There’s an old saying in sales that you’re either a hunter or a farmer. You are either suited to finding new business, or to the demands of account management. Well I beg to differ. Almost all of the sales people I’ve ever worked with, and I can’t think of any that haven’t, started as Hunters, but have progressed over time to become Farmers.
And this is true no matter how well suited the sales person may be to Hunting in the first place.
You’ll note that I am excluding so-called New Business Development specialists who might spend their entire career in the pursuit of new accounts to open up. Though I suspect that a good many of these guys progress to account management too, and I’d even bet that progressing in that direction becomes an aspiration?
Great Hunters all start the same way. Hungry and hard-working.
They do not wait for the world to deliver for them the living they think they deserve, rather they throw themselves in the way of opportunity and learn in the process. They make a ton of mistakes, but still manage to win.
They set the agenda. They dictate what the client does and the earnings they take from the account list they are building and managing.
They don’t make or accept excuses. They analyse opportunity and where they feel none exists they move on. It’s far worse to stand still and wait than hang around and miss something. Always moving, always prospecting, always ‘on’.
They lose a good proportion of the business they win however. They don’t have the eye for detail needed to grow accounts, nor the patience for after care. Sitting around with an established client chewing the fat feels like the most expensive habit in the world.
They take short cuts, upset the apple cart and generally make things happen. They often leave a trail in their wake of disgruntled veteran sales people who have slept on leads for weeks that the Hunter has swooped in on. They don’t care for office politics and often make their disdain of the status quo well-known. Which is interesting, as they inevitably become part of it themselves in the end.
A word here for the natural Farmers. The start of their career is the most uncomfortable part for them. Going against the grain to push themselves into harms way. Nagging for appointments and chipping away at decisions is anathema to these guys. But they learn. Maybe with a grand dream of easier times ahead to see them through, they learn to adopt the characteristics of the natural Hunter and start to scratch that pad.
But thereafter, once the hard work is done, they come into their own. As the Hunters abhor the Farmers relish. Detail, subtlety, manoeuvrings. The Farmer is an adept. Like some throw back to the medieval courts of kings they finagle advantage and trade favours. They find leverage in the most inauspicious of circumstances.
And they always deliver. They’ll always have a contingency plan. A few quid hidden away for a rainy day. Sales managers have built careers on Farmers that are able to make things happen against all the odds. Maybe that’s why Hunters aspire to become them?
Make no mistake, natural Farmers aside, all Hunters become Farmers at some point.
They lose the edge. They lose the hunger. Rather, the hunger is replaced by a sense of entitlement. They have done the time right? Or they are the senior person and so deserve it! Whatever, they change from someone expert at carving the future out of their particular marketplace single-handedly into some kind of political lobbyist.
More intent on selling internally to management than they are externally to the client base, they will apply all the skills and techniques honed over years of trading directly at the ‘sales problem’ they face. But instead of a tough client it’s usually a sales manager. Or an accountant. Or some other innocent that gets in the way. Incidentally these guys are usually paid much less than the sales person in question!
They’ll lie cheat and bully their way around inside the organisation to get the win, where they once slashed and parried through to success directly with their new business targets.
They literally live off past glories. Stirring themselves to new business efforts only when whatever level of billing they have decided to ‘stick’ on is threatened.
And that’s the really annoying bit. They can still cut it. They still win way more than they lose. They just stop.
When they came into the game they were hungry. Now they are sated. They earn enough. They can’t stir themselves beyond these self-imposed boundaries because they don’t want to. It’s a cruel fact of the sales universe that those best suited to winning, in thinking they have already won, sit back and enjoy a life of farming.
What do you think? Am I right? Can you relate to these people in the article? If it feels like I am lionising the Hunters, I am. At one time they had it all. Why do you think they sit back and live off the fat of the list they have built?
Let me know below! As Always I look forward to hearing from you.