If You Teach a Man to Fish (and Sell)

You may not know it, but fly fishing and intentional sales have a lot in common. Think about it. You have to get someone “on the hook”. Or you have to “reel someone in”. Or you have to “catch the big whale”. Ok, so you’re not really going to catch a whale when you’re fly fishing, but you get my meaning.

I’d like to tell you a short story. Several years ago, I took a trip to the Colorado River with a fly-fishing guide. He was very confident in his skills and remarked that he could catch a trout within 30 minutes. I laughed, because I knew that patience and skill were just two of the many components of fly fishing. I couldn’t imagine how he would be able to catch a trout so quickly. But, as I watched him meander through the tall, dry grasses toward the river, taking his time to absorb the weeds and grasses that grew on and near the banks, I could tell he wasn’t just appreciating the nature surrounding us. He was doing something more — I just couldn’t put my finger on what. As he finally approached the riverbank, he turned over a few rocks and decaying branches. He then prepared his line with a carefully selected fly. Now, it may not have been 30 minutes, but it was almost immediate. He began to catch trout repeatedly – one after the other. Gorgeous trout seemed to swarm to him like he was the Pied Piper of the Colorado River. What was his secret to effortlessly catching fish after fish? The guide could tell I was in awe of his skill. He waded over to where I was casting and began to explain to me how he had been so successful. He reminded me of his walk down to the river. He explained that as he was walking, he was observing the insects and larvae on the grasses and weeds – what was buzzing around in the hot, dry Colorado air. Looking under the rocks and logs on the riverbank was another way to find out what insects had been hatching. He tied his flies according to what he observed – because that was what the fish would be eating. He was fishing intentionally, learning what he could about the appetites of the fish that summer day.

Selling with intention is a lot like my Colorado River experience. But instead of the student this time, I would like to be your guide, and I’d like to share a few tools of how you can catch more fish.

LinkedIn is a great business tool. It’s a cool river stocked with fish. But if you don’t know how to attract those fish, they’ll just swim right by. Our LinkedIn Profile is our rod and reel, and we need to start treating it like one. By making a few minor changes to our LinkedIn Profile and understanding who is in our environment and how we can best align to their needs, we can sell with intention.

The first thing you’ll need to do is make sure that your profile is current (pun intended) and reflects who you are and what you really do. If you sell freshwater fly-fishing gear, you could have a photo of a fly rod and reel, with a beautifully hand-tied fly on the end – perhaps an image of a brook trout. You wouldn’t want to have an image of a giant swordfish as your background; it would give people the wrong impression of who you are and what you do. Sure, it’s a fish, but a very different kind. If you produce live events or are an audiovisual integrator, what images represent your brand? Make sure that these images are what people see when they look at your profile. You are designing your profile to attract the types of fish you want to catch, or your target audience.

Business development and sales is all about alignment – matching your value to the value your target audience is seeking. Now that your profile is reflective of you and your brand, you can more successfully appeal to your target audience. Start casting. Throw out your line. Take what you know and share your knowledge with the people who are truly interested and are buying the very thing you’re selling. Begin a one on one conversation with a connection on LinkedIn – but don’t just start selling your solution. That won’t work. Start by offering them a valuable morsel of insight. This is where you can insert yourself into their Buyers Journey. Be the expert. Begin an intentional conversation and relationship with your connection based on providing them resources and insights that align to the problems and challenges they face every day. This will be an ongoing journey, not a one and done activity. Your goal is to routinely position yourself (and your company) as a resource that understands the problems, challenges, and wants of your target audiences.

What I just described here is a DIY Sales Engine. A repeatable framework where you align yourself and your actions to the Buyers Journey of a specific target audience. It’s a proven way to connect with more people, increase your network, move leads to appointments, and ultimately improve your sales funnel. You can do this, and you can do this independently. It’s a repeatable program (Pied Piper-style) with proven results.

About The Author:

Karl Becker has a BA in Economics from The Colorado College and an MBA from Leeds School of Business. Over the last 25 years, Karl has founded and run numerous companies, worked with hundreds of leadership teams, participated in company transformations, raised angel funding, received a US Patent, and been a 40 Under 40 Award Winner.