How to Close More Sales: Choose a Hunter, NOT a Farmer
Updated: Apr 21
Salespeople keep the lights on but not all are the same. From our experience, Hunters will devour any leads presented to them, where farmers are more lax when it comes to lead followup.
Hiring great sales representatives can make a huge impact on your business. The big question for your organization is; “What kind of sales representative do you want to hire, a hunter or a farmer?”
Hunter vs. Farmer
Think about the origin of these labels.
Hunters are fearless warriors willing to leave the safety of their home base and travel far and wide for a successful kill.
A farmer prefers to stay close to home and tend a particular piece of land. The farmer's success is far more predictable with much less risk.
Traditionally, hunters were the celebrated characters in their communities and reaped more rewards than their farmer counterparts.
So, who should you hire?
Hire a hunter, not a farmer and here’s why:
Hunter Attributes and Work Habits
Hunters are hard-charging, and when they are good at what they do, they grow your business. Note: Hunters can be hard to manage and don’t like being fenced in.
They thrive on the sales process where they find excitement and satisfaction in the deal process itself.
The hunter is continuously juggling several opportunities at once, and most are reluctant to turn down a new opportunity.
This sales type is typically up early and works late, and travel comes with the territory.
However, once the hunter shepherds a deal to a close, there is minimal excitement in rolling out the new client for the hunter. Hand holding and oversight is not for the hunter.
Farmer Attributes and Work Habits
Farmers thrive in a process-oriented environment and consequently manage named accounts, which they have exclusive control over.
The farmer possesses a more limited set of selling skills, as they only sell to people they know at their named account. Unfortunately, some farmers can become overpaid order takers.
This salesperson type is more averse to uncertainty and is willing to accept a smaller but more reliable commission.
Farmers prefer planned events and meetings and schedule their time efficiently.
The farmer enjoys getting to know their prospects personally and strives to become likable and tend to work in a collegial manner with the account owner. (Caution: When the relationship becomes too close, there can be problems.)
So why not employ both sales types?
Many companies employ both sales types, and often hunters and farmers work the same territory. Good hunters should receive assistance with lead development, from trade shows, inside sales, or the outsourced lead gen service you employ. Many times, farmers are also fed new greenfield leads as sales management wants to leverage their free time outside of named accounts. That is a mistake!
The farmer is not money motivated, and they already have a comfortable base and commission built into their compensation package from existing repeat business. They will work on new leads but to a point. Farmers do now want to stray off the reservation for too long, and their named accounts are their priority. Consequently, farmers are not prepared to do the hard work with second and third meetings, deep-dive product reviews, numerous phone calls, and emails, as a followup to the busy prospect. Farmers are just not built for it.
What is the alternative?
Save money and build a farm team
The Pareto Principle, or “80/20 Rule”, says that 80% of your sales come from 20% or less or your sales team. The hunters represent a good part of that 20%.
Explore this as a strategy; when a hunter wins a deal, allow them to maintain control of the
opportunity. Then, pay them a small monthly commission, based on two things: residual income from the new business and their willingness to interface with and train a sales liaison to manage the account for them.
The liaison should be a person from your inside sales organization or someone that holds a
position in marketing, surrounding funnel management and lead nurturing. The liaison should receive a straight salary and a small commission for the new business they develop while
managing the account.
The liaison, in this case, will manage the account(s) and also be trained to become a Hunter.
Note: Carefully evaluate that the person you hire is motivated to become something more than a farm hand. The risk you run is that this person will be satisfied with being an account manager. Account managers, in time, often become lazy, and they can become a drag on your sales organization. Try and keep everyone hungry for more commissions by hiring the right personality type.
Dangle the carrot for the liaison. Allow the liaison to attend WebEx meetings conducted by the hunter and when possible attend a live meeting. Think about it; both parties are receiving a small sliver of the account commission from the same pot, which helps to foster common goals and teamwork.
Send all of your leads to the hunter, and when the liaison is ready, allow the hunter to assist them in closing small deals as a training ground for future activity.
This model will immediately begin saving your company money with lowering salaries. Within 12-18 months advance the liaison to a hunter slot. (Note: This is the time to fish or cut bait with your newbie. If they are not working out, find a new person.)
Well-qualified hunters run circles around other salespeople, especially farmers. They are self-motivated and often do the work of two people. Use a portion of the money you would have paid a farmer and spend a bit more to hire well-qualified hunters. Be clear upfront, so they understand what you will be asking them to do in this selling - nurture - training model.
Once the hunter has successfully trained the liaison to be a hunter, pay them a small commission on the first three to five deals closed by the new hunter. Remember, incentives foster good outcomes.
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