There was a season in my life where all I thought about was fishing. I didn’t take it up until my late 20’s and for about 10 years I couldn’t get enough. Looking back now, I can see how it was all part of my life preparation to teaching more people about sales. Since I didn’t grow up fishing, I needed to learn how catch trout and salmon on the river from other experts. You’re reading my blog to be more successful at selling; I was stopping by fly-fishing shops to learn how to catch big fish. The parallels between sales and fishing are uncanny. Here’s what I learned about fishing that applies to landing big accounts.
You need to be patient and persistent. If large accounts were easy to land every sales person would have more. Everyone wants the big account but not every sales person is willing to be patient and persistent to land one. Most sales people approach a large account like they would a small one, tossing out their normal value points and when the big account does not bite, they lose interest and go find another small account to close.
Big fish are smart and picky. I used to toss my fly in a deep hole over and over believing that the big fish hanging out in the hole would sooner or later come up for a bite; it didn’t happen. I believed in my approach but the fish didn’t. The fish knew it wouldn’t satisfy their appetite or be worth their energy to explore. They know what they want and they only go after what meets their needs, not shiny objects. Have you been sending over all the same marketing materials to your large prospect believing they will one day see that magic value and call you? If so, it’s time to change up your approach and find something that interests them. They’re smart people without a lot of extra time on their hands. Only present information that’s meaningful to them.
Cast less and watch more. In Idaho I was taught to watch for the big fish to roll on top of the water before I made a cast. Small fish will jump all around letting you know their hungry, not the big fish, they’re more subtle. I was then taught, when I see them roll I had to cast my best presentation. I was only going to get one or two shots before that big fish became less interested. It’s the same when you send out a message to a big account decision maker. All your quick solutions, fancy features or value proposition for a small company will probably not interest this big fish. When you first have a chance to meet a big account decision maker, listen more. Get introduced to them, and then listen. Do not make presentations or indications of one. Watch and learn so when you do make a presentation it will be on target and interesting to them.
Let them chew on it. My good friend, Kirk, taught me how to catch steelhead on the Rogue River. You set some roe on a hook and bounce it along the bottom of the river. The big difference between salmon and steelhead is how steelhead will put the bait in their mouth but not really make an aggressive bite. They are chewing on it and if you try and set the hook, you will simply have your hook back in the boat with half the bait. When a large business owner allows you to present an idea and seems to listen, let them chew on it. Don’t be quick to move to more value or present solutions. If they want more they will ask. When they do ask, feed them a little more. Be patient for the moment. It might not happen today, next month, quarter or next year. Remember to be patient and persistent.
Check with the locals. The local experts understand the waters and nature of the fish. They also understand their appetite and how you might present your lure. Learn about the large business you want to win and the people in decision-making positions. Talk to others that do business with them, association board members and community members. Every large account owner does not have the same appetite for information. Learn from the locals to make your presentation acceptable.
Once they’re hooked, let them run if needed. If you’ve done everything above then the last thing you want to do is try and reel them in to fast and hard. If they’re taking your calls, reading your emails or setting up meetings with you, those are signs that you have earned their trust, so stay patient. Keep connected to them and set next steps but allow them to take control at times. Don’t be afraid of losing them, big fish need to run and love being in control. Think of the trust you’ve built as your line connected to them. When they are ready, they will allow you to reel in.
Anyone can get lucky now and then in fishing and in landing big business. But if you want to consistently land big accounts you will need to work on it. Go for it, there’s no better time to start improving than now. When you land that big account, send me a line; I would love to hear your big fish story.