Sales and the Sardine Run

Sales and the Sardine Run

My last blog really focused on the soft side of the sale, but almost exclusively from the salesperson’s point of view. It is really important to understand our own abilities and limitations – and then to do whatever we can to exceed these; either through practice, experience, knowledge or a healthy combination of all three. Even then the picture is not complete! Understanding the mindset and triggers of consumers is paramount.

Simply put, sales is like fishing. Your skills are the fishing rod. Your product is the bait. Your knowledge and experience give you an idea of what type of bait to use for which fish; where to fish and at what time. And all of these together allow you to try and create the ideal environment to land your fish.

Different industries, however, can be likened to different types of fishing with large corporate clients taking a long time to reel in, requiring a great deal of teamwork and very specific bait with a heavy-duty fishing rod. The time and effort put into such a sale can be tremendous, but well worth it if the sale comes through. These are the sharks, marlin and tuna in the sales hierarchy.

The other end of the spectrum is the complete opposite, and relies on the volume of sales at strategic points in the year. End of season sales, Christmas sales, closing sales, relocating sales…. There are any number of ways to package a sale, but this is net-fishing in the human world – and if you get it right, no net is needed; it becomes the nearest thing to a human sardine run.

Several companies have managed to harness the power of their industry with highly attractive products by doing three things:

They intimately understand what attracts their customers to make a purchase and create the “want” to drive that purchase

They create channels to capacitate enormous volumes of customers in a relatively short space of time
They create massive hype around the sale and then wait for the droves of customers to flow through their doors buying in a completely frenzied state

Seth Godin called this phenomenon “Tribes”, and although he used it to describe leadership, the same phenomenon is evident in how consumers shop. They are connected to each other, a leader, and idea or a number of these. The first name that usually comes to mind – and there are many – is Apple with the launch of the iPod, iPad and most recently with the iPhone 6. It is not just the product that sets their sales records apart. It is knowing when to cast the net, and surprisingly their best sales period since 2006 has been the first quarter of each year – not the conventionally thought-of fourth quarter.

The South African sardine run is a consistent, annual occurrence from May to July. This has been known for decades. Apple have shown for just under 10 years that the human “sardine run” in the tech space is actually from January to March.

If you have not done your research properly, assumptions made from your existing knowledge, skills and experience may have cost your business a flood of customers who would have snapped up your product. Modern day sales, therefore requires a whole new approach and way of thinking. Henry Ford said it best, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.” – or worse you lose what you have always had.

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