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What Sellers Can Learn From 3 Fly Fishing Mistakes!


Although I have been in the sales training and consulting business for many years I have been a fly fisher for most of my life. In fact, when I am not teaching sellers how to make more money I have worked on and off as a professional fly fishing guide and instructor for the better part of the past 25 years.

I was once asked about the top three mistakes beginners to fly fishing typically make and as I answered the question it struck me how analogous those simple fly fishing mistakes are to the world of selling.

So here we go with the top three mistakes of beginning fly fishers and how we can learn to sell more from them.

Mistake #1- Standing where you should be fishing and fishing where you should be standing: Often beginners catch a fish in a particular spot on the river and then assume that from now on that exact spot is where the fish will always be.

The fact is they will often spook a TON of fish while wading into the position they think is the perfect spot to catch fish. We teach them that the river is always changing depending upon the season, time of day, preferred food source, etc. so instead of just charging out to their favorite spot they need to SLOW down to carefully fish all the water between the river bank and that spot.

What they frequently find is that there are considerably more fish between the bank and where they thought they needed to stand. This same concept is also applicable to sales prospecting.

In sales prospecting we often pre-judge or rush to judgment on the effectiveness of the leads we are receiving because we only closed 4 out of 100 leads in a particular month from the same source of leads. A well known study on lead conversion revealed that, in actuality, 45 out of 100 B2B prospects that have expressed some level of interest in what you do will eventually buy from someone. Of the 45 that will eventually buy only 4 will actually buy in the month the interest was initially expressed.

The balance of the 45 will be sold over the course of the following year so SLOW down and carefully “work the water!” If you think of the 100 leads as the bank of the river and the favorite spot as where you “caught” your first two sales you will quickly understand the value of diligently following up on the balance of the leads for the remainder of the entire year to ensure you don’t waste opportunities.

Assuming there are no “fish” other than the first four sales you closed will result in missing out on significant additional opportunity.

Mistake #2- If you don’t put the right fly in front of the fish it is much tougher to catch them: This is a subtle but important variation on mistake #1. Even if you carefully work the water between the bank of the river and the spot you think the fish are holding you still may miss many opportunities to catch good fish if you don’t put the right fly directly in front of the fish.

Fish, just like prospects, can be very selective feeders. Often the perfect fly may be drifting above or below the fish or the wrong fly may be drifting to either side resulting in limited or no success. Fish will seldom expend more energy to “chase” a fly than they will gain through eating it. (In business this would be known as ROI)

Frequently the subtle addition of a little weight to the fly or a slight variation in the size or color of the fly itself and BINGO, fish on! Now we are catching fish where we thought none were hungry.

In selling it is important to make subtle variations to your sales approach and tactics to fit the prospect's exact situation. What resonated with a new prospect last week may not work at all with a different prospect the next week.

It is important to understand EXACTLY what the prospect is looking for and match your fly (solution) to those needs.

Mistake #3- If I can learn to cast farther I will catch more fish:Beginners often become enamored with learning to make beautiful, long casts. As their casting skill improves they physically move less themselves and fish the water by ever lengthening casts across the river.

There are certainly occasions in fly fishing where being able to make a longer cast is critical but, for the most part, getting as close to fish as possible to make a shorter cast will allow for less line on the water, less drag on the fly, and a better presentation. Perfect presentation is FAR more critical than the ability to make long, pretty casts.

In trout fishing you will catch many more fish with great presentation technique than you will with the perfect fly and certainly more than you will with a long cast that looks like something from the movie “A River Runs Through It.”

By getting closer to the fish you can minimize the “drag” from river currents of differing speeds and present the fly in a manner which looks most natural.

In sales we often rely on product knowledge as our “long cast”. It is easy to become lazy with our sales technique and increasingly rely on our growing product knowledge to “dazzle” our prospects.

Rely less on your ability to impress customers with your product knowledge and more upon your ability to tailor the perfect solution to the prospect’s needs and then “present” that solution in the most natural manner possible.

In other words, shortening your cast and getting closer to your prospect will definitely result in “catching” more sales. By combining all three of these adjustments NOW you are fishing like a Jedi!

The next time your significant other asks why you are spending so much time on the river fly fishing you can truthfully say: “I’m working on my selling skills.”

Chuck Terry, CEO/President​​

Chuck Terry, CEO/President

Sandler Training in Denver provides sales training, management and leadership training, and professional development for individuals and organizations. Let us know how we can help your team.