Drive New Revenue: Balance Your Mix of Hunters and Farmers

What’s the difference between a hunter and a farmer in sales?

Hunters excel at prospecting, generating new opportunities, and closing deals.

They love this part of the business; they dread the servicing side.

Farmers are better at managing and growing current accounts.

They enjoy spending time with prospects, customers or clients and servicing their needs.

Is it that simple?  And why should you care?

After all, these descriptors have been around forever.

Are they even relevant in the era of modern sales?

Companies continually mismatch salespeople’s talents and roles. They’re not paying attention.

I see it every time I am in the field on client engagements.

I do know this, to grow new revenues, you must first know who’s who and put them in the right roles. To improve short-term revenues─maximize the value each personality type brings to the table by coaching and training to augment their inherent skills set.

But there’s more to it than simply finding a balance between the two roles. You need to find an internal balance of skills within each personality.

The first action to take: Perform a detailed analysis of each salesperson (preferably before you hire them) and identify which role(s) best suit their capabilities. Any number of excellent personality profilers can be found on the market. At PleinAire, we prefer the sales evaluation solution from Objective Management.

Roles for Hunters and Farmers

After you do your evaluation and understand your salespeople’s DNA, place hunters and farmers into roles that leverage their unique skill sets.

Hunters often excel at:

  • Account executive
  • Field sales representative
  • Business development rep/manager
Farmers often excel at:

  • Account manager/representative
  • Customer service representative
  • Inside sales representative

Not Black and White


Excerpted from an infographic by Sales Loft

Of course, nothing is quite that black and white.  Look at the relative strengths of hunters and farmers below:

Because a hunter is naturally good at networking doesn’t mean a farmer can’t be trained to walk in and work a room.

For example, working with a small sales group which did not make a distinction between hunters and farmers, we designed new business development training around DNA testing results and customized the approach to each persona. We asked the farmers look for referrals from existing customers by using LinkedIn as a prospecting tool. Their initial contact was warmer than a cold call, and they found it more comfortable to “hunt.”

Larger organizations find it easier to assign salespeople to specialized roles due to the presence of a human resources staff and technical resources to do advanced testing and profiling.

In our experience, smaller organizations can design sales strategies around the strengths of hunters and farmers, and manage where overlaps occur, as well as larger organizations.

If the CEO wants predictable growth of profitable revenue, how do you use the collective strengths of hunters and farmer to reach these goals?

You need a balance of both types of sales roles, filled with people whose innate skills are supplemented and further balanced through training and coaching. I know, I know. It’s rare to find the qualities of both hunters and farmers in one person. Don’t look for that. Slowly cultivate it, instead. Yes, it is a dual balancing act. Balance the roles. Balance the people within the roles.

Let me repeat, to create a high-performing sales organization, you must know your sales reps’ strengths and weaknesses. Then, create a balance where both hunters and farmers are represented in proportion to how important new business or recurring revenue is in your sales strategy, right down to what territories need what type of people.


Excerpted from an infographic by Sales Loft

Too many hunters with few farmers may result in rapid customer acquisition, but you will not grow or satisfy your existing customer base. Likewise, too many farmers with few hunters will build a loyal customer base, but new sales opportunities may dry up.

In my opinion, we should replace the term hunters and farmers with one with fewer boundaries.

After all, all the data points to the near-death of B2B salespeople as we know them.

A confluence of forces has already swept major change onto the landscape of sales.
More informed buyers. Digital automation. And AI (artificial intelligence) may render traditional sales obsolete.

Who needs order takers any more? Who needs product explainers anymore? Who wants a sales pitch anymore?

Research indicates that the only role in B2B sales that will survive and continue to grow is “consultant” or “trusted advisor.” I call for a new, modern sales term:  Perspective consultant, a prospect sales expert who collaborates and consistently brings a new perspective to the engagement, solves problems prospects overlooked, and shapes the vision for a solution in the best interest of that prospect.

Perspective consultants doesn’t mean you abandon learning the identity of your hunters and farmers. That’s your starting point. Then you train and coach to inculcate (as much as possible) the strengths of both.

Once you’ve got your sales team working closer to potential and in the best-suited roles for them, you train them to transition to perspective consultants.  How do you do that?

Wait for it . . .

Adopt our MERGE 2.0 sales process either by training in a private workshop, in our online training module (due out shortly) or with my latest book, MERGE 2.0─New Strategies to Pinpoint How Prospect Buy (also due out before year’s end).

In sales, as in life, the only constant is change. Never stop learning.

See you on the upside,

Bill

For more information, go to www.pleinairestrategies.com
Or call William L. MacDonald in San Diego at PleinAire Strategies LLC at 760.340.4277 or 213.598.4700

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