Time to buy a bigger boat! The Discovery Channel’s Shark Week kicked off Sunday and runs all week. This year marks the 30th installment of cable’s longest running television event, with all new content, celebrity guests, and even a limited-edition box of Shark Week merchandise.
In my family of nerds, it is a full-on celebration rivaling any holiday. Get out the dorsal fin picks and the Great White sushi tray because we’re ready to enjoy eight straight days of jawsomeness! While I’ve never missed an episode, there is one species that has yet to appear in an episode or race against Michael Phelps: Selachimorpha Venditor, more commonly known as the sales shark.
When I think about the sharks of the sales world, my mind immediately goes to Dicaprio channeling Jordan Belfort in the The Wolf of Wall Street, Alec Baldwin’s Always be Closing speech from Glenngarry Glenn Ross, or Steve from Best Buy, who once pitched me an extended warranty on an HDMI cable with both persistence and flair. While these examples can be entertaining and strangely motivating, is adopting the philosophy of an ocean predator really the way to sales growth?
While the days of the tricky, high pressure, overly aggressive sales pitch have thankfully gone the way of the Megalodon, there are plenty of sales tips in the sea. Unfortunately, the qualities and values you need to possess to sell like a shark are riddled with the same myths and misperceptions that kept us out of the water after the release of the first Jaws movie. The Discovery Channel has helped change how we understand sharks and their behavior, but no one has been keeping tabs on the sales sharks. So, in honor of a week Steven Colbert called “one of the two holiest of holidays," I want to take a deep dive into some common shark myths and how we apply this knowledge to create a new breed of sales shark at The Alias Group.
Myth #1: Sharks are loners
Whether you are talking about a great white or a slick salesperson, we usually imagine a solitary hunter. The truth is sharks are incredibly social creatures. They travel in groups, form family-type units, hunt cooperatively and even create symbiotic partnerships with other species of fish.
Forming genuine connections is one of our core values at The Alias Group. When we apply this to the sales management, it begins with creating a supportive and collaborative environment for our sales team. Working as a team allows salespeople to draw from collective strengths and share best practices. When businesses approach us for help with sales or marketing, we are looking to build long-term relationships where we can be partners in the sales process. A good sales shark knows there is more value in developing and expanding relationships rather than going for the quick kill. We may have kept the heart of the hunter, but we also know that no one grows alone.
Myth #2: Sharks are always in attack mode
Sure, a shark has gotta eat, but they aren’t mindless killing machines. Sharks rely on their senses to target their mealtime prospects. We have all heard about their incredible sense of smell, capable of detecting 1 drop of blood in 1 million drops of water. What you may not know is that hearing is a shark’s strongest sense, so they are excellent listeners. They can use their ears with the same effectiveness a hawk uses its eyes.
At Alias, we also value unique focus. We ask our partners and prospects questions to understand their business goals and when they answer, we listen. If we sense blood in the water, we zone in, not for the kill, but because pain points are opportunities for us to provide marketing and sales solutions. A good sales shark understands pain points are the starting point, not the destination. Instead of jumping in to attack the source, we step back and strategize before moving forward.
Myth #3: Sharks will die if they stop swimming
Most people still (incorrectly) believe that sharks must keep swimming, or they will die. Sharks breathe in two different ways: ram ventilation and baccal pumping. Ram ventilation happens as water passes through the gills when sharks are swimming, but baccal pumping is when a resting shark uses their own muscles to pump water through their gills. Scientists originally thought that only certain sharks were capable of baccal pumping but have found a variety of sharks they had discounted casually resting in caves and on seafloors.
With looming quotas, commission, incentives and bonuses on the line, it can feel like the life of a sales person is swim or die. Burnout is a common sales ailment. Delivering more is another core value of ours. We go above and beyond for our partners and we expect a lot of our people. We also recognize a solid work-life balance keeps burnout at bay, so we don't expect our employees to make their job here their entire life. When it comes to the sales process itself, we believe if you are going to lose, lose fast. We don’t waste time chasing imaginary opportunities or hounding companies that aren’t interested. A good sales shark is persistent not relentless, driven but not obsessive, and knows when to rest and recharge.
If you get a chance, tune in to the Discovery Channel this week for more best practices from our sales spirit animal. Challenge yourself to embrace your inner sales shark and sell every week like it is shark week!