Sales people dream about catching the big one – the whale. 

They are envious of any rep who catches one and thinks their life will be so much better when they get theirs.

Isn’t that where the money is? Isn’t that what makes my boss happy and what will yield a promotion?

I asked four sales training experts their opinion on fishing for the big whale to fill the boat or lots of minnows to fill the bucket.  Here’s what they have to say:

WSP High Res_Shawn Karol Sandy

Shawn Karol Sandy of The Selling Agency has a straightforward, practical and perhaps slightly cheeky  innate gift to helping people find new ways to solve old problems, unique ways to approach new problems and helps businesses re-invent themselves and their sales strategies.

Is it better to sign up one whale or 15 minnows?  9 times out of 10, I’m going to say the minnows are the better option… here’s why:

(1) Unless major strategic accounts are the exclusive responsibility and focus of a sales pro or sales team, sales people that tend to go after the whales plug up their funnel with major opportunities that are time intensive, have a longer sales cycle, and a lesser probability of closing.  This creates clear vulnerabilities for gaps in potential future business.

(2) Minnows have great potential.  Starting with smaller accounts, pending the business model, you have room to build more trust, more relationships and more influence to grow revenue with existing customers.  Minnows can become bigger fish when you feed them and give them attention.

(3) Small fish are easier to fry.  Again, depending on the focus of your sales pro and the organization, processing and supporting a “whale” may be an operational nightmare, if it’s not your norm.  Minnows could be much more profitable as they’re not a production anomaly, like a whale, that drains resources.

Janice Mars is Principal and Founder of SalesLatitude. Janice is a sales performance improvement consultant and change agent focused on growing top performers to impact bottom line growth. With more than 30 years of experience as a senior business and sales executive, she helps companies build successful sales teams by maximizing their time and resources, selling from the buyer’s point of view, and strengthening the effectiveness of leadership.

Is it better to sign up one whale or 15 minnows?  My first response was ‘one whale’ since it takes just as long to sell one deal as it does 15.  But, then I got to thinking about a particular situation that occurred when I first started my sales career.

I was one of 7 sales people who were selling this one product line.  My pipeline was filled with multiple deals and my goal was to try to close 1 to 3 new deals per month.  One of my peers liked to close big whales.  Her pipeline was much thinner than mine. However, if she closed one of those deals, she would be way over her quota. 

Fast forward to the end of the year and I exceeded my quota by selling multiple smaller deals or ‘winnows.”  Yet the deal she was hoping to sign did not sign, which left her with a big goose egg that year.

So my advice is this:  Ensure you have a bit of both whales and minnows in your pipeline.  This way you’re not counting on that one big whale of a deal to meet or exceed your quota.

Lisa D. Magnuson is a Top Line Account™ Deal Coach with Top Line Sales.  Lisa asks: “When was the last time your team closed a seven-figure contract?”, as she helps mobilize your account team to land TOP Line Accounts™.

The answer is that it depends on your goals and current mix of customers.  I call ‘Whales’ TOP Line Accounts™.  A TOP line account is your biggest and best prospect and/or current customer poised for expansion.  As a prospect they are often referred to a a “Million Dollar Deal” – which might be 100K or 10m+ depending on your business.  These top opportunities are complex in nature and require a strategic approach and framework.  However, when landed, TOP Line Accounts™ tend to be  transformative for an organization in that they open up possibilities that didn’t exist before.

For example, new business areas for your products and service, new geographies including global expansion.  They attract other like sized accounts.  They will force your company to the next level of professionalism and expertise and allow you to invest in resources to do just that.

If handled correctly, they will be your top references and banner customers.  They will quickly account for a large percentage of your top line revenue (and bottom line profits) as they tend to grow year over year.  They represent the crown of jewel of your customer base and expect to be treated as such.  In my experience, most companies want one or more TOP Line Accounts™.

LynnHidy PR

Lynn Hidy, founder of, is the expert at creating profitable telesales salespeople and organizations. She knows you can make six figures over the phone – she does it!

On an “always” or “never” basis, one isn’t better than the other. It is critical to decide which is best for individual sales people as well as your business!

For the sales person, on a personal level, what makes them feel successful impacts the long term ability to do the activity necessary for success.

For instance, 15 Minnows:  A $984,000 in profit margin year with an average sales around $500 is almost 2000 orders.

1 Whale:  The same $984,000 could be achieved in 10 orders or less with one or two accounts.

Looking at those two sales people I assure you neither could imagine doing what the other person did during a day, week, quarter or year to be successful.  Yet both need a proven strategy for success.

The minnow will be great for a salesperson who needs to see movement every day.  The whale for someone that is happy working toward a longer term goal.

For the business, the ideal prospect demographics (statistical data) and psychographics (attitudes and way people think) will be completely different. Where you fish for minnows is different from whale hunting.  Who you need to target and what their organizations look like are only one part of what makes them different.

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