What apples teach us about sales

6 lessons apples sales

Picture the scene. With no cash, nothing to show but sunburn, you work all hours for coin. You’re a jaded young fruit picker, called ‘Al’ (or ‘Alina’); it’s another hot Monday with the harsh sun beating down on you in the apple fields. Today you’re sticky and bothered, but hey, half your day is done and you have just 4hrs to go…  your mind drifts to yesterday’s fiasco. Yesterday you were in trouble – you picked 1000 apples when the big, cider-guzzling orchard owner said you should have picked 2000 apples. Darn.

You realise that you’re doing better today (Well done Al!) you’ve already counted 650 apples! Soon you’ll be apple-picker of the year!
You’ve been pushing hard today but still, you are spending a lot of time thinking about which apples are ripe before actually picking them – you don’t have experience, you don’t have a quick test yet. If only… if only you knew a way to test the apples quickly, by scanning them for tell-tale signs… hmmm. You finish the day with 1220 apples.

That night you knock back a few with an ol’ pro-picker named Tuck. At midnight Tuck lets you in on a secret, “Naaaaa! It’s not always about the colour – they can be any colour, it’s the situation of the apple”. Huh? Whaaaa? “Apples ripen inside out… um… er… I mean on the tree. Outside apples ripen waaaaay faster, ‘specially those exposed in the sun. Those ones nearer the centre ripen later!”

You smack yourself on the forehead and hit the orchard hard the next morning with a newfound zest.

You zip through the orchard on Tuesday only grabbing the outermost fruit, you save time analysing those apples that will never be ‘ripe’ today, and finish the day on 1672 apples! Whoa – and you didn’t even try harder – it was easier! The orchard owner winces at you past his bulbous nostrils and grunts, “Better, I won’t sack ya yet… you jus’ bought yourself another couple o’ days.” Whoop! You think to yourself.

AHA! ONE – In a sea of apples… I mean customers… you need a quick way of testing their value. Scan the leads by allocating just a few minutes to each one by sending a basic email template with minimal personalisation OR make a quick call OR a social media connection. You’re bobbing, bobbing for apples – you’re effectively going to get your teeth into those apples that require less effort and provide more value – they’re ripe.

It’s Wednesday. You’re feeling gen’d up and you still can’t fathom the dimensions of this never-ending apple field. But what’s this? You end the day with 15% of your apples being rejected – you picked them too early. Oops. To put it mildly the boss ain’t best pleased… You just wasted him a few hundred notes. Luckily he’s down on staff tomorrow and needs you. You go back to Tuck and with a whiny look on your face plead him to tell you where you went wrong. Fortunately Tuck takes pity on you a sits you down to give some sage advice. He says, “Look, Al… or Alina – seriously I can’t tell if you’re a boy or girl ma’am. But I digress… Sometimes, SOMETIMES some of the apples break the rules. You have to look for more clues. A ‘picker’ trick is to dissect a sample apple once in a while; you cut it horizontally and look at the seeds. Usually, the seeds become brown when the fruit is ripe.” You thank Tuck to his face, then walk off quietly cursing him for not bestowing this knowledge upon you yesterday the pr*ck – You could seriously have been sacked!

You head out with vigour – It’s Thurs-YAY today. You zip around like a surgeon, scalpel in hand, dissecting apples looking for brown seeds inside. These seeds tell you everything you need to know about the ripeness of orchard trees in various sections of the field. And you get to eat some too! Bonus. You get a taste for ripe apples – soon you get a sixth sense for ripeness and notice the soil is drier in the parts of the orchard with the sour ones. You realise…

AHA! TWO – Once you know which apples have potential (I.e. those on the outside); sometimes you have to really delve deeper inside the apple (customer) to classify it as valuable or not. By asking the right questions and ‘digging deeper’, you find the tell-tale signs you’re looking for to judge apple value. Furthermore, you start to group the ‘ripes’ and the ‘sours’ into broad categories by noticing other factors that consistently determine their type. You segment the audience. Each segment requires a different approach. Under the right circumstances – if given more time, attention and effort – the ‘sours’ will too become ‘ripes’.

’tis Friday my androgynous friend and YOU are learning fast. You pick more apples and have a lower defect rate at only 2% – YOWZER!! That’s earned you a place on the coveted ‘orchard employee of the hour’ whiteboard! You dream of stardom, the lights, yep – the big time. Even one of the young milk-churning maids, and intriguingly, the cross-eyed village hermit try to catch your eye. You blush and wail at them your new slogan, “Just Keep Pickin’!” Smiling to yourself you trudge home and nurse your feet – you’ve been abusing them with all this productivity!

