Low-Hanging Fruit Selling: Pick vs. Grow, Catch vs. Climb, Shake vs. Make… Missed Opportunities or Time Wasted…

Low-hanging fruit to some people means: Starting with the really easy stuff you really should have done, already. Few businesses want to hear they have low-hanging fruit…

Low-hanging fruit is a commonly used metaphor for doing the simplest or easiest work, first. In sales, it means a customer target that is easy to identify, engage, and sell. Also, low-hanging fruit are strategies that companies implements in order to boost sales, quickly.

According to Mark Tewart; low-hanging fruit are the easiest path-ways to a sale, and the typical steps, for example are: first, focus on existing active accounts and customers and other qualified less active customers within those same accounts; then, repeat the process; skipping from account-to-account and customer-to-customer…

Critics not in favor of the low-hanging fruit strategy… talk of the real orchard harvesters who begin picking the best fruit from the higher branches, where the fruit is exposed to more sunlight; whereas, the ‘less better’ low-hanging fruit are harvested at the end… In business, its presumed that the more strategic sales opportunities (higher value) will lead to better business results than the low-hanging fruit, in the long run.

According to Guerrilla Freelancing; the term low-hanging fruit is over-used in business; it doesn’t give the person you’re talking to– clear understanding of what you’re talking about. For example: Do you go after low hanging fruit because they’re easier to get, or are they considered less valuable because they’re so easy to get?

In the article Low-Hanging Fruit–Three Principles of Cross-Selling/Up-Selling by Bryan Flanagan writes: Salespeople who live off the low-hanging fruit never seem to develop the skills necessary to uncover the true concerns of the customer. These individuals aren’t skilled in identifying the specific needs of the customer, and they just take the easy sales, and move on to the next tree.

You can make a sale that way, but you can’t build successful business. You must learn to probe for needs, learn to climb the tree so that you can satisfy more of the customer’s needs. Once you have acquired those skills, you can better sell more of your products to meet more of the customer’s needs.

This is referred to ‘cross-selling’ and ‘up-selling’. It is also referred to as ‘selling deep’. That is, selling deeply into the customer’s true needs and wants. Yes, you must meet their recognized needs, but you should also attempt to determine the deeper needs that the customer may have. Here are three principles on cross-selling and up-selling:

  • Ask and listen. In its simplest form, selling is nothing more than asking and listening. Yes, it is not any more complicated than that. Keep it simple. Learn to take the attention off yourself and focus it where it belongs — on the customer. In order to      determine additional needs, you must learn to be a skilled questioner.
  • Link your products and services to the customer’s challenges. This takes work. It also requires discipline. It is easy to move into your own comfort zone without any regard for the customer’s buying zone.
  • Use the C-P-O-V Formula. This stands for ‘Customer’s Point Of View’. In order to be successful in selling deep— you must focus on the customer’s needs. By asking the right questions and by linking your solutions to customer benefits, you have a better chance  of understanding the CPOV. Don’t hesitate to ask the hard questions.

In the article Low-Hanging Fruit by Seamus Brown writes: The low-hanging fruit is the stuff that is easy to pick, because it hangs low and you don’t have to work to get it, either; by climbing the tree or getting a ladder… Likewise in sales, low-hanging fruit is supposed to be the easy sales. What is attractive about the low-hanging fruit is that we typically define these deals as ones where the customer is ready to make a purchase.

Now, if you already have a relationship with the customer and you have gotten into the account early before the competition, then a customer who is ready to make a purchase is a very good qualified deal. But if you are just finding out about a deal, that is ready to make a decision, that’s a red flag… It most likely means that every other salesperson knows about it, and some one is about to pick it, but it probably won’t be you.

So what seem to be the easiest are instead, the most competitive deals. In the end, though, only one person can pick that piece of fruit, so the next time you get a sales lead that says– they are ready to make a buy and they agree to look at your product: Beware…

In the article The Danger of Low Hanging Fruit by Chuck Reaves writes:  In an orchard, the best fruit is usually higher in the tree: In business, the best opportunities are usually higher in the organization. Remember, the competition follows behind the low-hanging fruit picker. In sales, the equivalence of going higher in the tree is vertical growth. Vertical growth is almost always more profitable than horizontal growth.

