Why Sales is like Fishing

Is this fish real?There are countless analogies that describe sales people as hunters. Actually, selling is less about pointing a weapon at a single visible target, and more about finding unknown customers that exist in the depths of the market. Like fishing.

Landing a new customer requires many of the same activities as landing a big catch. Here’s some to consider:

  • Go where the fish are – Lakes versus oceans, cold water versus tropical oceans. Concentrating on the areas known for different types of fish is similar to focusing on geographic or industry-specific target markets. If you’re looking for a particular type of buyer, be sure to focus your resources in the places they hang out.
  • Use the right bait – In the piscine food chain trout go for flies, salmon eat minnows, tuna eat sardines and big game marlin have a taste for tuna. The bigger the fish, the bigger the appetite. Lead nurturing works in a similar fashion. As a prospect moves through a buying cycle, they also develop an appetite for different content, offers and messaging.
  • Cast, troll or net – If a target is that one big trout hiding in a pool, it’s best to cast a line directly at him – like direct, in-person relationship-based selling. The best tuna boats put out as many lines as the crew can handle and throw chum in the water to get as much action as possible. This is similar to a multi-channel go-to-market strategy, attracting lots of leads so direct and in-direct channel sellers can reel in the buyers. An on-line e-commerce sales model is a lot like setting a big seine net – you’ll catch a lot of different species. Only some will count – but the bycatch in sales is low cost and relatively harmless. 
  • Test the waters – Location, bait and methods that have caught fish in the past don’t necessarily produce the same results over time. All these elements need to be continually tested and validated. In the same way, sales messaging, methods and delivery should be vetted with customers through satisfaction surveys and interviews.
  • Catch and release – From time to time, every fisherman lands a fish that is too small, too big, or just not good to eat. Same thing in sales. Sometimes you hook onto a lead that might not be worth the effort it would take to develop, or that would require more resources than you have available. Some are just not that tasty. It’s okay to throw them back. Hopefully without hurting them so they can live to buy another day.

With the right approach, equipment and knowledge a sales organization can become a well-oiled fishing machine – limiting out quarter after quarter, year after year. But analogies aside, good selling takes hard work and commitment. As a wise old fishing guide once said, there’s a reason it’s called fishing, not catching!

We hope you agree with our idea that the art of sales is a lot like the sport of fishing. If you have a great fishing story to share – or would like to know more about the huge red snapper in this post’s photo (yes, it’s real) – feel free to leave a comment.

If you need help planning your next fishing trip or sales campaign, we’d love to hear from you. We love sales and we love to fish, but most of all, we love to catch.

Posted by Linda Jackson    |    February 13, 2013