Sales and the Art of Whale Hunting: Part III

Mark Godley, CRO HG Data

Editor’s Note: With the focus in today’s B2B environment on transactional and volume selling, the whale hunt is becoming a thing of the past. And yet, there are some lessons to be learned from the specialized sales practitioner who bags whales on a regular basis. This is Part III of a three-part series in which HG Data’s Chief Revenue Officer tells the stories of several whale hunters he has known and lessons to learn from them. Part I can be found here.

Whale Hunter #4: The Buyer’s Friend
This article wouldn’t be complete without my good-old-boy buddy, Jim Reiss. This Okie who now hails from Texas relies on his folksy southern style to create familiarity and gain trust before helping solve a business problem.

Jim is friendly and personable, but his real charm comes from his ability to turn a phrase. His speech is filled with some of the most incredible colloquialisms, metaphors and unusual connections of ideas that anyone has ever heard. Listeners are first thinking, what the heck did he just say? But after a moment’s cogitation, they’re doubled over laughing.  Gems like, “It's hotter than a billy goat's ass in a pepper patch” or “I am as nervous as a long tail cat in a room full of rocking chairs” fits genuinely into Jim’s sales conversation. Although these phrases might be commonplace on a porch sipping sweet tea in the Lone Star state, they sure do create a lasting impression in Silicon Valley. Combine the side-splittingly funny sayings, southern twang and folksy charm - you can’t help but love Jim Reiss. Most buyers want to share a beer or break bread with Jim long before they’ve figured out if he deserves a P.O.

As disarming as Jim’s prose might be, don’t let that down-home humor fool you. Jim is one serious business guy. Jim’s the man with a one-two punch, behind the charm is the focus of a former military man. He’s sharp, hardworking, cool under pressure and comfortable deferring gratification while committing to a long-term goal. I’ve seen Jim connect on a personal level with a CRO just before he pivots to explaining how the best thing for that buyer to do is lay off a dozen under-performing sales reps and replace them with a mid-six-figure technology platform that was more reliable at helping that CRO reach his quota. Did he just say that? Really? Are you kidding me? You can’t tell someone how to do their job without first having related to them and earned their trust in the process.

You might not know it by who’s talking louder or more often, but Jim Reiss is usually the smartest guy in the room. But that’s all below the surface. Jim creates a real friendship before he turns a prospect into a customer.

Portrait of a Whale Hunter

Let me leave you with a list of traits that the whale hunters I’ve known share. Although not all illustrated above, the below qualities are an expanded list of what it takes to harpoon your Moby Dick. All of them are individually attainable, and the combination might elevate you to world-class whale-hunter status.

A whale hunter…

  • Possesses insightful problem-solving skills.
  • Has communication skills that rival Shakespeare.
  • Is a domain expert that understands his/her product and industry better than developers, engineers and most of the product management staff.
  • Orchestrates prospect relationships second to none. A whale hunter knows and does not fear the fact that to position and then ask for a BIG order requires building big trust. Big orders won’t close unless trust and confidence between the salesperson and the buyer isn't abounding.
  • Develops long-term relationships with customers who love them. Whale hunters might be aggressive but achieve a careful balance so that the aggressive nature is viewed as a benefit to the customer, not adversarial or parasitic.
  • Works better and higher within their customer’s organizational charts than their peers. While most reps are selling to directors of IT, whale hunters are selling to CIOs and CTOs. And they’re able to stand toe-to-toe with them.
  • Has the ability to inspire buyers, who often take big risks betting that the whale hunter will deliver for them, both professionally and personally.
  • Displays incredible work ethic and is noticeably more motivated than most reps.
  • Shows great resilience and bounces back from adversity. They don’t hear "no" but rather "not yet."

Lastly, a whale hunter most often lets the numbers speak for them. Most whale hunters aren’t showy or flashy. They are strategic, methodical, analytic and humble in how they ply their trade. After all, it’s often a solitary existence navigating a vast ocean in search of the great whale.

Like Ernest Hemingway’s old man, there’re still a few sales professionals surveying the seas and thinking, “My big fish must be out there somewhere.” Consider hiring a few to hedge your bet against that high velocity sales machine you might be building. I can tell you from personal experience that there is nothing sweeter than hearing one of those whale hunters exclaim, Thar she blows!

Mark Godley is chief revenue officer of HG Data, a global leader on competitive intelligence of installed technologies.