Friday, May 15, 2009

Whale Hunting Women with Barbara Weaver Smith

Joining us today is Dr. Barbara Weaver Smith, author of Whale Hunting Women: How Women Do Big Deals. Barbara is the president and CEO of The Whale Hunters, a training and consulting company helping clients accelerate their business growth through large account sales. We’ll discuss Whale Hunters, her latest book, and how even small companies can be whale hunters.

Welcome to The Book Connection, Barbara. It is an honor to have you with us.

Please start off by telling us a bit about yourself and your background.

Thank you, Cheryl. I could say, and I think many women will resonate with this fact; I’m in my fourth career! Early on, before I completed my formal education, I had several service and secretarial jobs in retail, higher education, and manufacturing. Next I began a higher ed teaching career at two universities, ending up with significant administrative responsibilities as an academic dean. I moved on to become president of a statewide cultural nonprofit organization. And thirteen years ago, I took the plunge to become an entrepreneur. My husband Larry and I between us have four adult children and seven grandchildren. We live and work in downtown Indianapolis, and we spend significant time in Phoenix, where we’ve opened a new office.

How did The Whale Hunters begin?

I have had a consulting business since 1996; my first business supports deal-making in higher education and large nonprofits. I entered the market of business owners/entrepreneurs with a former partner, about six years ago. He had the concept of sales process development, and I had the concept of organizational learning and change. We built out the intellectual property of whale hunting over several years’ time. As we began to envision different scenarios for the company’s future, I was successful in buying out his interest last December.

Did you have any idea how successful this company would be?

I always believed it would be successful. Our team is now taking the company in some very new directions—especially building a strong online community space where we can support whale hunters at a distance and in a way that is affordable for a large number of companies.

When did you turn your attention to writing?

Cheryl, I was an English major and an English professor—I have three college degrees in English! So I have always been a writer. What’s more interesting is writing for a new audience—I think it is a more direct, perhaps even more authentic kind of writing. Processes that I have invented, methods that I have learned in practice with clients—I have a strong desire to share those with others who want to hunt whales.

Let’s talk about Whale Hunting Women: How Women Do Big Deals. Where did the idea for this book come from?

This book came first from my consulting experiences with The Whale Hunters. Disproportionately, our clients have been women-owned businesses or companies with a strong female executive team. It’s been quite extraordinary. Secondarily, ideas have come from women who are leaders in education systems and in community development and philanthropy, at both the executive and board levels. Many of these women have read my first book and helped me to realize that they, too, are whale hunters. So now it’s not only about business and sales—it’s about doing big deals in all kinds of ways.

Why is that women are well poised to hunt whales?

I believe that women have innate gifts that are essential for business success in today’s complex sales environment. Whale hunting requires cooperation, teaching, patience, preparation, empowering others, and trust in a well-prepared team. Not only are we born with these gifts, we are socialized to practice them and rewarded for these so-called “soft skills.” Whale hunting is not about rock stars—it is about disciplined, high performing teams. I think it’s a natural for how women prefer to operate.

Can even small companies be whale hunters?

Yes. Any company can aspire to grow fast by selling bigger deals to bigger customers. That’s what whale hunting is all about—getting deals that are 10 times or 20 times the size of your average. So the size of what constitutes a whale for one company might be much larger or much smaller than another company. It doesn’t matter. The point is that you grow your company by focusing on ideal clients, larger than the ones you have at the moment, and you build an organization that is not only capable of making the sale, but delivering the products and services at a high level of excellence.

How can companies work on their culture to grow faster?

I’ve written quite a bit about my notion of a fast growth culture. I believe it’s a combination of resources and collaboration. Fast growth requires that everybody have a sense of the whole and where they fit in—that takes collaboration. And it requires faith that when new work comes on board, the resources will be deployed to get the work done properly. In other words, there is a trust that the company’s growth won’t come about by just expecting everyone to work harder or longer. In a company where people are denied access to important information, and where there is competition for resources, growth stagnates. The way to change is to involve everyone in designing the change model, assign resources according to need and contribution rather than seniority or even-handedness, and engage in a series of conversations about where this village is headed and why whale hunting is a necessity if we are going to survive and thrive. That strategic-level change should be accompanied by relaxation of top-down rules, greater empowerment of the people closest to the customers, and more productive habits of exchanging information and ideas.

Tell us about the “Reflection” and “Action” pages found in the book.

These pages follow every chapter. Their purpose is to prompt a woman reader to think about the concepts, strategies, or tactics presented in the chapter and apply them deliberately to her own personal whale hunt. It makes the book more like a personal journal in which we can record our thoughts and write down our action steps for a whale hunt.

Where can readers purchase a copy Whale Hunting Women?

Whale Hunting Women is a downloadable eBook available exclusively on the Whale Hunters website—

Do you have a website or blog?

I blog at I would love to have your audience subscribe to my blog and offer comments. I will personally respond to all blog comments.

What is up next for you and The Whale Hunters?

Thank you for asking! For the next 18 months, we will focus on our Whale Hunting Women program, conducted in 24 key cities in the U.S. and Canada, and featuring an annual Summit in each community and the opportunity for women to join a local chapter focused on supporting one another in doing big deals. Concurrently, we are building out an online community environment to provide resources, discussion, and training to whale hunters.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I would certainly like to thank you for hosting me and to thank all of your authors for spending time to learn about Whale Hunters and Whale Hunting Women. I’d encourage people to visit our website and learn more about our products and services. We have a number of books and audio books available, and we conduct a series of whale hunting workshops around the U.S. Sign up (on the website) for our free biweekly newsletter and you’ll be assured of getting a constant stream of good whale hunting advice plus notice of upcoming training opportunities and community events.

Thank you for spending time with us today, Barbara. You’ve certainly given us a lot to think about. I wish you continued success.

Thank you for visiting this post about Barbara Weaver Smith and Whale Hunting Women. We are offering a free giveaway to two people who comment during the tour and to the hosts where they posted. It is simple to be entered in the giveaway – just post a comment on any post about the tour and you will be entered. But, an interesting post is more likely to get our attention. The host on the site where the winning comments are posted will also win a three-volume set of Whale Hunters Wisdom in audio format. Volumes include I: Mind of a Hunter, II: The Hunt, and III: The Whale Hunting Culture. This is a $90 value. To see the tour schedule visit

Barbara Weaver Smith’s website -

Barbara Weaver Smith’s blog -

Order your copy of Whale Hunting Women

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