The Art of Selling Sausages
Capable of creating transcendent experiences, art is the pinnacle of human intellect and imagination. Now imagine walking by a sausage stand on a windy June evening, empty-stomached. The tempting smell of cooked meat would instantly wake up your ancient human desire for food. Pausing your commute and walking up to the stand, your eyes would certainly settle on the sizzling sausages on the frying pan. Your eyes sparkle, your mouth waters—every single sense is urging you to try a delicious sample. Not unlike a piece of Impressionist painting or a Mozart piano Sonata, food is also capable of creating unforgettable human experiences that transcend time and place. Through the PDX Vendorship Program, I had the opportunity to take a sneak peek into the food industry by working with Scratch Meats as a marketing intern.
Scratch Meats is a sausage producer that specializes in high-end, handmade sausages. As a small company with 9 employees, Scratch Meats is able to maintain a steady business in the sausage market due to the quality and variety of its products. Besides orders from several restaurants, market sessions at numerous farmers markets around the Portland area are the main source of revenue for Scratch Meats.
I was assigned to help out at the Moreland Farmers Market on Wednesdays from 1 to 7 pm. Having never been to a farmers market prior to participating, I was struck by how close the vendors were to each other, both physically and socially. As opposed to an intensely competitive market environment, the Moreland Farmers Market feels more like a friendly community space where many vendors, customers and volunteers know each other on a first-name basis and would not hesitate to help each others out. I found it interesting that vendors would be laid-back enough to directly barter two products for convenience sake instead of going through the calculations to make sure it was a fair exchange in an economic sense for both parties. Also, vendors would go around the market at the end of each session, giving away spare vegetables, popsicles, or sausages for free to whoever is still around. In a relaxed, stress-free market environment, I felt much more comfortable initiating conversations and engaging with customers.
Having very limited knowledge of sausages initially, I jumped in the market session shadowing Josh, a seasoned salesman who is at his fourth year at Scratch Meats. I am mainly responsible for grilling and cutting up samples of sausages while Josh is talking to the customers about our products. Since we are selling frozen packages, giving out free samples is a crucial part of our strategy to attract new customers. In order to offer passersby our best taste, we used a thermometer to make sure that both ends and the centers of the sausages reached around 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Thanks to Josh’s attention to detail, my knowledge in sausage making has grown exponentially since I started.
There are still many areas that I could work on to become a better salesperson. The most important of all would be to further my knowledge of our products. From the source of meat to pricing, I need to make sure to be able to answer these basic questions from the customers. Josh has explained to me some principles and subtle rules when engaging with customers (“Don’t say anything that might offend anyone” was the #1 rule), but experience comes with practice. My goal in the remaining weeks is to memorize our menu and a standout feature of each of our sausages while continue practicing my sales technique.