Jan 22, 2009

Rabbits, Deer, and Elephants: Make Selling More Fun

I'm an elephant hunter.

Have you ever heard a manager describe a salesperson as an "elephant hunter?" I have. In fact, I've been called that before. I've also been called a "peak-and-valleys" salesperson (not true). But when you sell to elephants (large prospects) you will have deals less often and when you do they will be huge. Metaphorically speaking, hunting elephants is great because elephants provide a lot more food than smaller game. I've had two elephant-sized customers feed me my entire quota for the year for three years in a row!

Being an elephant hunter can be dangerous for salespeople.

But, be careful - when you hunt elephants, you might starve in between kills. Companies love, love, love you one day then a few months later they might be on the edge of firing you before your next big win. That's the life of an elephant hunter. So, to remind myself that I must always keep the pipe full of a variety of prospects, I created a system I call "rabbits, deer, and elephants" to target prospects.

My solution: the Rabbits, Deer, and Elephants system.

For example, at a current opportunity, I call a prospect with 10 - 50 locations a "rabbit", one with 51 - 200 a "deer" and "201 - 2000+" an elephant. Someone recently suggested adding a category "bear" in the 200 - 500 category, but I think they forgot WE'RE THE BEAR! Ha ha! Or at least, the lion. Anyway, I feel rabbits, deer, and elephants works quite well.

I added "rabbit" and "deer" to elephants to remind me that you need to sell small deals and middle-sized deals in order to eat (i.e. not get fired) between the big deals. Yes, your company will love you and send you to "club" when you bring in elephants, but the rabbits and deer will feed you in between those big deals and make sure you hit quota. Don't overlook rabbits and deer - all prospects are critical to your success. The customer reference you use from the rabbits will help close the deer, and the references from deer help close elephants. In other words, experience matters. Elephants, as we know, help close everything! But, it is good to know we can address each prospect's needs on their level.

I remember in the movie SWINGERS when Vince Vaughn describes hitting on a girl much like being a bear with claws and fangs, and the girl is like a little rabbit, all soft and cuddly. I had so much fun thinking of rabbits that it made selling to rabbits more fun for me, rather than thinking "this prospect is too small and a waste of my time," I now think "This prospect is important to close on quickly" because that is how a lion or a bear would approach a rabbit - as a small meal. But a meal is a meal, right? You don't always see bears eating deer. Sometimes they eat rabbits, or other small animals, to stay alive.

"That's a nice DEER."

In one of my companies, we will even talk about a prospect and say "Yeah, that's a nice deer." By categorizing prospects in such a way it does several things:

1. You think like a hunter, not like a farmer. Ever notice the salesperson who builds relationships with everyone but hardly ever closes anything? I'd call that salesperson a "farmer" more than a "hunter" salesperson, wouldn't you?

The smart manager pairs that farmer with a hunter to make both more productive. I like using rabbits, deer, and elephants as a reminder that I'm hunting, not farming. Otherwise, I'd have used strawberries, cabbage, and watermelons or something.

2. It helps keep track of the size of deal. For some reason, managers like to quantify deals in their reports. When you have them on your page with "two deers" they have fun adding up the money to know how much you're bringing in for the month. They'll also leave you alone when you throw the meat in their cage every so often as that's what feeds THEM, too.

3. It keeps selling fun. Let's face it, making sales calls is a bit of a grind. Not only that, but we face plenty of rejection in selling. We might bat 2 for 20 at some efforts (a 10% success ratio) and that means hearing the word "no" or the words "yes, but not now" far more often than we'd like. Yes, we'd love to hear "yes" all the time. But by keeping sales fun, we make selling a bit more of a game, and that keeps it exciting. Oddly, it also increases the likelihood of a "yes" because people like to buy from people who are enjoying their job and having fun. Don't you?

4. Using rabbits, deer, and elephants also helps categorize sales prospects so that you can vary your pitch. For example, at my current company, an elephant will buy for different reasons for a rabbit. So, use the animals to help determine marketing strategies, too.

Now, back to elephants. If you're going to hunt elephants, you'd better bring a big gun. Or a bunch of people. That's my approach to hunting elephants - gang-hunting! In the corporate world, they like to call that "team-selling" but whatever. When I hunt, I hunt with one or two other sleek, well-ripped lions who know how to get the kill, just like me. So, enlist key people in your company to help you sell the elephant and bring it in. Both deer and elephants may require a team effort (sometimes, even rabbits need to be "herded" towards the trap) so make sure you use your pride (team) to help you sell!

By the way, make sure the other people you hunt with also know how to hunt, or you might look silly when the elephant gets away. After all, you never see two or three lions hunting an elephant with the help of a gazelle, right? Life isn't exactly like the movie, Lion King, after all.

Try using a technique like "rabbits, deer, and elephants" in your own selling to help you sell more of your products and services. You'll have more fun selling, and find yourself thinking about prospects like a hunter, not a farmer. The way I see it: if you're going to hunt you might as well have fun doing it.

Copyright © 1999-2009 by ARRiiVE Business Solutions. All Rights Reserved. SUBSCRIBE. Images from Wikipedia. Swingers video from YouTube is most likely copyright Miramax and not used with intention to violate that copyright, just to make a point here.

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