Last month, on the NPR program “Here and Now,” a chef named Kathy Gunst gave one of the most effective sales presentations I’ve ever heard. About beets. I was listening in the car, and by the time she was finished with a 10-minute interview, I was ready to drive straight to Safeway, buy a bunch of beets, take them home and cook them.
In spite of two facts: a), I’m really not excited about beets, and b), I’m definitely not excited about cooking.
How did she get me so excited about a fat red vegetable I don’t even care about? She used six tools to create an unbeetable way to sell an idea. Here’s how she did it:
Stay UpBeet. I don’t care much for beets, but Kathy obviously does. Her enthusiasm about them was genuine. The energy she gave off was contagious and let even a lukewarm beet-eater like me “Catch the Beet.”
Beet Your Own Drum. Not once during the program did I hear Kathy say “you should” or “you need.” She didn’t tell us that we ought to like beets or why; she just talked about what she liked about them.
Lay Down a Beautiful Beet. This was radio, remember. All she had to work with was words. And yet she used words to appeal not just to our ears, but to all our senses. She described the flavor and texture of beets in specific terms and made them sound delicious. She talked about the different colors of beets—not just red, but orange and yellow and white. She described slices of the different colors arranged on a platter so vividly that I could see it.
Don’t Beet Around the Bush. Kathy was direct and clear when she talked about the nutritional value of beets. They contain B vitamins, fiber, folates, anti-oxidants, and all sorts of other stuff that’s good for us. She gave us the basics in a way that was easy to understand and remember.
Keep a Simple Beet. On the rare occasions that I catch part of a cooking show, I am usually daunted by their elaborate recipes and complicated processes. Half the time they use ingredients I’ve never heard of, can’t spell, or have no idea how to pronounce. Instead, Kathy made cooking beets seem easy. Just roast them—which is simple and also keeps in the nutrients and enhances the flavor. Even better, it makes them easy to peel. Just put on disposable plastic gloves or stick your hand inside a plastic bag and rub the skin off. No mess, no staining, no sweat. She made it sound so easy even I could do it.
Know How Long to Let the Beet Go On. Kathy was brisk and packed a lot of information into her presentation. She focused on the right sized bite for the time she had. She said her say and then Beat It. She didn’t let the Beet Go On, and On, and On.
Since this presentation was so effective, did it work for me? Well, sort of. Even though I was tempted, I didn’t drive to the grocery store and buy some beets. However, I did get excited enough to look them up.
And Kathy wasn’t kidding about the health benefits. Beets are great food. In fact, according to one account I found, they might even be great medicine.
In a small rural hospital in Siberia, during a blizzard, a doctor had to do emergency open-heart surgery on a middle-aged man. The surgery went well, but the man needed blood transfusions and the hospital’s supply of blood was gone. Blood donors couldn’t get to the hospital because of the storm. The doctor took blood from every possible donor on the hospital staff, including himself. It still wasn’t enough. At last, in desperation, the doctor caught sight of an orderly going past the OR with a food cart. On it were bowls of borscht—beet soup. The doctor knew his patient was close to death. There was nothing to lose. He grabbed the food cart, hooked up an IV, and transfused the patient with borscht.
Miraculously, the man started to recover. After a week in the hospital, he went home, and he has gone on to lead a healthy, active life. He has just one small problem.
Every now and then, his heart skips a beet.