wave a “no thanks” and move on down the aisle. Sometimes…

Free food! Who’d say ‘no’ to that?! You know, if you go around the entire store (twice), you could probably fill up on cookies, crackers, and cheese…enough to make up an entire meal! And don’t tell me you haven’t thought about it!

During our usual Sunday afternoon shopping, my wife and I grab our shopping cart and we immediately head counter-clockwise around the store, list in hand. We start over in the bakery with the mouthwatering fumes (yes, I know…a dangerous move!).

And, as we enter the bakery, to our left, there’s our favorite Publix employee, Betty. Betty is a diminutive older lady, somewhat reminiscent of my own mother. She is always grinning ear to ear, laughing and speaking with each and every customer that drops by. A closer listen and she reveals her charming northern accent. With a twinkle in her eye, she quips at both of us, “Where’ve you been? I’ve been waiting all day for you two to show up!”

Betty is firmly planted behind a counter and a sign that reads Publix Aprons Program—Discovering the Joys of Cooking. And that…she does…discovers and delivers.

If you are a frequent Publix customer, you know exactly the end cap cooking stand I am talking about. They have all of the recipe cards right up front where you can take one home and try it yourself…and the recipe instructions are very easy to follow.

So there she is…Betty, cooking up a storm from the program’s multitude of recipes. And the smell…well, is quite amazing. Lucky for us, Betty works every Sunday afternoon. One would say we have our grocery trip timed just right.

And, when it’s Betty’s day off, for some odd reason, the taste just isn’t the same. Her stand-in cook is following the same recipe, and there really shouldn’t be any difference in the formulas, from Betty to Bernice. But there is something quite different when Betty is in the house. And, something’s lacking when she’s not.

Why, you ask?

Because, Betty cooks with value!

As strange as it may sound…Betty’s personality radiates value. And, what makes Betty’s recipe’s taste so good is her ability to provide that value before she presents the product.

That’s right…value before product.

From 20 feet away, I maneuver my cart around the donuts, pastries, and cookies…and, at times cutting off a kid or two heading to get his or her free cookie. Once we arrive at her booth, Betty has us convinced that this is the world’s greatest butternut squash, or lemon pepper chicken, or beef stroganoff…before we can even get a word in edgewise.

She has me sold.

“I’m not getting any younger, you know…get yourselves over here and try this!”

And then she proceeds to tell us what she’s cooking with that ear-to-ear grin.

I probably couldn’t care less what she’s got on the stove that day. Betty could cook a pot full of bay leaves, and I would be just fine, because Betty ensures my wife and I will both have a pleasant experience each and every time we come down her aisle.

Cooking with personality. Value before product.

Conversely, when an agent cooks with personality…leads with character…and, provides that value before presenting the product, they will always conjure up a more flavorful experience for their clients.

You see, the other way around, when you lead with product instead of value…the flavor just isn’t the same. And, at times, it will leave a bad taste in your client’s mouth….literally.

An agent who comprehends that each and every client is unique and different will know how much of that value ingredient to add to the pot. It’s that initial, key component…take a handful; take a pinch…whatever the individual (client) recipe calls for.

As we are leaving the store, we often tell the managers what a great job Betty does representing Publix…how she is always leaving us smiling. We never leave hungry, and we never go away empty-handed.

When was the last time you provided value before product?

Take a handful of value…a pinch.

And, start cooking!

Steve Shepherd

About Steve Shepherd


Steve’s entire career has been focused on helping companies to increase sales. He has sold, managed, trained and coached sales and sales management with noteworthy results. Steve’s results-oriented, highly interactive style has the ability to increase sales for many companies statewide. He makes sure the workshops are productive, interactive, and, above all, fun.