Last week I wrote a post titled Prospecting Isn’t Easy. It was my first LinkedIn post and was a learning experience to say the least. When I got to the point where I was ready to publish, I decided to include a background image to help illustrate the concept. I chose a picture of myself fly fishing in the Trinity Alps of Northern California, a place where I’ve camped and backpacked all my life. The image made me ponder the fishing analogy in regard to sales prospecting, and I think that there is actually a lot more to it. (Before you jump to the bottom of the page to tell me I’m an idiot, first realize that most people suck at fishing. So take a second and learn from a professional).
Before I got into technology sales I was a small boat captain in the U.S. Coast Guard, and prior to that I was a commercial crab fishermen … not your typical tech sales career path, but I believe my early experiences have given me a unique perspective regarding the similarities between commercial fishing and sales prospecting.
Photo by Joe Odell. – F/V Abundance outbound from Trinidad Harbor with ~120 crab pots aboard.
As I pondered the analogy I realized that there are multiple connection points between commercial fishing and prospecting:
Networking – Whether it’s chatting on the docks about the day’s catch or getting referrals for a new deckhand, it’s important. Being a loner on the sea is a bad idea, your network ensures that you always have someone you can reach out to. Your network also allows you to learn from the success and failures of others and develop your career.
Identifying Trends – Fishermen find what’s working and try to improve on it. They make an educated guess about the direction of movement the crab going and then drop 100+ pots (the name for crab traps) into the ocean to see if they guessed right. They repeat the process until they’re sure that they’re in the correct spot. This is similar to what sales leaders do with their messaging and target profiles.
Innovating – To be successful out on the water it requires you to always look for a leg up on the competition. A faster boat, better bait, better crab pot design or creating a new outlet to sell your catch. Sales leaders have to adopt a similar mindset to their sales playbooks. They have to look for ways to be where the competition isn’t and give their team a strategic advantage
Working for Commission – Fishermen thrive on both the thrill of the catch and the money that comes with it. Crew members pay is based on the size of the catch. It’s the only way to get yourself to work 18-20 hour days for weeks on end. Sales is the same, it requires hustle and grit. In return for the blood, sweat, and tears you can earn a nice commission and make it all worth it.
Improving Your Tools – Modern fishing vessels are incredibly technical compared to early fishing vessels, they are equipped with fish finders, radios, a hydraulic block (the spinning wheel that brings the crab pot back to the surface in seconds), and GPS navigation & plotting systems. Commercial fishermen know that time is money and working both smarter AND harder is key. To scale sales and meet your quota, sales reps take a very similar approach and focus on finding tools that allow them to automate repetitive tasks with technology – that’s why I love Colabo.
Commercial fishermen truly believe in Thomas Jefferson’s old quote “I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it”. A lot of bad or junior fishermen look at top performers and assign excuses and/or luck to their successes. I’m not saying there isn’t a certain amount of luck involved with fishing, but the best fishermen always know how to tip luck in their favor.
As Captain Zach Rotwein, my cigar smoking commercial fishing captain once said, “If fishing were easy they’d call it catching”.
Photo by Joe Odell. – Captain Zach Rotwein & Blockmen Adam Loomis on F/V Abundance.