The Problem With Ants – A B2B Sales Analogy

By Don F Perkins


Ants - Hard working, Organized, Team Players

Ants – Hard working, Organized, Team Players


Ants are known for being industrious, organized and real team players. These are positive traits for B2B sales people too right? (well, yes and no.)

My wife and I recently bought some bait to get rid of ants. You cut the little plastic end open, place the thing in the path of the ants, and voila. After a week or so, no more ants.

Evidently, the packet is filled with some sticky sweetness that the ants cant resist. They eat it. They bring back some leftover stickiness in a little ant bag for Ma and the ant kids. The problem is that the sticky stuff also contains poisonous boric acid, which they cannot detect, and which eventually kills off their entire colony. Ingenious ant stopping technology no?

Even Great Instincts Can Sometimes Work Against You

The ants were just doing their jobs; going out and searching for sustenance and bringing it home. They are real good at it too. They work hard, they are well organized, strong and very efficient, but some crafty scientist out there figured out how to use these great traits against them. Not only to kill the ones who eat, but get them to inadvertently poison their whole colony as well. Perhaps one day, the ants will develop the ability to sense and avoid boric acid laced sugar syrup.. but for now, this is a real show stopper. Low-fives all around.

The Problem With Ants

In B2B sales too, it’s not enough to just have great instincts, to be industrious, strong and well-organized. These are all great characteristics mind you, but there’s some sticky stuff out there that can poison you too. The problem with ants is that they don’t always know that their “food” may be tainted and killing them. B2B sales people can also sometimes miss the subtle difference between a real opportunity and a time-sucking dead-end. You just keep on calling that client, meeting with them, building proposals, adjusting your price and working your tail off, so long as they keep the door open. After all, this is a big fish. The problem with that scenario is that you only have so many hours in a day. There’s not enough time for you to court all those tire-kickers and still close your quota. Bad money is like poisoned sweetness. It may taste pretty good at times, but the truth is that it’s killing you. You have to get good at detecting what’s poisoned sticky stuff and what are high probability sources of good money instead.

B2B sales drones

Avoiding the B2B Sales Death March


There’s Hope For B2B Sales

Unfortunately for ants, they don’t have the internet. (ant-ernet?) But we do! So here’s some great ideas from my smart and snappy colleagues in the sales world. Read what these experts are saying about not wasting your time chasing down poison like so many hard working, organized dead ants:



7 Habits of Highly Effective Ants

Knowing the difference between quality time and wasted time (Anthony Iannarino)

Knowing what questions to ask and when (Kelley Robertson)

Knowing how to manage your time in sales (Colleen Francis)

Knowing the difference between politeness and genuine interest (Vince Koehler)

Knowing the difference between average prospects and better sales prospects (Mark Hunter)

Knowing the difference between being thorough and wasting your customer’s time (David A Brock)

Knowing what to keep in the funnel and what to throw away (Tibor Shanto)


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  1. #1 by Mary on July 22, 2012 - 3:52 am

    This is true for those in the sales field. They are being patient and industrious but they don’t see that there’s nothing there for them in the end, or even worse. How ants are is a great analogy on this.

    • #2 by Don F Perkins on July 25, 2012 - 9:52 pm

      Thanks Mary –

      Hard work is important, but certainly doesn’t amount to much if it’s not smart work too. Cheers!

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