Lessons From The Colonel
By copywriter-guru Perry Marshall
Maybe you’ve heard the story of 1000 restaurant owners who rejected Colonel Sanders’ Fried Chicken proposal, and Prospect #1001 who finally said “yes.”
BUT… did you ever hear the story behind the story?
This is a good one. An old photocopier salesman, who called on Colonel Sanders back in the 60’s, passed this along to me.
The real story is:
The Colonel had a restaurant in Corbin, Kentucky, which had been doing very well. A new interstate highway was planned to bypass the town of Corbin. Seeing that his business was about to dry up, the Colonel auctioned off his operations. After paying his bills, he had nothing to live on except his $105 Social Security checks.
In 1952, confident of his chicken recipe, he began crisscrossing the country in his car, making an offer to restaurant owners: He would walk into a restaurant, announce to the owner,
“I bet my chicken recipe is better than yours” and propose a cook-off.
(The chicken provided by the restaurants he visited, using his recipe, was part of his plan for feeding himself during those lean days.)
If the owner was favorable, he would “franchise” his chicken recipe to them at 5 cents per chicken.
In all, just over 1000 restaurants turned him down, without one successful deal.
Then one day he was having his daily cooking duel with a bar owner, who said to him, “Sir, I’m trying to sell beer, not chicken. This stuff needs to be a whole lot saltier so customers will get thirsty and buy beer!”
So he grabbed the salt shaker, poured some salt on, and took another bite. “Now THIS is GREAT,” he said. “If you’ll add salt to this recipe, I’m a taker!”
The Colonel took a bite and spit it out — it was terrible!
But Colonel Sanders had been on a NO SALT DIET for 30 years, so his tastes were obviously different than everyone else’s.
The Colonel wasn’t stupid! He might not like the salt, but it was better than poverty. Thus began the Colonel’s enormously successful Kentucky Fried Chicken legacy.
Here’s the kicker: At one time, if you bought a box of Kentucky Fried Chicken, here’s what it said on the side:
“When Colonel Sanders added the 11th spice, he instantly knew it was the best chicken he’d ever had.”
Of course they didn’t tell you what spice it was.
This is so instructive.
First of all, Colonel Sanders could have made 1000 MORE presentations, driven his car until the transmission fell out, spent every dime of those $105 Social Security checks, prayed for success and recited positive affirmations every morning in front of the mirror. But he still would have come up empty handed, had he not been willing to change his recipe!
Secondly, although the recipe he so passionately believed in was the best recipe for HIS taste buds, it was not the recipe that his customers really wanted. Without a recipe that the customers wanted, no amount of effort or persistence would make it work.
With the right recipe, he was unstoppable.
Third, the recipe he had before he added salt was ALMOST right. It was VERY, VERY CLOSE to what it needed to be. Adding salt to a lousy recipe wouldn’t have helped much. So all the effort he expended developing the original recipe was worthwhile.
Fourth: Persistence DID pay off, but not the way we might expect it to. Sometimes we’re looking for the magical day when our persistence, and the sheer number of people we talk to, leads us to the RIGHT person who will say “Yes” and open wide the doors to success.
But for Colonel Sanders, playing the “Numbers Game” was not the key. The real key was bumping into someone with the audacity to suggest something different, and for the
Colonel to be eager enough for a breakthrough to change his recipe.
Fifth, the magical ingredient was ordinary table salt. Salt, all by itself, is worthless as a food item. Chicken, all by itself, is pretty bland, and may not even do the trick with 10 other perfectly good spices. Put them together, though, and you’ve got a real winner!
Never overlook the possibility of combining very ordinary things to create something “entirely new.”
Finally, motivation and hard work alone are rarely (if ever) enough to accomplish a challenging goal. Innovation, flexibility, careful listening, endless experimentation, and the setting aside
of egos and old paradigms are all equally important.
In my own case, I worked for several years in both corporate and direct selling. I had essentially two priorities in mind: motivation and people skills. I was enamored with these two virtues, and spent the majority of my working time pounding the phone, making cold calls, working very hard to get in front of anyone who could fog a mirror, and all that other drudgery that entry-level salespeople normally deal with.
Despite all of the effort, the motivational tapes and the people skills books, there were still too many days of heroic effort and no reward. My wallet was still, inexplicably, full of hungry moths.
But then things started to dramatically turn around. It was the result of two things:
1) I started to learn how to use marketing, low cost advertising and the web to assist my sales efforts;
2) I found some people who were more able and willing to support my efforts from a “customer service” point of view, than the group I was working for previously.
Great marketing almost always includes the addition of some 11th spice. An ordinary ingredient that makes everything come together.
It’s right under your nose, waiting to be discovered and shared with the world.