Fish where the fish are

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I remember being quite lost in the beginning years of my formal sales career. I felt like things were coming at me faster than I could process them. These accounts are important, I should be there….Wait, what about these accounts that I haven’t seen in awhile?…Wait, new accounts, I need to always be sourcing new accounts….Wait, what about follow up, and executing on the details…Wait, what about new marketing ideas? Ahhhh!!!!

I was overwhelmed, lost on what to do, and generally stunned into doing very little. I attended a sales meeting for my employer at the time who fortunately had hired a sales consultant named Peter Benjamin. I simply opened up and shared my feelings of being overwhelmed. He listened and then replied:

“Fish where the fish are.”

What does that mean?

The first part of the answer is to define what the fish is. It’s a client….or, is it? I wasn’t selling in order to sell to a client. I was selling in order to make a sale. A sale generated a commission, and I was paid entirely on commissions. Fish were commissions. Fish- the noun- is all about what we’re looking to get out of it. And Fish- the verb- was all about my time. Hence, spend my time where I could get more commissions. And I could get more commissions by spending more time with the clients who were buying the most wine from me.

The depth of this simplicity blew me away. As once I understood it, my organization became super easy:

*Get an excel sheet with my clients and their current sales YTD.

*Rank the clients/sales YTD using the sort function so that the biggest sales clients were on top.

*Highlight the top 10 clients.

These are the fish. This is where I spent my time, and my sales increased immediately. I also started to shed that overwhelmed feeling, as I had a plan that made sense. And I was also able to feel comfortable not spending time with those clients who didn’t buy as well- no feelings of ‘it’s my fault they’re not buying, etc’.

I have continued to start every new sales territory or market based project by defining what a fish is, how I get them, and how I spend most of my time with the most important of them. Seems to have worked out so far…

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