Prospecting like fishing?

Ever gone deep sea fishing? Have you thought about the parallels between fishing and prospecting?

After a four day trip to Alaska this week and 30+ hours on a charter boat, and over 225 pounds of fish (caught the limit each day), consider this…

A typical boat with three fisherman may have three poles in the water and uses different strategies with bait vs lures. And each rod is set for different depths in the water–perhaps a surface line, and two lines at 48 feet and 64 feet depth. This helps the captain find the fish.

A good captain will troll different areas in the ocean, with different combinations of lures and depths until the fish start biting. And oh yeah the captain can also troll at different speeds and with or against the current, and he can time the tides. The point is that there are a lot of actions that a captain can take to insure a good day at sea.

Similarly, a sales professional should use different techniques to target and bring on new customers. Fishing 101 like Prospecting 101:

-Don’t forget the bait! Whenever you make a call, do you 1) leave a short message, AND 2) send an email at the same time? If you only do one or the other, it’s kind if like trolling without bait or a lure. Some prospects are audio and some are visual. Make sure to call and email.

-Using different “lures”. Do you have email templates by vertical with different customers listed? Have you tried shorter emails simply asking “who is the person responsible for…?”. Mix it up. In 30 hours of fishing, we must have used dozens of lures. And in turn caught our limit of Salmon every day!

-Don’t let the big ones get away! Often your marketing department will generate warm interest from various prospects. Many times, the person who shows initial interest is an influencer and not a decision maker. Make sure you are targeting the “fish” you want to target, and when you have one on the line, make sure you use tactics to gain access to the decision maker.

-Activity matters. Time of day matters. If we went out for 10 hours (vs 30) over 3 days, would we have caught the limit? No way. Do you know your activity metrics that will make you successful in your role? Typical inside sales role may be: 30 outbound calls/day, 3-4 hours of talk time/day, and 1-3 WebEx meetings/day. Is your pipeline 3-5X your quota? If not, are you focused on driving the right activity?

-A good captain. My son and I went fishing in Lake Tahoe earlier in the year for 6 hours. We caught one fish. The captain was grumpy, mean and had a bad attitude. The captain of the boat in Ketchikan, Alaska was top notch. He graduated from a great fisheries school in NorCal, and grew up in Ketchikan so he know the good spots and tactics to catch fish. Does your manager know how to coach the team on what to focus on? Is he or she a good mentor or a grump?

-Have fun! If you don’t like to fish, then don’t go fishing! Similar with sales. If you don’t like to prospect for new accounts, then sales may not be the right role for you! Every sales person should dedicate a percentage of their time to prospecting. It’s great if you have a product that is well marketed and your marketing team delivers warm leads to you. Are they the “right leads”, do you have a big enough pipeline without outbound prospecting? Only you know the answer to that. If you miss your quota, just don’t say “it was because I didn’t get enough leads. Even the CEO of a large technology company emailed and called me a few weeks ago! Never stop selling and if it’s not “fun”, consider whether or not sales is truly your cup of tea.

-Never stop learning. We’ve been fishing 3 times in Alaska now. Each time with different people, different captains and different spots. We learn something new each time. Do you attend an inside sales association meeting in your region ( is a great one)? Do you read good sales books like The Greatest Salesman in the world, or Spin Selling?

Whether you are going fishing or prospecting this week, don’t forget the “bait”, use different “lures”, don’t let the big ones get away, activity matters, find a good “captain”, have fun, and never stop learning.

Sell smart.