What Is a Whale in the Field of Sales?

Tips to find them and reel them in

Salesperson closing a deal and shaking hands with a customer

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In sales terminology, a whale is pretty much just what it sounds like—it's a prospect that's at least 10 times larger than your average sale. With business to business (B2B) sales, a whale prospect is often a company that's far larger than your own. In business to consumer (B2C) sales, it might be a prospect who buys your priciest product option and does so regularly. 

Finding and Hunting Whales 

The whales are out there, but you'll probably have to cross a lot of open water to get to the pod. Meanwhile, you'll be sailing right above a lot of viable customers and clients along the way. Don't ignore them in favor of the big fish, particularly when you're just starting out in sales. Those small fish are your initial bread and butter, so drop your line and reel them in. It's OK to keep your eye on the pod on the horizon, but take advantage of the easy pickings along the way.

Now you have to get the attention of one of those whales in the pod, and how you do this depends to some extent on the nature of your business. If you're selling luxury cars, head out to places that luxury car owners are likely to frequent, like the finest restaurants in your area.

Sticking your business card under the wipers of that Mercedes-Maybach S650 Cabriolet in valet parking is a little pedestrian, but head inside and take a seat at the bar. Invest an hour. Talk up prospects. After you've guided the conversation to automobiles, then you can hand over your card – and you've hopefully made a great impression in the meantime. 

Of course, the approach can be much different in B2B transactions, but the concept remains: Don't rush in blind. Preparation is key. Identify your whale and approach with finesse. And remember, your prospect is probably being courted by a dozen of your competitors. You'll have to be extremely impressive to outdo everyone else and bring the whale in as a customer.

Closing the Sale 

Closing deals with whales often takes far more time and effort than a typical sale, but these deals are so much larger – a single whale can be the equivalent of a dozen others. This makes them very worthwhile to pursue despite the extra trouble while you're still trolling for other, smaller fish. You might even turn the whale into a repeat customer so he's even more valuable.

Follow the same sales process that you use for standard prospects, but bring it up a notch. If you usually research a prospect well enough to ask three customized questions during the presentation, you'll want to come up with 10 customized questions for your whale. Anticipate that he will be a harder sell. Don't skimp on personal touches like thank you notes or even small gifts that reflect the prospect's interests.

After the Sale 

If you do succeed, pay extra attention to your new large-size customer. Touch base frequently to be sure that he's satisfied and hopefully will continue to buy from you.