You’ve likely never heard the term “fractal,” but it affects your sales performance more than you may know. A fractal is a repeating pattern of shapes and sequences that can be found in nature. You’ve seen fractals in the repeating hexagonal crystals of snowflakes; in the duplicated shell formations of mollusks; in the layers of artichokes, leaf patterns, and other forms of nature.
Fractals are used to create mathematical and scientific applications for computers, medicine, and more. For example, a fractal sequence known as the Sierpinski carpet enables modern day communication in antennae, cellphones, and satellites. It is responsible for enabling the GPS upon which we rely.
So why, you ask, are you reading about fractals in a sales column? Perhaps you’ve heard of the butterfly effect, the concept that a flap of a butterfly wing in one part of the planet can cause a typhoon on the opposite side of the globe. It’s an example worth noting because one singular event in your life can produce a windfall of success that might seem unrelated but is nevertheless due to the power of fractal theory.
I like to think of prospecting energy as “fractal selling,” something I personally discovered many years ago after making hundreds of phone calls to land one lumberyard as a client. I feared it would take the same amount of energy to land every client. At the time, I didn’t know the butterfly effect of the single client. The GM of that one lumberyard connected me to his sales manager. Later, that sales manager recommended me to an editor, which led me to my first engagement as a magazine columnist. That engagement enabled me to speak at conferences throughout North America, which would lead me to meet hundreds of industry professionals, which would lead to a career as a sales management consultant. That first client was my butterfly.
A second client I gained from the hundreds of phone calls was a manufacturer that eventually sponsored dozens of events at which I spoke throughout the country. The audiences for this manufacturer were roofing and siding dealers. Thus, a second butterfly opened the doors to a second matrix of the construction distribution channel.
These two customers laid the foundation of nearly all my success today. If you ask successful salespeople in our industry, they will share similar stories. The intense prospecting energy of a sales career need not be sustained if you find the right opportunities from the start.
Fractal selling proves that prospecting and networking is an evolving experience. Early in a sales career, the most successful sales professionals meet a lot of people…a lot! They are “cold” leads because the buyer doesn’t know the salesperson prior to the first engagement. Over time, the salesperson discovers that one of their satisfied clients provides a favorable referral. An employee of the satisfied client later branches out on her own, and her first call for a credible supplier goes to the salesperson she knows. Yes, the salesperson continues prospecting while discovering that many of the best leads are referrals or inbound calls based on a well-established personal brand.
Eventually, the mature salesperson realizes they can begin to cull through leads and select the best sales opportunities in the market while (perhaps) funneling secondary opportunities to a junior salesperson. This is the moment when the hard-working, formerly assertive prospector has evolved into a selective order-taker—the salesperson who gets high-quality orders handed to them because of the fractal selling and accumulation of credibility throughout a career.
Make no mistake—prospecting is the foundation of sales. You should, however, expect your prospecting energy to evolve as your career matures…if you’ve put in the initial effort. Whether you know it or not, your career is a fractal of interpersonal connections that ultimately determines the fate of your sales success. Prospect now for the repeating energy of fractal selling that will come easier in the long run.
Rick Davis is the Sales Education Leader for ABC Supply and the President of Building Leaders. You can buy his books or learn more about his online sales training platform at buildingleaders.com.