Sales Hunters vs Farmers, Settling the Debate
In the world of sales, the debate over which one is better for your business has been going on forever.
We’ve all watched the movies where the strong-armed salesperson brings in a ridiculously huge amount of clients or money into a business, making everybody rich beyond their wildest dreams.
Of course, the conclusion is usually that everything comes crashing down for one reason or another, but that’s just in the movies, right?
Those stop-at-nothing salespeople, the hunters, always get the starring role. All the attention. And the farmers sit in the background.
But is that really what you want for your business, the smooth-talking hunter that closes every single client they meet, no matter what?
In reality, the answer should be no. Honestly, this hunter vs farmer sales model is antiquated and should be shelved for good.
Before we get into why that is, let’s break down what it means to be a sales hunter or farmer.
The stereotypical hunter is the person with the drive, independence, and initiative to find and close as many deals as possible in the quickest amount of time. While they are capable of bringing in large amounts of business, there are some drawbacks.
- Culture – When a hunter comes into a company, the culture doesn’t always matter very much to them. They are there to do their thing to the best of their ability. They tend to be more independent and less team driven.
This can be a problem when you’ve put in the time to build a strong, inclusive culture for your company or team. You’ve developed values that is shared by everybody. When you bring somebody in who isn’t swayed by your values and culture, only money, it can start to tear down the foundation that you’ve created.
- Target Market – Just like with your culture and values, you’ve built up an ideal target market. The right clients who will bring lasting and meaningful business relationships with a perfect fit for sides.
But a hunter’s motivation is to close as many clients as possible, no matter what. Whether or not the client is the right fit for you or you are the right fit for them doesn’t usually play into their endgame. This is where the stereotype of the salesperson who over-promises and underdelivers comes from. When the backend of the business is left dealing with a client they aren’t able to help, expectations aren’t achieved, and you could be left with a bad reputation.
- Loyalty – The bottom line is, when money is a salesperson’s number one motivator, there’s a good chance that they won’t develop a lot of loyalty to your business. This isn’t always true, but it’s pretty common. Someone that doesn’t hold a lot of importance in the culture of a company has nothing to stay for if an opportunity to make more money comes along.
The people with a farmer’s sales personality might be almost completely opposite from hunters. They are relationship-driven, loyal, detail-oriented, and strive to work with the team. They are best at cultivating relationships with your clients, which can bring long-standing and growing business for years to come. They are best at collaborating with the team to find the best way of taking care of customers you have and developing new business from them.
However, if you’re in a churn-and-burn style business, gaining tons of new business isn’t going to be their strong suit.
Networking – We all know how important networking can be for gaining new business. Even when events are canceled and restaurants or bars are closed, the best networkers still find a way.
But networking isn’t always something farmers do easily. While they can be great at gaining loyalty quickly, talking to a bunch of people to gain as much information and business as possible in a short period of time isn’t going to be comfortable for them. They take their time. They like to communicate and listen.
Independence – Because farmers primarily act as part of the team, they don’t always have the independence to go out and make things happen on their own. While it’s probably not a fair assessment, they are stereotypically seen as followers, not leaders. This can be great for the culture and camaraderie of your team, but it might not work if you’re looking for people to grow their business independently.
Which is More Important to Your Business?
If you’ve ever taken a DISC assessment, you know that you have strengths and you have challenges, and some of them intersect with different personality types. It’s not common to have only one personality type with absolutely zero traits of any other kind.
Therefore, very few people are pure hunters or pure farmers. Which is why it’s time for this sales model to be put to rest.
What the majority of businesses and sales teams need is people who have traits of both. People who love to go out and network but are great at cultivating the relationship after the close.
At the end of the day, you’re not hiring traits. You’re hiring people.
So finding hunters or farmers isn’t what you should be focusing on. Learning how to motivate the people in your team is way more important!
The real reason that hunters are sought after is that they are easy to motivate. Their motivator is money, and they’ll work as hard as they need to for more. They don’t need coaching, nurturing, or pushing. They just go out and make money.
And for some industries, that works really well.
But the culture of sales is changing. The relationship between client and business is growing more and more. So those farming traits are more important than ever.
For most businesses, finding a way to motivate your sales team to bring in the kind of money a hunter would make while maintaining the relationships with their clients for the long haul is the secret to success.
So don’t try to hire hunters when you’re trying to grow your business. Pure hunters aren’t that common anyway, and the business they bring in might not be the business you’re really looking for in your company. Hire great salespeople or focus on the sales team you already have, and find the right way to motivate them. (More on that soon!)