Who’s the best sales trainer you ever had? Mine was Elmer Fudd.

Thanks to Mel Blanc and Looney Tunes, I grew up attending Saturday morning sales training each week. And Elmer Fudd was the best in the business. He opened many an episode by looking into the camera and whispering, “Shhh. Be vewy vewy quiet, I’m hunting wabbits.” It’s genius, really. But it’s also subtle.

It wasn’t until just after my 20th birthday that I had my first Fudd Epiphany. The carrier I had been recruited to work for sent me to a 4-day indoctrination, er, sales training program. Our trainer said, “99 percent of U.S. businesses have less than 500 employees, and most of those have less than 10 employees, so guess where your prospecting should be focused. Get those dreams of landing General Motors out of your head. You’re not going to eat if you wait until you bag an elephant. You have to shoot some rabbits along the way, and there are a lot more rabbits out there than elephants.” 

And so it was that the Elmer Fudd sales philosophy crystalized for me. According to the SBA, that 99 percent figure is as accurate today as it was in 1989. You build your business by nickels and dimes, not a million dollars a clip.

Intellectually, we know that. Experientially? Well, that’s a different thing altogether. Hunting wabbits is a messy business. It was for Elmer, too. We watched him shoot himself, blow himself up and inflict all manner of bodily harm upon himself, often after being tricked by the wabbit.

Hunting wabbits means literally getting your hands dirty. It isn’t glamorous. It’s slow. It doesn’t seem like much at the end of a month, or even the end of a year. But here’s some trivia for you.

Do you know how Aflac became the No. 1 voluntary provider? It wasn’t that duck. It was three enrollees at a time. I’ve signed apps on crates and pallets and the beds of pickup trucks, standing under umbrellas at three in the morning. So have tens of thousands of others.

And we know that hunting wabbits on a daily basis will pay you handsomely over time. All those little 3 and 5 employee groups simply add up and one day your book of business is thousands of policyholders. And make no mistake. Wabbits will sometimes refer you to elephants. Those are bonuses and you’re thrilled to get them.

But when a new agent starts talking about that elephant where their mom used to work and they just know they can get an appointment, I put my index finger to my lips and politely say, “Shhh. Be vewy vewy quiet, I’m hunting wabbits.”