How a Bag of Peanuts Changed the Way One Man Does Business

By Don Surath

The author with his Peerless Peanuts. 

Some years ago, arriving early for a job interview at KTVU TV in Oakland, CA, I noticed a place called The Peerless Coffee Company. The operation looked inviting, so I entered and asked if they had anything besides coffee available since I wasn't yet in the habit.

"We have the best tasting peanuts here,” answered the clerk. So I bought a warm bag of unsalted in the shell, fantastic-tasting peanuts.  They were so good I decided on offering them to the woman who was about to interview me.  Being familiar with Peerless Peanuts and hungry after missing lunch at 4pm she tore open and ate half the peanuts in the bag, then hired me!
Since that day, when in Oakland, I stop by Peerless Coffee, pick up peanuts and offer them to my clients and prospects.  Since crossing the San Francisco Bay to work at CBS, it became less convenient  to make the trip, but that hasn't stopped me. My clients still expect peanuts and there is no other place as good as Peerless.

Think about the beauty of offering peanuts. They are an inexpensive (insert joke here), healthy conversation-starting snack, that will not put you in an awkward situation of offering a too expensive or cheap ice breaker.

The peanuts also give you a chance to find out more about your prospect. Do they open them right away and start eating?  What do you think that means?  How about the UDM (Ultimate Decision Maker) who takes the bag and puts it aside?  These are two opposite actions that tell you what you are facing in this meeting.

When a prospect opens the bag and starts eating, it's going to be a fun meeting. They are willing to break bread with you and be receptive to taking in your message. Besides, they will love the peanuts! I was at a meeting recently with a couple of digital experts who were telling us all they knew.  I had been to the company before so I didn't offer the peanuts right away. As we were leaving the conference room, we noticed them fighting for the peanuts. Their haughtiness replaced with love of Peerless Peanuts!

Some prospects will put aside the peanuts and want you to get straight to the point.  Don't fall for that tactic.   You don't know enough about their needs yet. Agree to start, but first ask a couple of clarifying questions to make sure your two groups are a fit. I try to bring hot peanuts to those meetings because they are so hard to resist.  You'll know the meeting is going well the moment that tough UDM reaches for the bag.

What if your prospect is allergic to peanuts?  Excuse yourself, go out to your car and drop them off.  That has happened once in 13 years. 

Opening and eating a peanut is a great way to stay awake on long drives whether visiting clients or leisure time driving.  I bring both salted and unsalted peanuts on sales calls but only have unsalted in my car.  I've learned to open the shells with one hand over a cup in my cup holder to keep the mess at a minimum.  The process of breaking open the shell, not losing peanuts, then eating them is a cool exercise in staying attentive. And it is a healthier alternative than some snack foods.

Peerless Peanuts are only available at the Peerless Coffee company store on 5th and Oak Street in Oakland California.  If you are in the area, stop by and tell them Don sent you.  The coffee is great too!

Don Surath is a top multimedia solution developer for CBS 360 out of San Francisco. In addition, he’s a popular adjunct professor in "Personal Selling" at San Francisco State University and “Sales Management” at Golden Gate U. His courses enable students to increase their job hunting ability using award winning Conquering Cold Calling Fear Revised E-edition. Surath is an expert trainer in reaching decision makers, to make closing more fun. 

Don incorporates peanuts in both his sales and teaching professions. He loves the National Peanut Board’s peanut butter spreader. Check him out on

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