Whale Hunting as a Metaphor for Landing Large Accounts

Whale HuntingAt a recent Vistage meeting, I had the pleasure of hearing Tom Searcy, author and CEO of Hunt Big Sales, a sales consulting and training company, talk about how small businesses can land big sales that will transform their companies. Tom likens the process to whale hunting, which:  requires planning and skills, can’t be done by one person (it takes a village, actually), and can keep a large number of people fed (or employed) for a long time.

Tom says that whales are like large companies and we all know that large companies usually buy from other large firms because they:

  • Are perceived as having more resources
  • Have a more well-​​known brand and reputation
  • Speak the language of whales
  • Represent less risk and more security

We’ve heard it before: “nobody gets fired for picking (fill in large company name).”  So how is a small business supposed to compete against the big guys? Tom says that large companies pick small companies when they are looking for an advantage in their business, specifically:

  • Innovative solutions that are usually  not associated with larger, bureaucratic companies
  • Access to the brightest talent
  • Speed and nimbleness
  • Knowledge of a niche market
  • A relationship with a company where they’re not just another customer

Ultimately, small businesses can only the land the big sales when:

  • Executive management is involved in the sales process because whales will only talk to senior staff
  • Someone on the customer side believes the small business can help them move the needle in their business in a big way

My favorite quote from Tom:  “People only buy what they can safely sell to others, or defend if challenged. Our job as whale hunters is to equip and train the buyers to defend themselves from the attacks that will come later.”

Landing a whale obviously has financial benefits to a small firm.  But there are other, intangible benefits:  attracting other whales, attracting the best staff, and transforming your company because whales require and demand a different level of staffing and service.

Who’s ready to go whale hunting?

3 thoughts on “Whale Hunting as a Metaphor for Landing Large Accounts

  1. Just be ready for a ride! Having been a part of several “whale hunting” expeditions from a exec position on technical side, have seen both good and bad (and there are alot of bads).

    First — you must be ready for the ride and know the end will not likely be what you expected at the start. This is not bad, unless you are one who is inflexible or fearful of change. Also what helps is having a “champion” within the customer who is almost a visionary. This is important because with a small company this person is more likely to be able to heavily influence the result than if they purchased from a larger corp. The negative is the high likelihood this will change the small businesses plan. It can be very hard for the small business to not give in to many demands/​changes which come with all BIG projects. Also these “whales” tend to come with the legacy waterfall approach to development (we have 1000 reqs we need met, and expect you to meet them all by date NN).

    Overall, these can be hard decisions initially. No doubt the $ and customer name are hard to ignore (and in some cases should not be ignored). But for these same reasons these factors can cloud your vision and lead to poor overall decisions.

  2. Thanks for sharing the analogy Joanna. I can see my team psyching each other up before a new business pitch with cheers of “Who are we?!”, “We’re whale hunters!”.

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