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Minnows Vs. Whales...

8 min read

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Published September 22, 2016

Photo Credit: iStock by Getty Images

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Guest Blogger

Written by sales process expert, Marylou Tyler. Marylou is currently launching her newest book, titled deadliest_catch.pngPredictable Prospecting: How to Radically Increase Your Sales B2B Pipeline.

There’s no feeling in the world quite like it.

A quick, sharp tug and you know it’s on. In an instant, you’re mentally transported back hundreds, perhaps thousands of years... back to a time when your very survival rested upon whether you caught that fish on the end of your line.

Over time, I’ve discovered my Predictable Prospecting™ methodology has much in common with the ancient art of fishing.

Because like it or not, your company’s survival DOES rest upon you landing that next account.

When you think of prospecting as fishing...

  • Who are you targeting? (What kind of fish are you interested in catching?)
  • Where are you fishing? (What channels, lists, tradeshows, social media platforms, etc.?)
  • What are your tackle and bait? (i.e. technology, content and sales process)
  • And the exciting part--what will you do once you’ve got someone on the line? (How do you get them in the boat?)

And perhaps THE BIGGEST MISTAKE I see companies make?...

“Are you fishing for minnows... 
or would you rather be whaling?”

Here’s the thing: Most companies who reach out to me have first tried casting a wide net and sorting their catch afterward (Kind of like you see on Discovery Channel’s Deadliest Catch).

Big mistake.

Unknowingly, to their company’s financial detriment, they believe they have no choice. They try to catch anything and everything that eyes their bait.

Even bigger mistake.

However, here’s the biggest challenge: While you’re busy catching guppies, your competitors are out there landing the whales.

“You’ve got to feel just a little jealous, don’t you? When you watch a
competitor harpoon a whale, while you’re basically catching chum?”

So the first, the most important thing, is to decide and then commit to WHAT you are fishing for, specifically.

GET ULTRA-CLEAR on who is a “keeper.” And who gets “released.” (Or better yet, process the catch a different way.)

“Here’s a common misconception: All leads are equal.”

To lead generation folks, a lead is a lead is a lead. It counts. It shows progress at end of day, week, month, quarter. It’s proof, “We’re getting the job done.”

Consequently, leads usually all get worked the same way, with the same amount of time and effort.

It becomes a Moby Dick-sized waste of time and money. (But the good news is it’s a mammoth-sized sales process reengineering opportunity.)

Worse yet, management calculates revenue projections based on number of leads, rather than THE TYPES of leads and associated VALUE.

Result? Baked-in unpredictability.

Makes sense why you should classify what you want first, and then assign values next, right?

For instance, let’s say you have the extremely good fortune to harpoon a whale. A whale is not going to fit in your minnow bucket--nor should it.  A whale offers far better ROI than a minnow. And, it requires FAR more effort to process than a minnow, agreed?

In other words...

What are you doing once you have a lead on the line?  How are you treating that lead?  What clearly defined systems, process and outcomes are in place to convert THAT TYPE of lead to a qualified opportunity?

Classifying different leads that have fundamentally different attributes:

  • how they are scored,
  • how well they qualify,
  • how fast you anticipate they’ll close,
  • their revenue,
  • ROI,
  • ROE (Return-On-Effort),
  • lifetime-value, etc.

is the driver behind creating a predictable, consistent revenue generation model that you can scale.

“But how, Marylou?” you’re probably asking. “Give us some tips!”

Ok, while every client is different, when I work privately with clients, here’s what we do.  We initially focus on defining three classifications of leads:

  • Referral/ Word-Of-Mouth Leads: The best leads. These are usually low volume, high value leads. Referral leads are considered the highest quality leads for a company and directly correlate to customer loyalty and engagement.
  • Targeted / Direct Leads: These are usually high volume, high value leads. Primarily focused on whales, with optional second or third tier accounts (dependent on list breadth). Outbound prospecting was the primary channel discussed in the case study of and revealed in Predictable Revenue. Outbound leads are leads generated through targeted & segmented campaigns focused on high revenue accounts who have a high probability of closing.
  • Website / Marketing Program Leads: These are high volume, low value leads. Still useful, we get a lot of minnows and once in awhile a whale. Inbound channels operate optimally in conjunction with robust outbound and referral marketing programs that drive engagement directly to the inbound channel.

