In Herman Melville’s eponymous 1851 novel “Moby Dick” the crew of the Pequod seek out the mysterious and legendary white whale Moby Dick. I was thinking about the novel and how it relates to business and it got me thinking. The crew of the Pequod are driven and in a sense kept alive in treacherous waters by the idea of their white whale, and there is an allegory here for us in business.

Too often we rely on a whale to keep us afloat; these whales are often one or two large clients who give us all our business.

Unfortunately what can often happen is these large clients are drawn away, close up shop or change hands. When we lose them it can be the thing that sinks a business, or in this case a ship. It is just as important to bring on smaller clients as it is larger ones; it is often the smaller clients that keep you afloat from month to month while you are waiting for your next order from your ‘whale’.

This is also why it’s important to prospect. Too many businesses tell me that they rely on word of mouth, they do a great job for one client and they give them their next client. While this is good in theory it doesn’t always work that way, and it means we are leaving the fate of our business to the gods. Even if you have too much work on your plate to handle, ask for that referral, you can always action it later but if you don’t ask now how can you expect to fill your sales funnel two or six months down the line?.

In order to stay in control and not be taken down by the white whale you need to become a proactive salesperson. In sales speak we talk about reactive and proactive sales people, the difference between the two is like the difference between buying your meat from the butcher and hunting it yourself. The proactive sales person is always looking for new opportunities to grow their business whereas the reactive sales person just waits for it to walk through the door.

At the end of Melville’s novel after pursuing Moby Dick for three days, the boat and crew are destroyed when the whale turns on them, the Captain Ahab, drowns in the icy sea. My message here is don’t let your white whale sink your business when they turn on you and say they are moving to another supplier. Remember your A client is someone else’s A prospect.


– Always be prospecting – If you are offered a referral but are too busy, tell your referrer to hold off, but the important thing is to ask! When you attend referral groups always ask for referrals by name don’t get caught in the “I’m too busy at the moment so I don’t need any referrals” trap.
– Don’t rely on one big client to keep your business afloat – I hear this all the time, and most often the people saying it know they are in a precarious position but don’t do anything about it. Smaller clients are just as important when cash flow is key.
– Be a PROACTIVE not a REACTIVE salesperson. Don’t wait for your next client to walk in the door or hope that someone you did a great job for will mention you to their mate. Stay in control of the situation and make your own luck.

“The day you decide to do, it is your lucky day “ – Japanese Proverb

Article by Hayden Burgess – Sales Trainer – Sales Impact Group