7 things sales leaders can learn from honeybees

by | Apr 18, 2018 | Professional Development, Selling Tips

“If the bee disappears from the surface of the earth, man would have no more than four years to live.” ~ Albert Einstein

When I’m not busy running my leadership development and coaching business and my online sales training program, I’m a busy urban beekeeper. Honeybees, to be specific. And guess what? There’s a lot we sales types can learn from our black and yellow friends! Bees are a buzz to watch (pun alert). They’re fantastic workers, take good care of each other and the hive, and are focused on producing results. In fact, the more I work with bees, the more I see connections to good sales practices.

Here are a few honeybee facts:

  • Every third mouthful of food eaten in the world is from crops pollinated by honeybees.
  • A hive of bees will collectively fly 90,000 miles, the equivalent of three orbits around the earth, to collect one kg of honey.
  • A honeybee visits 50 to 100 flowers during a collection trip (wouldn’t you love your salespeople to do the same?)
  • If a honeybee finds a particularly fabulous patch of flowers, water sources or new hive locations, they come back to the hive and do a waggle dance. This dance shares information about the direction and distance to the patches.
  • One healthy hive can produce more than 150 lbs of honey each year.

We can all learn a lot from bees.

1. Whatever your job is, do it well

Newborn bees clean up their cell so the queen has a place to lay another egg. As they age, bees take on different tasks to ensure the hive works well: nursing, foraging, guarding, cleaning and constructing honeycomb. Is your team flexible enough to offer help to other team members when it’s needed?

2. No one has to keep track if everybody shares

All the jobs in a hive are necessary. Not every bee makes honey, but all bees share in the honey.

What if we had an “ours” vs. “mine” mentality in business? If salespeople felt accounts belonged to the company, not their private fiefdoms, they might stop hoarding information and behaving like lone superstars. The benefits just might be less disruptive in-fighting and more productivity and profits.

3. Thriving communities include all ages

In the hive, bees of all ages have different roles as they mature, and all ages contribute to the overall health of the community. If that equilibrium is upset, the hive is at risk. For example, if mature bees become lost and die prematurely due to a negative event like “colony collapse disorder”, young bees may not survive because older bees aren’t there to learn from and bring food.

A business works best when a variety of age groups and backgrounds contribute to the workplace. All businesses need their share of mentors, coaches, teachers, “rainmakers”, “hunters and farmers”, and young talent with new ideas and energy.

4. You can’t make honey by yourself

Bees can only make honey by collaborating.

Here’s a great definition of collaboration at work: The ease and efficiency with which people share knowledge and work together for a common purpose. How collaborative is your workplace and your team? Do people look for opportunities to work with colleagues, customers and leaders to make more honey?

5. Bees say and do a lot without words. Learn by listening, watching and waiting

You can gather up many clues about a hive by watching its activity. You can tell if a hive is happy, agitated, if the queen is sending out word for the worker bees to return, if they’re getting ready to swarm.

The same holds true in sales. If you stop talking and start observing customers’ behavior, you will be able to gauge what they’re thinking but not saying. For example, keep a close eye on how they treat their employees and whether they act collaboratively.

6. Bees pick up on fear

Bees know when you are afraid, and that’s when you’re more likely to be stung. Customers can also sense fear, and that’s when they’re more likely to take advantage of you or decide they don’t want to work with you.

Calmness is power, particularly when you’re nervous. Breathe slowly and breathe again.

7. Will people remember you for your honey or your sting?

Be careful how you treat people. They carry your reputation.