“Call me Ishmael” opens the Melville classic. For those not familiar, *spoiler alert* it's a story where the narrator, Ishmael, a sailor joins a whaling ship under Captain Ahab whose goal is to hunt a white whale named Moby Dick and his obsession and inflexibility ultimately leads to his death and his crew’s.
Why Moby Dick is Relevant for Sales
Ahab isn't the only leader with an obsessive goal; Sales Managers, C-Level's, VP's, Entrepreneurs, and individuals. We all have goals and visions; a white whale, a goal that keeps us up at night and consumes us. Whatever your vision: acquiring X accounts in 6 months, Y% growth, or a specific enterprise account, don't obsess over goals without the big picture or we can all end up like Captain Ahab.
Sales and business need to have goals and objectives, but the downfall of Ahab can teach us that having inflexible goals can ultimately destroy us. Until management learns to adjust strategies and goals along the way, Ahab proves that a fixed strategy without flexibility can have disastrous effects. Sometimes we need expertise to tell us that we are being unrealistic even if we don't want to admit it.
Obsessing over a Vision Can be Dangerous
The White Whale consumed Ahab. He considers Moby Dick to be evil embodied on earth and that it is his mission to destroy it. As you read the book, you recognize that Ahab is not a stupid man, he is simply consumed by his vision and as readers we begin to recognize his flaws in ourselves.
What sets great business leaders apart who have big goals like Paul Polman, Tim Cook, or Carlos Ghosn isn’t their drive or focus, it’s their ability to plan to adjust and knowing that not everything will go to plan. Instead of focusing on one result, they have been able to adapt to make the right alliances, jump on opportunities, and keep progressing towards their ultimate goals.
Captain Ahab did not Listen to Warnings or his Crew
Ahab is not the only one who has lost time or been injured by Moby Dick. They come across the whaling ship the Samuel Enderby whose captain has lost an arm chasing the White Whale. Later they come across the Rachel and the Delight who have also had fatal encounters with Moby Dick.
What are you able to do that other companies can't? How are your services or approaches different? For Ahab, he believed that the other captains didn't have his drive and he believed his crew would work harder than others because he promised them gold when they captured the whale.
Money is often the best motivation but Ahab still managed to lose the confidence and morale of the team to the point where his first mate contemplated killing him. The crew warned him of the dangers, they were scared of the sea and the whale but his inflexibility kept him deaf to their words.
Ahab’s Inflexibility and Hubris Ultimately Destroy his Team
Sometimes an outside opinion can give us a real reality check of what we're doing and how to keep moving the in right direction towards our goals. Overconfidence leads Ahab to defy his peers, warnings, other captains, and his crew to believe that he can simply work harder and impose his will to capture the whale. Too often do managers lose the confidence from their team because they do not listen to the feedback or warnings of their crew.
There is Always Another White Whale
Don't waste all of your time going after an obsessive goal. There are always other accounts, other accomplishments, and other opportunities that you can be pursuing. We've seen too many companies obsess over goals, and the ones who are able to jump on the right opportunities that come along and adjust their strategies along the way are the ones that are able to capture more White Whales.
More articles about B2B Business Development:
How to ensure sustainable growth
Approaches for a B2B Brand Experience Strategy