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Hunting Whales vs. Netting Fish

How to Adjust Your Marketing Approach

Does your revenue growth depend primarily on landing new accounts, or are you focused mostly on filling new orders? From a marketing perspective, there is a huge distinction between the two approaches.

If you are focused on selling orders – then the marketing function is usually focused on creating leads - often described as “Fishing with Nets” – i.e. selecting databases, creating interest, and nurturing potential buyers into a discussion with your organization.

Selling major accounts, however, is a different animal, because there will be many individuals in the target account who are either decision influencers, potential blockers, or are responsible for making or reviewing decisions.

Marketing in a major account environment is often referred to as “Fishing with Spears”

Here’s how it works:

In their book Whale Hunting, Tom Searcy and Barbara Weaver Smith describe the process of selling major accounts using a metaphor. They correlate the major account sales approach to the whale hunting methods of the Inuit people in the arctic circle. During a whale hunt, everyone in the village has a role. They work as a team. And they all know that bringing in a whale that will feed the village for months requires a process: Scouting the Whale, Hunting the Whale, and Harvesting the Whale. Together, they all win by doing their part. I love this comparison, because it creates imagery that can be readily applied to your major account approach.

The Marketing Role in the major account sales environment flips the traditional lead generation funnel upside down. The process starts with identifying the target account, based on attributes that make the account a viable target for your business.


Instead of buying databases, the marketing team now becomes responsible for building a dossier on the account. This includes news clippings, financial reports, industry trends and other insight that helps to qualify the account and prepare for the hunt. This process also includes identifying the potential influencers and decision makers in an individual account – expanding what we know about their executives, building a profile of the people who are likely to be involved in a major decision process.


Marketing content and tactics in this environment are focused on a single target. Content and messaging must be highly tuned to the account, which can mean creating case studies that specifically match the environment of the target, or customizing value propositions to speak to the organization’s business situation. Major account selling is a team sport, and so collaboration with the sales organization is critical – ensuring that the messages deliver are consistent across all sales and marketing interactions with all target executives.


There are two measurements that become important for marketing in the major account environment: What do we know about the company and the people who influence or make decisions, and How engaged are we with the Key Decision Makers (KDMs) and influencers?”

At Butler Street, we recommend a tool called the Opportunity Diagnostic to measure “what you know” about the account. This tool – which poses twenty questions across the four stages of the buying process, enables you to ensure that your approach to the account aligns with what you know of their environment. From a marketing standpoint – this insight provides clear guidance for content and messaging development within the account.

The Relationship Map helps measure engagement, enabling you to clearly identify and profile KDMs and Influencers, and then map your team to theirs, ensuring that you are covering all the individuals involved in the buying process. Profiling an individual isn’t just capturing their contact information. It means developing an understanding of the Personality Type, Adaptability, Buying Role, Political Role, and the status of our relationship with each contact in the account who will be involved in the decision process. This too provides marketing with the insight needed to craft highly personalized messaging and more effective contact strategies.

In the end, an Account Based Marketing approach is critical to the major account focused organization. Marketing to a single account requires a highly customized effort that is integrated with the sales process. Sales and marketing, working as a team, manage the connections with influencers and KDMs to ensure they understand the value of a relationship with your firm.

If you would like to learn more about marketing in a major account sales environment, Contact us and let’s start a conversation!

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