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What are sales, marketing and fishing metaphors missing?

Posted by Carole Mahoney on 6/7/12 6:44 AM

What sales and marketing taught me about fishing.

The majority of metaphors you can read about sales and fishing use this in reverse; What fishing can teach you about sales and marketing. My twist is not to confuse you, merely to illustrate the fact that I know nothing about fishing, but I am learning.

The first thing I have learned is that nearly everyone has an opinion, technique and practice unique to them. Entire cable channels are apparently devoted to the opinions and tactics of 'professional' fishermen. Even among the pros, the fishing best practices are like sales and marketing best practices- they seem to contradict each other and vary depending on who you ask. For example: 'Don't fish at night, you can't see.' vs. 'Fish at night, that is when fish come to shallow water.'

A marketing strategy can tell you where the fish (you want) are.

First thing first, you have to figure out what kind of fish you want to catch, then you can figure out where to go fishing. Sure, you can take a pole, a hook, a worm and go to any body of water and start fishing. If, like me, you are on a spring fed lake in southern Maine, you may be able to catch small mouth or large mouth bass, trout, or sunfish. If you are fishing for dinner, you might want to skip the sunfish and focus on the bass. If you want a big bluefish trophy, then you will need to head east to the ocean.

A marketing strategy works in the same way. Not every fish is the right catch for what you want. Like your ideal customer, the fish you want will also depend on what you want to do with it. Looking for long term B2B relationships? Then you are less likely to find that on Facebook, so why spend a lot of time fishing there?

From what I am told, there is also all kinds of fishing 2.0 tools and technology. Underwater scans to indicate where the fish are in the water, light-weight rods and unbreakable fishing line. So many (expensive) tools to get better fishing results, how does the average Jane choose? If you are like me and just starting out, you might not need the latest and greatest technology. If you are like my husband's competition fishing friends, your competitive advantage might be the right application of that new fishing technology.

So, you have to make sure you are fishing in the right pond with the appropriate tools. By knowing who the ideal customer match is for you, you will have a better idea of where to cast your line and what tools you really need.

A sales strategy can tell you what bait to use that appeals to the fish you want.

Apparently, not all fish like worms. Some like other fish. Others, like bass, will bite when they are annoyed by 'spinners'. Bass are territorial, so the vibration and visual aspects of a spinner can trick a bass into thinking it is another fish in their area. As a result, they attack. (or so I am told, I have yet to catch a bass, but more on that in the next section)

Among other things, a sales strategy ties in what approach and bait to use for the ideal customer match you want. How you decide which bait works best is a combination of the fish you want and your fishing style. (Do you prefer to fish at night?)

Sales and marketing coaching can help you catch more fish.

So far, my fishing metaphor is all based on theory. The single most important thing I learned about fishing is also the most important thing I have learned about sales (and marketing). Yes it is a process that you have to plan for and anticipate. But all the planning and strategy in the world will not prepare you for one basic fact.

You have to get out there and cast a lot of lines over and over again before you learn how to hook a fish, bring it in, and actually get it in the boat or net. Sometimes your line gets caught in the weeds, and the tug you feel that you think is a fish is really just grass. Some fish are smart, well educated and have done their online research, so when you try to hook them, they just eat up the worm on your line and leave you empty handed. Other fish will follow your line through the water, but you have to jerk the line at the right time to actually get the hook in their mouth.

My husband has been fishing for over 20 years. Had he not shown and told me these things, I would still be fishing in the weeds. A sales and marketing coach can do the same for your pipeline and revenue.

Topics: marketing strategy, sales strategy, sales coaching, sales assessment