It’s been said that sales is like an athletic competition. It’s even been said that sales is like warfare. But here’s a new one: Sales is like a garden. Sound crazy? Not as much as you might think, says sales consultant Greg Wright, co-author of Sprout! Everything I Need to Know About Sales I Learned from My Garden (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2004). The same characteristics that make a good gardener – patience, the ability to nurture and good timing – make a good salesperson.
Wright says using a garden as a metaphor for managing a sales career is the path to more energy, less stress and greater success in the workplace. “The pressure on salespeople to produce every quarter and every month has increased continually. It’s a constant pressure,” he says. Instead, Wright says it’s much more satisfying to take the long-term view and think of your career in terms of a crop to be planned, planted, nurtured and harvested.
Here are Wright’s top tips for nurturing your sales garden to a bountiful harvest.
- Planning. Every good gardener starts with a plan – and so does every good salesperson. Few reps begin with a detailed strategy or some sort of logic behind their territory or their career, opting instead to just take what comes their way. To get the harvest you want, you must start by defining what kind of career you want, says Wright. Create a detailed personal vision of the kind of sales garden you desire.
- Seeding. A master gardener wouldn’t scatter a handful of seeds on the ground, water them once and then expect bushels of produce. Likewise, salespeople can’t expect prospects to take care of themselves. Be persistent when following up, but keep customers’ needs in the forefront and don’t try to force an order to bloom before its time.
- Nurturing. Don’t assume you know what your customers need. Check in with them, just as a gardener checks each of his or her plants to make sure they’re getting the appropriate balance of sun, water and nutrients. Figure out the best practices for taking care of your customers and execute those strategies over and over again.
- Harvesting. Wait for the orders to mature instead of jamming a sale down customers’ throats. Attempting to harvest too early can put your whole crop at risk, says Wright. “It’s smarter to manage the harvest,” he says.
Even if you’re unfamiliar with gardening, you can benefit from the sales garden approach, says Wright. “The sales garden is nothing more than a metaphor for good, solid sales planning and a good, solid sales process.”