Consider this a good starting point for a sales team supported by a marketing department.

(For more information, Aaron Ross and I discuss lead classification at length in our book, Predictable Revenue. And I take it even deeper with Predictable Prospecting. It’s one of the core fundamentals from the older book still viable today.)

If your sales teams are working with similar distinctions as the above already, then that’s a very good thing. Odds are you’re less likely to be blindsided when management analyses your pipeline probability.

If you don’t have a lead classification and conversion system in place, another challenge companies often run into is:

“What are your prospecting efforts yielding?”

Are you...

  • Wasting your time on the wrong types of prospects?
  • Spending time in unfruitful fishing holes?
  • How effective are you at communicating your message? Does your message “land” to a receptive ear?
  • And are you intentionally mapping out the prospect’s “level of awareness” and conversing with that awareness in mind? (See Eugene Schwartz’s seminal work Breakthrough Advertising.)

Admittedly, nailing down your market, identifying the best prospects, crafting your lead generation messages and implementing a streamlined system takes a lot of time and effort.

As a result, many companies attempt to cut corners.

Unfortunately, this strategy usually ends in an aborted disaster. They never truly know what’s working or what’s not working and quite often they go back to their old ways, which were at least producing “something.”

Let me share a secret:

Using the right language with the right leads at the right moment in their thought process is crucial to success.

The best way I’ve discovered to do this is to address this challenge head on, by:

1) First defining the specific types of clients/accounts you want to target

2) Determining the best sources of those leads

3) Constructing detailed profiles of the people in the account whom you are sure to be introduced to along the way

4) Scripting a timely message

And although this may sound rather obvious, I encourage you to spend the majority of your efforts hunting whales. Let technology, targeted automated messaging and process attract the smaller fish.

In my client work, I use the 80/20 rule when prospecting. I help clients define different categories/species of fish by leveraging technology along with targeted messaging.

In essence, it’s automated classification. This frees up clients so they can spend 80% of their time whaling.

To do that, we first build ideal account and prospect persona profiles. Immediately, teams naturally become vastly more proficient at prospecting. Because they now know WHO their best prospects are.

These yield more PREDICTABLE opportunities with higher revenue. Ones that stand a high likelihood of closing.

In other words... WHALES.

So... what does a whale look like for your company? Where are you most likely to catch one? And what’s the best way to hunt?

The more detailed you can be, the better.

A little bit of preparation goes a long way in landing whales rather than squandering valuable prospecting time on minnows.

I know I’ve given you a lot to think about here today. My goal was to turn on a lightbulb or two when it comes to turning your sales process into a sales opportunity machine.

To a business owner or sales manager, there’s probably no better feeling than knowing you have a steady, predictable source of new sales opportunities and know how to turn the spigot on and off at will.

It all starts with getting clear on what you’re fishing for. It makes the process so much easier and more rewarding.

So if you have any questions, feel free to drop me a line (no pun intended) at

About the Author:

marylou.pngMarylou Tyler's previous #1 Bestseller,Predictable Revenue: Turn Your Business Into A Sales Machine With The $100 Million Best Practices Of sold over 60,000 copies with over 250 glowing reviews on Amazon averaging over 4.3 stars.

Neil Rackham, author of SPIN Selling believes “Predictable Prospecting is the Goldilocks of prospecting books.  It walks a just-right balance, with useful cases and examples.”

With prestigious clients such as Apple, Bose, AMA, Talend, CIBC, Prudential, UPS, Orkin, AAA and Mastercard, in February, 2016 Marylou was nominated as one of 20 Women to Watch in Sales Lead Management.

And now, if you’re currently struggling developing the Ideal Prospect Persona for your sales team, click here to sign up for Marylou’s complimentary 5-Day Prospect Personas for B2B Sales Professionals Video Masterclass. This short, focused, sales department-targeted video training, guides you in crafting Ideal Prospect Personas and flood your sales pipeline with more targeted leads, prospects and ultimately more clients, customers and sales. Click here to enroll while there’s still time.  

Join Marylou on Oct. 5 for a webinar, "How to Radically Increase Your B2B Sales Pipeline."

Increase your sales revenue using Rhythm software

Images Courtesy of Marylou Tyler