Ajarn Mark Caldwell Blog

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Dog Food vs. Prime Rib

Salespeople should beware of using trendy lingo.

A couple of years ago, I am sitting in on a series of group presentations for web content management systems.  I don't want to mention any names here, but we're talking the initial bids were coming in around $1 Million.  During their presentations, two different representatives, each from a different company said the phrase “and we eat our own dog food”.  Now I realize that a few years ago this was a big deal and a lot of tech companies talked about dogfooding.  For those of you who don't remember, there was a big ruckus about tech companies not using the products that their own company makes.  And so some of the people started saying “we eat our own dog food” as a cute little euphymism for “we use our own products in-house”.

And in trade journals or talk between geeks, that's probably fine.  But when you're making a presentation to sell $1,000,000 worth of software and services...bad choice of words.  The first thing that popped into my head when they said this was, “Why would you compare your product to dog food?” (especially if you're trying to get me to spend 7 figures).  If these salesmen were smart, they would have said something like, “While other companies talk about eating their own dog food, we prefer to dine on our own Prime Rib.” (or Top Sirloin, or you pick the high quality food item of choice).  This simple little twist of a phrase would do three things for them:  

  1. Generate a laugh because everyone who understands the term dogfooding would get the joke, and it would have been a good turn of phrase.  And when you get the prospect laughing, they're a lot more open to doing business with you.
  2. Plant the idea, even if just for a second, that the competitor's product is as good as dog food (and therefore inferior to your own).
  3. Show a little pride in their own product and remind the client that while the price may sound high, the quality of the experience makes it worthwhile.  Most business people understand the value of paying a higher price for a quality steak.  And if you don't believe that, then explain to me the success of Ruth's Chris Steakhouse.


Legacy Comments

re: Dog Food vs. Prime Rib
I like your perspective. I am an account executive for a Value Added Reseller and when I partner with vendors I despise the use of self-serving euphymisms in meetings with my clients. I especially do not embrace tactical questions that aren't forthcoming. There really isn't any thing wrong with a yes or no answer when that is truly all that is required. My creed is this: Be efficient. Keep it simple. Make it fun. A highlight of my career in sales to date was when the team from one of our largest clients ordered a very nice pen with their logo on it just for me. The reciprocity really was an honor.