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TCFP133: HUNTERS VS. FARMERS - WHO DO YOU NEED ON YOUR SALES TEAM?

Thank you for listening to The Champion Forum Podcast with Jeff Hancher! Today we’re answering a listener’s question about how to explain the different types of sales professionals and why oranizations need both. In short, your business needs salespeople that know how to persistently hunt down leads and people who know how to nurture the clients you already have and convince them to buy more. While both are sales roles, they are very different. If your organization does not have the right balance of these two types of sales professionals, you will lose out on revenue and lose your competitive advantage. Tune in to hear how you can apply this strategy to your sales team even if you are a small business!

First, you have to know the difference between Hunters and Farmers because they are very different roles. It is critical to have the right person in the right seat! Hunters are salespeople who love to chase new leads and sales. Farmers prefer to get more business out of their existing clients. There will always be debates as to which is better, but it ultimately depends on the type of product or service you’re selling.

The Hunters

Hunters are energized by searching out new clients and opportunities. They are independent, self-starters, and solution-driven. They tend to focus on big deals and love moving on to the next client once their deal is secure. Hunters tend to be:

  • Mission focused

  • Numbers-driven

  • Competitive

  • Persistent

  • Independent

Hunters are likely to excel in the following sales roles:

  • Account executive

  • Field sales representative

  • Business development representative/manager

Q: Would you add any other qualities to this list? How can you recognize these qualities in others? Do they remind you of anyone who is already on your team? How so?

The Farmers

In contrast to the hunters, farmers are nurturers who are focused on building relationships with leads and clients for a lasting impact. They are team players that bring everyone else up and develop strong customer loyalty. Farmers are:

  • Results-focused

  • Relational driven

  • Service-oriented

  • Disciplined and Systematic

  • Collaborative

Sales roles where farmers are likely to excel:

  • Account manager/representative

  • Customer service representative

  • Inside sales representative

Q: Would you add any other qualities to this list? How can you recognize these qualities in others? Do they remind you of anyone who is already on your team? How so?

Impact on Your Business

Companies need both hunters and farmers on their teams to succeed. Get to know your sales team by understanding your representatives’ strengths and weaknesses. If your company needs to constantly acquire new leads, you should have a larger proportion of hunters. If your company serves a smaller number of customers and is relationally focused, you may need fewer hunters. If you have hunters, but no farmers, you will become great at acquiring customers, but struggle in providing an excellent customer experience. Likewise, having farmers but no hunters will help you achieve a loyal customer base, but you will have a hard time expanding the company to new customers and opportunities.

Q: Does your company have split roles? Why or why not? Which role do you think is more important for your business based on the product or service you provide? Explain your reasoning.

The Best Case Scenario

The best possible situation for a sales team is a balanced number of hunters and farmers. However, many small businesses are often forced to double-up sales staff’s responsibilities. Even in these situations, your role as a leader should be to help your employees specialize or take on specialized elements in their current role. If you do not take the initiative to capitalize on your sales personnel’s natural strengths, you will miss sales opportunities, decrease your competitive advantage, retain fewer customers, and miss your profit goals.

Obviously, specialized roles are easier to accommodate in larger organizations, but even on smaller teams, you can delegate responsibilities accordingly. The same people can have multiple roles, but they should play to what they’re best at. Smaller businesses that do not have the luxury to create separate positions should focus on creating incentive-based compensation plans that will drive both new business and account management.

Clearly defining your team's roles and objectives will help your team members feel secure in their roles and understand their goals. Knowing whether someone is a hunter or farmer will help their supervisors create strategies to meet those objectives. It will also allow your employees to specialize in their area of expertise and increase their skills. Finally, it will also ensure you are giving equal attention to customer relations and customer acquisition.

Q: Think of a time when you had an excellent experience with a customer. Describe the qualities of the salesperson. What happened after the sale? What happened if you had any problems with your purchase? What stood out to you about the customer service? Could anything have been done to make it better?

Application Activities:

  1. Identify the hunters and farmers on your team. Are they in appropriate roles? If you are not sure, or you are evaluating a new team, try roleplaying situations to discover their preferences and personalities. Come up with scenarios where employees must decide whether to chase a new prospect or nurture an existing relationship. Look at the steps they take in a role play on resolving a customer issue or how they attack a difficult, but promising, lead. Make sure that the role they are in matches with the qualities you discover.

  2. If you are trying to lead up and encourage your company to reevaluate its sales roles, find the exact numbers. Look at how much revenue comes from new clients vs. existing clients. How much time are your salespeople spending in the field vs working with existing clients? Check out this article to better understand what statistics can help support your argument/

  3. If you are in sales, but you are not a sales leader. evaluate your role. what responsibilities do you have that would be for a farmer? For a hunter? Which do you thrive in? Evaluate how you can spend your time to make the maximum impact.


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