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Salespeople – The Difference Between Hunters and Farmers

Hunters and farmers aren't the only functions associated with salespeople. There are many roles and specific skills related to each position. The success of your sales team and their role can impact the success of your whole business. Read about each role and how they can excel at different things.

Salespeople Who Are Hunters

A hunter is defined as someone who is targeting new businesses that doesn't currently work with their organization.

Being a good hunter means you have specific skills such as:

  • Prospecting
  • Identifying the right targets
  • Getting the customer’s attention
  • Networking
  • Differentiation

A hunter needs to be able to grab the attention of a new customer. They need to be adept at standing out from the competition and selling their company’s value.

Characteristics of a Hunter

Hunters are often independent people who are fast learners. They are also adaptable and good at reading a person or a situation. When they are off hunting, they'll encounter many personalities and need to know how best to communicate to the new prospects. A good hunter is ambitious and assertive. Friendly and polite are necessary, but when it comes down to it, an elite hunter will close the deal.

Nurturing a lead is an important characteristic of a Hunter. According to Convince and Convert, "79% of marketing leads never convert into sales. Lack of lead nurturing is the common cause of this poor performance."

If You Only Have Hunters

Having only hunters on your sales team can hinder your company. If you only have "hunters," you may find yourself with a retention problem. You will always need to keep finding new business, and customer relationships can suffer. According to Small Business Trends,“82 percent of consumers in the United States said they stopped doing business with a company due to a poor customer experience.” So, you need salespeople who will continue to build relationships with customers – a farmer.

Salespeople Who Are Farmers

A farmer is defined as someone who is looking for the next opportunity within a customer that their organization already has an established relationship. This opportunity could be expanding current business by introducing a different product or service for that existing customer.

Being a good farmer means you have specific skills such as:

  • Supporting accounts
  • Communicating upwards
  • Looking for the next opportunity
  • Strong relationship building skills

A farmer needs to be able to retain and maintain their current customers. They need to be able to show their company’s value and communicate to all relevant parties within the customer's organization.

Characteristics of a Farmer

Farmers are often geared towards relationship building and customer service. Farmers can relate to and recognize which accounts need attention. They are also precise and analytical. Also, they enjoy solving problems and are often pragmatic. They consider their customers’ needs and desires and want to make sure they are always being nurtured.

If You Only Have Farmers

If you only have "farmers," you will find yourself unable to fill your pipeline and not have new market growth. This can create an annuity effect where the salesperson is happy and busy managing their accounts while the company ceases to grow.

Farmers often nurture existing customers over going out and chasing new business, which can lead to a lack of new opportunities. It is essential to continuously target new customers, not just for the increased revenue, but also because of the inevitable customer attrition. According to Small Business Trends, "A typical American business will lose 15 percent of its customers each year. 27 percent of small business owners estimate that 11-20 percent of first-time customers don't return to their business.”

Then There is the Hybrid

The hybrid salesperson is defined as someone who needs to find new prospects and maintain them. You'll often see this type of role in smaller organizations.

This is a challenging role to be successful. The salesperson will most likely focus on the skills associated with a hunter over a farmer, based on what they feel is most comfortable. If they are looking for new prospects, they will probably find them, but not build a significant relationship. Chances are if they like their accounts, they may not go out and find many new prospects.

You Only Have Hybrids

If you only have hybrids, chances are your salespeople will lean one way or another, and there could be major weak spots. Work for that customer can be incomplete or unprepared. There could be lost revenue and upset customers. You could also have too many customers with no one to nurture them, causing them to move to a competitor. According to BrainSINS, “47 percent of customers would take their business to a competitor within a day of experiencing poor customer service.”

The Evolution to Business Development

Business development is another evolution of salespeople. This role is like the classic "phone dialer" where they are trying to set up appointments or calls for the hunter who then goes in and shows the prospect the value and differentiation. We often think of this role as the ‘rock turners’ uncovering new opportunities.

The business development role works very closely with the products and services on competitive positioning, as well as marketing for developing the most productive definition of the value proposition.

They then help identify the most effective communication channels and the most cost-effective lead generation process.

Who Do You Need on Your Team?

When it comes to hiring, if you're not sure what type of salesperson you need, look at your strategy. This is one of the biggest misses sales leaders tend to experience.

Sales leaders often hire a salesperson without defining the specifics of the role. They will see if the person comes from a similar background, has a good track record, and interviews well. But instead, they may want to:

  • Identify the company needs
  • Define the salesperson role
  • Interview for those skills

Overall 

What's most important in the success of the sales team's performance is understanding the nature of personalities, sales roles, and their skill set. When everyone is working in areas where they can excel, the organization will be balanced and more productive. The team will also feel more fulfilled, and morale will be higher, which leads to higher revenue.

About Gary Braun

Gary is a founder and co-owner of Pivotal Advisors. He has worked for 20+ years as a salesperson and sales leader. Gary has been a guest speaker for many groups such as Vistage, Allied Executives, CEO Roundtable, Sales Management Association, and more. If you want to find out more about Gary check out his profile here.
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