AHA! THREE – Being more efficient is integral to improving your stats! Spending less time on ‘sour’ apples, more time on ‘ripe-uns’ means you whizz through apple after apple and you get a far better return for it. The boss is proud (his investment in you is paying off), your peers are impressed (you’re smashing the target), and you have accomplished a lot (feeling pretty smart huh?!) – productivity has just skyrocketed. Your mum calls you to tell you you’re her favourite boy-girl and that just tops off the day. You reward yourself and watch the news while ironing your fave skirt.

It’s the weekend. It’s Saturday now, you roll out of bed and for a split-second you ponder over a lie-in. I mean, you’re too important around town now to work on weekends, right? BUT NO! Hell no; it’s Pickin’ Season and you’re an icon now – SOMEONE need to set an example for others. That’s you. You drive over to the orchard in your limo, the chauffer double knots the shoelaces of your new Italian leather shoes that promise ‘We walk with you the extra mile’. You’re dressed to tramp and mean business.

People are in awe as you pick at LIGHTSPEED. Apple after apple is launched into your wicker basket. All apples are scanned, tested, categorised and dealt with with BORG-like efficiency. “Tuck will be crying in the bar tonight when he sees I beat his record of 2160 apples!” You think to yourself. The boss runs out screaming at you to take it easy. But why? In your haste to process apples, you’re bruising perfectly good ones. You need to pay more attention to your apples OTHERWISE you won’t get to deal with them anymore. You’re losing revenue for the orchard with your cavalier attitude. Why didn’t you see this before?

AHA! FOUR – Once picked, don’t throw the apples (customers) into the baskets (end-zone), place them in gently, or they will bruise and go bad more quickly. If they get a bruised ego or feel mistreated, they won’t produce the value you imagined, and they won’t be available for you to pick again in the future. No repeat business will come your way and that’s a sure path to failure in the fruit picking trade. Word of mouth will spread and no orchard owner will recommend you.

My Al(ina) – you’re having a time of it aren’t you?

Tuck clacks on over in his cowboy boots as you’re forcing your way through a few bruised apple segments as ordered by the boss-man. He comments on your ‘fancy shoes’ and gives you some apple-munching advice: “Don’t wash apples until just before to prevent spoilage.” It’s a bit random but you’ll take it – Tuck has been pretty spot on with his advice, shame it comes as often as Hale Bopp.

AHA! FIVE – Your mind scrambles trying to figure out the deep meaning of Tucks words. He’s a cryptic fellow. Then it hits you like Isaac Newton. Apples are ready to be eaten when they’re clean, not before; if you clean them before it allows outside entities to infect them, to influence them, make them go bad. So what he means is, if I try and close the deal too early, before I have taken care of the customer properly, he’ll go off and other competitors will pounce on him. BINGO.

You’re little mind boggles at the depth of this guy. Respect.

…but wait! There’s more… can it be, Tuck is going to blow my mind with a (golden) delicious proverb? “Keep apples cool after picking to increase shelf-life”

AHA! SIX – Yes. To have repeat customers – to increase their shelf-life – you need to keep customers cool. Keep your apples in the fridge – where you can check on them every so often, see how they’re doing, make sure they’re taken care of. Don’t neglect your apples or they really will go off!

You have just reached a whole new dimension of enlightenment. You can sense the apple sauce in the pantry of the orchard bar and you start to experience synaesthesia – everything sounds like cinnamon.

The phone rings at the back of the bar and everybody looks quizzical. You pick up tentatively and say, “Hello?”

An old man with a smooth as apple-sauce voice projects down the blower – “Sonny?” he nose-whistles, “Sonny, I hear good things about you but I’m worried eh. Let me… Let me tell you one thing I learned through my years…”

OK old man, spit it out. “If there’s one thing, JUST ONE that you should remember, it’s this…” he continued.

“Every apple, EVERY apple, is high in antioxidants.”


“Aaaaand… That means that be it a honeycrisp; a Jonagold; Ginger Gold; a Woolbrook Russet or even a Bramley variety…”

“…a regular or cooking apple”

…there’s good in EACH apple.” – Beeeeeeeeeeeeep.

Mr Kipling never called again.



by Nick
Copyrighted material 2014 – sharing of this webpage permitted with direct attribution and linkback but no reproduction allowed.

Posted in How to sell, Metaphors, Sales observations, Sales tips Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

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