Once in an account, it’s easier to penetrate account by leveraging knowledge and customer relationships. On the other hand, if your strategy is to only focus on the low-hanging fruit; what happens when all the accounts are fully picked and all the sales people are just pickers? Inevitably, that’s when management says: We have a bunch of farmers, and we need hunters.

When in fact, they don’t have farmers, they have pickers, and yes they need hunters. However, some farmers can be taught to hunt; but, few pickers can. Salespeople and sales leaders develop bad habits during boom times, and once the organization recognizes that the low-hanging fruit is running low, it needs to make some tough decisions. For example: Which players (pickers) on the team can be taught to hunt? How to restructure the sales force?

In the article Goal Setting: Don’t Pick the Low-Hanging Fruit by Christopher Peterson writes: Low-hanging fruit is usually the last thing anyone should pick, metaphorically or literally. Mind you, like many clichés, the message that this one tries to convey is a good one: All things being equal– do what is easy given available resources before doing what is difficult. Fair enough, except– sometimes the easy things are not the good things.

In the case of fruit, if it’s hanging low, it may be bruised or damaged by bugs or varmints. It’s also less likely to be ripe. But, this is not really about fruit; it’s about how do we approach any task in our lives. Sometimes expediency gets in the way of efficiency, and often in the way of excellence. If I want to cook a good meal, or prepare a good lecture, or be a good friend, whatever is low-hanging (e.g., in my refrigerator, in my mind, or in my heart) is not where I should start.

Sometimes I take the easy way out, though, and I often regret it. But, back to fruit: I discovered that in recent decades, the apple industry has tried to develop what are called pedestrian trees, shorter and smaller ones that do not require a ladder for picking because all the fruit is accessible from the ground. So here is a metaphor worth heeding that is not yet a cliché: Lower the tree. In the words of Andrew Goldsmith, who wrote about pedestrian trees: Now, that’s thinking outside the orchard…

In the blog Climb the Tree to More Sales by Jack Derby writes: When I hear the phrase low-hanging fruit which defines a sales strategy, it never really makes any sense to me. First, I don’t buy the theory: If business is that abundant, and it’s staring me in the face, then it’s doing the same to every one of my competitors and basically anyone else who wants to jump in the market. Then, products become commodities, prices drop, market disappears...

Not sure that I can or even want to try to sell value during crazy swings in the market: Then, sell lower-prices; but that never works. Or, sell first-to-market; but that rarely works except for the suppliers who are quick-in and quick-out… I’m pretty sure that I’m not smart enough to figure the market timing. Second, when I am experiencing these types of markets, I really don’t need any professional salespeople just being merely– order takers.

Good work if you can get it, but not sustainable, and it creates havoc within any professional sales force– they became less sharp when they aren’t really consistently using any of their selling skills. In fact, what I really should be doing; if there is a low-hanging fruit market, is hiring inexpensive order takers for the lower branches and pushing my professional salespeople to climb the tree and find the bigger, higher margin deals.

Rather than wasting time and valuable sales talent going after low-hanging fruit; assuming that there really are these markets, I would rather ‘skill’ my salespeople to learn sustainable value propositions that stick to the frontal lobes of their customers…

The concept of low-hanging fruit can be viewed as both a positive and a negative. On one hand, it can be plentiful and a windfall for sales… but, others view it as a waste of time and resource, and look for more attractive strategic sales opportunities, e.g., the big deals. In some businesses, it makes sense to avoid the easiest options if a little more effort and time would result in a much better payoff…

According to Jerry Burin; some businesses view the term low-hanging fruit as derogatory, even insulting… but, they ignore the fact that this type of selling does take time, resource, effort, and it can be very profitable...

According to Seamus Brown; all you do when selling low-hanging fruit is asking customers to buy your product– its transactional product selling… I call this method ‘polling’. But when you look higher-up in the tree, you are ‘problem solving and adding value’– its customer-centric solution selling…

When you focus higher-up in the tree, you have better access to decision-makers and, possibly, influence the customer’s decision criteria. However, low-hanging fruit selling strategies can work, but they are most effective when combined with value-added selling