Selling The South Pole

Early in 1914, 100 years ago to this day, Ernest Shackleton and the 27 crew members of the Endurance expedition were stranded in the Weddell Sea.  Their ship was hopelessly locked in the icepack, preventing them from reaching shore, where they would begin what Shackleton called, “The Last Great Journey On Earth.”  Their goal was to send a group of the 27 men across the entire continent on foot-some 1,800 miles!  A journey of this magnitude had never been though of or attempted by anyone else, ever.

Shackleton was no stranger to Polar exploration, as he was a member of the Discovery Expedition of 1902, led by Robert F Scott.  That expedition was the first serious attempt to reach the South Pole.  They failed in that attempt.  A few years later, Shackleton decided to form his own team, launching the Nimrod Expedition in 1907.  Amazingly, Shackleton and his three comrades, got within 97.5 nautical miles of the South Pole, when he made the difficult decision to turn back due to supplies running short.  His decision to put the needs of the men ahead of what he wanted and needed speaks volumes about his character.  Just a couple years later, there was a very famous “race to the South Pole” between Robert Scott (England) and Roald Amundsen (Norwegian).  Both teams made it to the pole, with the Norwegians arriving first in December, 1911.  The British arrived a few weeks later in January, 1912.  On the return journey, the Norwegian team ran like clockwork, arriving one day after Amundsen had predicted.  Sadly, all members of the British party perished, three of them just 11 miles from a depot box they had set for themselves on the way down.

Now that Shackleton has been beaten to the pole, he ups the ante significantly in 1914 when he launched the Endurance Expedition.  This was the adventure that he called, “The Last Great Journey On Earth.”  In order to see this through, Shackleton had to sell the dream.  He needed investors, crew members and others to help him launch the expedition.  Here is the copy of the ad he ran in London to recruit members for the expedition:


“For hazardous journey.  Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful, honor and recognition in case of success.”

How many people do you think responded to this?  5,000 people raised their hand, from one degree to another.  Shackleton had to sell the mission.  What about this do you think made it work?  More importantly, as a sales person, what does this tell you about how you can be more effective in 2015 as you set out on a new year ahead?  Here are a few practical take-aways that sales people can profit from:

1.  The Power of Being Different: If you look at an ad like this compared to others, one of the reasons it was so effective was because it stood out.  Often in sales, it’s not the biggest, best, fastest, strongest, etc that wins the deal.  More often than you may think it’s the person or company that is most remembered by a prospective customer.  Being different has so many benefits, standing out being one of them.  You’ve likely heard the definition of insanity, doing the same thing over and over, and expecting a different result.  If this is true, then my question is what are you doing in 2015 that is different?  Take hiring as an example.  Every good sales leader is always actively recruiting, or should be.  As you think about how to attract the very best people, how can you stand out from the competition?  How can you grab the attention of passive candidates who are not looking for a different opportunity?  What will grab them and cause them to call you?  One of the keynotes that I am asked to deliver quite often is how to develop compelling company stories for recruiting purposes.  The power of the stories that are currently within your company are much more powerful than you may realize.  Stories from current employees, customers, vendors, partners, and others associated with you, are very powerful-if they are harnessed and told right.  Go to YouTube and look at stories from Westjet, Dollar Shave Club and others who have showcased themselves in a very unique way.  How can you do this?

2.  The Power of Thinking BIG: Shackleton’s goal to cross the continent was big, really big-almost too big.  For 2015, what is something that you’ve never accomplished in your career that you’d really like to?  For example, what are the top 10 accounts that you know are a good fit for what you sell, but you’ve never called on them because you’re afraid.  Come on, every sales person has particular people and accounts that they would love to have and are likely a good fit for what they do; for some reason, fear has stopped you from picking up the phone or showing up at their door.  Make a list of just 10 of them, create a different plan, and go after them this year.  What questions can you ask prospective customers that are different?  How can you create a different experience for a prospective customer than they’ve likely seen from all the other sales people in your industry who have called on them?  What value can you bring them that nobody ever has before?  This takes some thought and creativity.  The payoff is much bigger than you think.

These are just two examples of many that can be learned from Shackleton’s Endurance expedition and how we can be better sales people.  Remember this: the key to generating better results, is to be better.  The question for you is, “What will you do in 2015 to be better, to stand out from the competition, and to achieve bigger and more difficult things than you have in years past?”

I welcome your calls, comments and suggestions.  For more on this, here’s a link to a great overview of the story:

This entry was posted in Uncategorized by Antarctic Mike. Bookmark the permalink.

About Antarctic Mike

I work with organizations who want their people to be fired up, fully engaged, and focused on growing the business, not merely maintaining it. I'm an avid adventure athlete, having completed marathons and ultra marathons in some of the world's most challenging conditions including the Canadian Arctic, Mount Washington, Siberia and Antarctica. What I've learned through Antarctic history, including preparing for my own Antarctic expeditions, has taught me significant business and sales principles that I now present in my speaking programs.

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