Sales lessons from a brain-eater

The sea squirt (a tunicate to fellow geeks and scuba divers) is a peculiar sea creature. It starts life as a tadpole-like larvae wiggling through the ocean in search of a plentiful food supply. It doesn’t swim for long, however, being incapable of feeding in the larval stage.

Once it finds a rich food source, the sea squirt sets down serious roots, cementing itself to the sea floor.  It then begins transforming into a sack-like filter-feeder. To fuel this transformation, the sea squirt turns self-cannibal.

The squirt’s tail and primitive eye are its first “meal”. Tadpole parts aren’t much use when you’re cemented to the ground, right?  Then comes the amazing bit: the sea squirt “eats its own brain”. Since the adult sea squirt is 95% stomach and 100% focused on eating plankton, it’s thinking days are over. It’s the couch potato of the sea.

Although the physical resemblance is hard to see, human beings have much in common with the sea squirt. In fact, we’re distant cousins (we’re both part of the class of animals called Chordata). They also have something to teach us.


1.  Don’t eat your brain, you need it more than a squirt

Homework sucks, but it works. Investing brain-power to learn how to use new tools, communication channels and methodologies can deliver amazing results.

For example, my experience is that effective pre-call research increases lead-to-opportunity conversion by more than 30% in a B2B sales context. Prospects today have very high expectations for you. They expect that you understand them, their company and their needs BEFORE the first call or meeting. That’s why long-term sales leaders  invest brain-power in listening through detailed research.

2. Recognize opportunity, then commit 100% to seizing it

Squirt larvae swim in search of a food source and, when they see an opportunity, they seize it with cannibalistic gusto.  No hesitation, even though the decision has life and death consequences. This is a good lesson to learn from the squirt.
Seize the opportunity by the beard, for it is bald behind.  ~Proverb
3. Mobility’s a must, unless you’re a squirt
Repeating what works is a natural tenancy; it’s human nature. Somewhat paradoxically, often the most successful reps are at greatest risk of getting stuck in cement. Who among us doesn’t lean hard on a winning game plan? But unlike a squirt, the life-cycle of a sales professional is long and their environment is constantly changing. Long-term success requires a commitment to evolving with environmental changes, such as the social selling revolution and Sales 2.0 process automation.

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