Don’t Hunt Trophies

I ask people why they have deer heads on their walls. They always say because it’s such a beautiful animal. There you go. I think my mother is attractive, but I have photographs of her― Ellen DeGeneres

Many of you will have watched the media & social frenzy around the US Dentist who hunted and killed Cecil.  Whilst the legalities of the hunt will be argued for a while to come – it shows that what could conceivably be legal to do, isn’t necessarily moral or socially accepted.

Hunting in general is often a polarising activity.  Once it was how we survived as a species – particularly until we learned how to farm.  In the modern era, farming has replaced hunting.  Yes, animals are still killed to provide food, but usually well away from mass population so all we see is the end result.  We rationalise it away given we need the food and, in a country such as ours, it also provides economic benefit through export value and employment.

Trophy hunting on the other hand serves very little purpose other than to satisfy the internal drivers of the hunter.  Their pride/ego.  This is seen through the pictures paraded on social media by trophy hunters, heads hung on walls and skins used as rugs.

And here we shift to sales.  Hunting is a term often used in sales.  Selfishness or self-serving along with it.  Unfortunately it is too easy to compare trophy hunters with rifles with the stereotypes many hold about sales people.  Instead of a piece of taxidermy to hang on a wall, we have commissions to put in our pocket.  We even use the term ‘trophy clients’ with alarming regularity.

Like hunters of old who provided food to allow their village to survive – hunting in sales isn’t simply about ‘winning deals’, it is about providing sustenance to your business.  What you successfully hunt is turned in to the energy on which your business runs.  It is the fuel that allows your business to survive.  Simply closing the sale doesn’t generate this energy – it is what happens post-sale that turns all the effort of the sale in to a meaningful outcome for the business.  In to energy.

How do sales people go wrong when hunting for new business and risk becoming trophy hunters?

Hunting the Wrong Target

Knowing who you’re intending to focus on in sales is the single most important step in the ‘hunting’ process.  Working to understand who your ideal future clients are allows you to better understand how to go about finding them (refer:Finding Your Ideal Client).  Fail to do this and you can spend a considerable amount of time looking for anyone and finding no one.  You can also spend a large amount of energy and time tracking a prospect only to find that they aren’t who you are looking for.  With no clear plan, it is easy to fall in the trap of hunting trophies.  Hunting those clients that look the best, biggest and brightest with no assessment of whether you could or should have them as clients.

Not understanding the Topography

Anyone who’s been hunting will understand the frustration of being ‘bluffed’ (being blocked by a sudden change in landscape – like a cliff) or, worse, being in the wrong place entirely.  Sales is the same; to hunt effectively, you need to understand where you’re hunting.  This starts with a clear understand of who they are.  Once you know this, you can work out where you are most likely to find them and therefore where you need to be.  This isn’t simply a matter of geography but also about what groups you need to be participating in, what your social media strategy needs to be and who you need to know.  There is no point walking out the front door of your office, if you don’t know where your future clients are.

Not respecting the Environment

Responsible hunters realise that in order to be successful, they need to think sustainably.  They honour quotas and respect the environment in which their animals live.  Selling isn’t any different.  It is about ‘how‘ you go about selling.

The blind pursuit of a target with a win at all costs, do whatever you need to attitude may secure you your target – but at what cost?  What bridges did you burn along the way.  The environment in sales is your ‘Integrity’ and your ‘Credibility’.  It means little what you think about yourself in sales, but rather what others think of you.  Respect that.

Trusting the Wrong People

The US dentist placed trust in those who were arranging his hunt.  It would appear he had misplaced trust in them.  In sales, trust is incredibly important, if not vital, to your success.  Blindly hunting a trophy can result in you trusting or associating with the wrong people, or hearing what you wish to hear.

How you build your network and who is in it is something to be managed carefully.  Who you have as clients, reflects on you.  Who you have in your network, reflects on you.

Leaving Value on the Table

In days of yore, hunting was about the sustenance the animal provided to the hunter and their wider community.  Trophy hunting is about a trophy – something to hang on a wall, put on social media and/or brag about.  Without understanding why you are selling, you risk simply hunting names.  Hunting trophies.  Winning deals because you can.  As a result, you often leave value on the table.  You are after the kill, not the relationship.  You want the client to say yes, not have a long relationship with them.  You, your client and your businessmiss out as a result.

Hunters of old can teach modern sales people much.  They didn’t hunt trophies because it looked good in their hut – they hunted because the meat meant life to their village.  They respected the animal because of what it provided them and their community.  They didn’t wantonly kill animals – they culled what they needed.

Hunting trophies in sales changes it to being all about the sales person, not the client.  It becomes about what the clients means to the sales person, not what difference the sales person can mean to the client.  It is important in sales that when we use the word ‘hunting’ we use it in the context of providing energy for the business and value for our clients.  Not simply ‘winning deals’.   Selling isn’t about hanging your clients on the wall…is it? 


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