The parallels between fishing and sales

I go fishing all the time, been doing it since I was a kid. Its simple, you find a spot you think have fish, you bring a fishing rod, you choose bait, you cast the rod and wait…

On trips that I don’t catch anything I tell my kids: “Its called fishing, not catching…”

Are there parallels between fishing for fish and “fishing” for new customers?

The more I think about it, the more parallels I find.

The entire process of landing a new customer, has many touch-points, and involves marketing. As customers don’t usually find about your company, try the product and buy it on the spot. This is perhaps a mode that works with new drinks at a Costco’s sampling station – but not SaaS software companies.

For the sake of this example, we will pretend that your ICP (ideal customer profile) is a CISO of a fortune 2,000 company. While you will be happy is someone who is a VP of Security in company number 50,000 will buy – that is not the customer you try to land.

In this example, this CISO of a fortune 2,000 company is a yellow-fin tuna fish, that lives in the ocean (salt water), and is usually found at 330 feet deep (100 meters). They live all over the world, except for the Mediterranean Sea.

Step 1 – pick the location

If you went fishing for this yellow-fin tuna at your local sweet water lake in your neighborhood – do you agree that it will not yield the results you want?

Of course not. They simply don’t swim in these waters. So marketing and advertising for your ICP in events, magazines and paid ads that will not even get to their territory – is akin to that. The waters the fish swims in, is similar to the market your customers operate and live in.

Step 2 – pick the bait

You found out, that your ICPs are going to trade show CISO World, and that their work title is sometimes CISO and sometimes VP of Security and sometimes CIO. So you buy digital ads, to present to ONLY Fortune 2,000 executives with these titles, and you wait…

No bites. You pay for the ads, they are viewed by your fish, but they seem to not want to interact with them. They have not clicked ONCE on any ad, that leads to your website landing page.

Now what?

If you were in the ocean, and you dropped a fishing line, to the depth of 330 feet and you got no bites, but you see in your sonar there are schools of fish there… what conclusion would you get to?

Maybe my bait is not so tasty? Maybe its the wrong bait? Maybe these fish are vegetarian and they don’t eat much?

You need to get bites, before you can solve the next problem. But if you get no bites… your bait is not working. Your ad is not compelling enough to get attention and resonate with their desires and needs.

Step 3 – pick the hook

Wait, I got a bite, a few bites… but no fish is getting caught. Even if your message is perfect, you still need to fit the right hook to the right fish. If your CISO clicks on an ad, and now is greeted with pages that make them feel they are treated like a junior employees – they will spit the bait out.

If you get a CISO to interact with your bait, and you let them speak with an SDR that is not really knowledgeable… you may lost the opportunity to land a deal.

Select the right size hook, with the bait, so you don’t catch tiny fish, and you also match your sales resource with the prospect.

Step 4 – pick the rod and line

You now got a fish on the hook – congratulations! Someone is really interested in your solution, and you matched them with a sales resource they want to keep interacting with. Now what?

Did you consider how heavy this fish is? They can get to 400 pounds (180 kilograms), and they can pull pretty hard on your line and rod, while the hook is in their mouth…

When dealing with Fortune 2,000 companies, they usually come with their process of acquiring new solutions. It is less about what you want to do, and more about how they are setup and do business. So if procurement is now asking you to fill forms, and provide financial statement, and begin a free POC and… you need your rod and line to hold the weight – it is “part” of the fish.

So don’t confuse catching a fish, hooking it, and landing it… a lot can happen before the fish is safely in your net and out of the water.

Step 5 – pick the tension for the fight

Every sales campaign has its ups and down, its a roller-coaster ride. You need to be prepared for that, and just like when a fish wants to dislodge the hook form its mouth – the buyer and their procurement team will not just comply with jumping into your boat.

So there will be tension, on the fishing line, and you need to know the test weight for your line, or how much tension can you withstand before the line breaks.

For example, there will be concessions asked for, and unlimited liability requested, and the contract will be non-transferable if you get acquired, and 50% off your MSRP, and on and on…

Like in real fishing, you need to have a back and forth, that will tire both the fish and you (and your team), until you get to deal fatigue and decide to compromise. Otherwise, the line may snap, and you fished, but not landed the fish. Not yet.

Step 6 – did you bring a boat big enough to carry this fish back?

Say that all went well, and you now secured the contract with this customer, you landed the deal. You still need to deliver the deal, you need to make your solution work in their environment to not break the contract. You need to have enough people to support this customer, and delight them. Do you have a crew big enough? is boat big enough to carry this crew?

Don’t confuse selling and implementing. As hard as it is to land a customer, it is harder to keep them happy.

Don’t confuse action with progress. You can meet many people at a trade show, and spend your time and money on marketing activities… but that is not necessarily progress towards your sales goals.