sales lessons from five guysI just got back from a trip to Washington, DC. Whenever I’m in the DC area, I make it a point to stop by Five Guys Burgers & Fries at least once during the trip.

Five Guys is a small chain that started with a single location in the DC suburbs and has been spreading across the country like kudzu, garnering awards in every city it enters.

What makes Five Guys a favorite of both critics and customers? And more importantly, what can we as salespeople, business owners and professionals learn from them? Here’s some food for thought:

1. Do what you do best
The owners of Five Guys understand the power of focus: it enables you to be really good at what you do. Five Guys Burgers & Fries does just that—burgers and fries. They don’t do salads or wings or sandwiches or wraps or chicken tenders or onion rings. They don’t even do milkshakes.

Are you trying to be all things to all people? Or are you focused on delivering a specific product or service to a particular customer?

2. Differentiate yourself
In any given city, there are about 14,000 places you can get a burger. So why should someone choose Five Guys over all those competitors? Three things stand out:

Toppings—Among the 15 toppings you can choose from are grilled onions, jalapeno peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms, relish, green peppers and more. All free.

five guys sales signFries—Fresh potatoes are cut right in the store. How do you know they’re fresh? Every store has a whiteboard sign stating where in Idaho that day’s potatoes came from. Also, those potatoes are actually stacked in the dining room. During lunch and dinner rushes, you’ll see workers walk out into the dining room, hoist a sack of potatoes over their shoulder, and head back into the kitchen.

Peanuts—Dying of hunger while you’re standing in line waiting to order? Help yourself to unlimited free peanuts. There’s a box or barrel of them in every restaurant.

Whatever you sell, there are lots of other companies who also sell it. What makes you truly different? Why should prospects choose you?

peanuts and sales3. Be consistent
Like any chain, Five Guys has to deliver a consistent experience, so whichever outlet you visit, your expectations are met. But the very first Five Guys had to deliver a consistent experience to build its following in the first place.

Think like a chain. How can you create systems that ensure your customer has a consistent, dependable experience with you?

4. Offer value
Five Guys isn’t cheap, but they’re not ludicrously expensive either. You’ll pay more there than you would for a “value meal” at a major chain, but you won’t need to max out your credit card. And you get generous portions for your money—a large order of fries can feed an apartment complex.

Note: “Value” does not mean “discount”—a distinction Five Guys understands. As their web site proudly proclaims:

“Five Guys does not offer any coupons or discounts. We strive to serve the highest quality product possible, at a reasonable price, every day! We do not discount the price of our product because we refuse to discount the quality of our product.”

Your prospects don’t necessarily want the best price, but they do want the best value. Are you giving it to them? Without constant discounting?

5. Be great, not good
These days, good isn’t good enough. Lots of companies are good. If your customer’s experience with you is merely good, they’ll try somewhere else next time.

potatoes and salesIf you want your clients to return again and again, rave about you on Facebook and Twitter, and send you hand-written notes (which Five Guys locations post on their walls), you need to be freakin’ great. I’m talking eyes-bugging-out, big-stupid-grin-inducing, blow-their-expectations-out-of-the-water fantastic. I mean Cajun-style-fries-with-malt-vinegar amazing. (I’m drooling just thinking about them.)

So how do you rate? Are you, your company, and your product or service just good? Or are you truly great?

To find a Five Guys outlet near you and experience their deliciousness for yourself, visit While you’re there, think about how you can apply these principles to your own business. It’s a proven recipe for success.