Are You a Hunter or a Farmer?

Are You a Hunter or a Farmer?

By Joe DiDonato | Chief of Staff | Baker Communications, Inc.

When you start to build out your sales team, knowing the difference between a Hunter and a Farmer can greatly impact your sales.  By reputation, Hunters are sellers who love to chase new leads and sales.  Farmers, on the other hand, are better at developing additional business from existing customers.  Is one better than the other to fill your team with?  That’s a continuing debate that really depends a lot on the types of products and services you’re selling.

If you’re selling new phone services to consumers, you best populate your team with the Hunter instinct, as yearly follow-on sales will be nearly non-existent.  However, in the business-to-business (B2B) space of telecommunications, that will of course be very different.  If you’re in the role of a Sales Development Rep (SDR), it’s all about new customers and logos.  If you’re selling Kirby vacuum cleaners with lifetime warranties, you’re going to need Hunters in your consumer division.

The good news for most businesses, however, is that both types of sellers are needed.  Many businesses subscribe to the 80/20 rule for driving their yearly revenue.  That simply means that 80% of this year’s sales should come from existing customers, while only 20% should come from new customers.  The reason is that new customers are much harder to come by than growing an existing account.  You must deal with a vendor vetting process when you are working with a new customer, as well as multiple competitors, and more rigid bidding processes, to name just a few of the hurdles.

So, it’s for this reason that I’m going to focus on the harder profile – the HunterHunters are unique when it comes to the attributes that make up the Hunter competency.  Adding to that, finding a Hunter is one of the more difficult tasks faced by a hiring manager, when interviewing salespeople.  Why?  All sellers are ‘wired’ to sell, and that includes themselves.  They know they need to focus on the positives and gain your trust, as well as demonstrate their knowledge of selling skills and technologies, their professional demeanor, and their social aptitude.

The Hunter Competency is harder to sort out when you’re meeting with both gifted Hunters and Farmers.  It’s one of the reasons why we like to assess new hires using assessments that can reveal more definitive data.

So, what are some of the things you should look for in a Hunter?  Where will they have the best chance at excelling on your team?

Let’s deal with that second question first.  Hunters are likely to excel as an Account Executive, a Field Sales Representative, an SDR, an outbound Telesales Specialist, or as a Business Development Representative/Manager.  Farmers are likely to excel as Account Managers, Account Representatives, Customer Service Representatives, or inbound Telesales Representatives.

Salespeople with Farmer traits are said to be more focused on not losing business at an account, and as a result, they like to work carefully and slowly, tend to be maintainers of the status quo, are usually stressed by tight deadlines, and are motivated by risk-averse career growth and a comfortable work/life balance.

Conversely, the Hunter exhibits very different traits.  They’re motivated by goal attainment.  They’re optimistic.  They’re more willing to take risks.  And they can be very creative.  However, they can also be prone to mistakes because of their tendency to use “Ready, Shoot, Aim” tactics in their approach, and because they are mostly focused on big commissions, incentives and rewards on the horizon.

This, then, is the 30,000-foot view of the differences. But how do you sort it out when you are in dire need of a Hunter, and all the final candidates seem to be sharp, exhibit winning personalities, and carry themselves as consummate professionals?  It’s at this point, that we like to dive deeper into their motivations, skills, and individual attributes.

Going deeper into what we look for in the Hunter competency, we use the following list of attributes to determine who will be the most successful candidate.  The rest of the ‘fit’ criteria deal with a multitude of other factors that must also be present to make the hire a success.  We’ll deal with the rest of those competencies and attributes in later blog posts.  But here’s the shortlist of attributes that we test for that will identify a great Hunter:

  • They show a strong willingness to prospect.
  • They prospect consistently.
  • They prospect via the telephone and/or will even use walk-ins if the situation demands it.
  • They have zero need for approval.
  • They are very good at scheduling business meetings.
  • They recover quickly from rejection.
  • They maintain a full pipeline.
  • They are not a perfectionist, or it doesn’t prevent them from prospecting.
  • They are very likable.
  • They consistently reach their targeted prospects.
  • They get referrals from their customer and their network.
  • They use social selling tools.
  • They attend networking events.

We recognize that this is a tough list to sort out during an interview.  To create an assessment tool where the candidate can’t easily see the context behind the questions being asked – is a science.  To rely on your own interviewing skills is another way to get to the best candidate.  There are a few of us out there that can do that successfully.  For others, like me, I’ll turn that task over to a pre-hire assessment, and use the resultant data to select the best candidate.

If you’d like to learn more about data-driven sales enablement, we invite you to watch this webinar and hear first-hand, how some of the biggest customers are dealing with Hiring Right & Training Smart: