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Are your salespeople hunters or farmers?

6-minute read

You’re an entrepreneur. You started small and had big dreams. Originally, you were the one doing all the selling of your products or services, but now you’re at a level where you need to hire a salesperson.

Perhaps, your challenge is to pass your knowledge on to your new salesperson. Or maybe, you’ve acquired a business with an existing salesforce, and you’re not getting the results you were expecting.

Where to start?

To get the results you want, reflect on the type of salespeople you need. Depending on the products or services you offer, you need to look at different skill sets and ask yourself the following questions.

  1. Do you have a lot of time and resources to devote to managing your salespeople or do you want them to be independent?
  2. Do you want to build long-term relationships with customers?
  3. Are you looking for quick sales and maybe a little repeat business from customers?
  4. Does it take a long time to close a deal?
  5. Do you need to network, scout for new prospects and explore new markets?
  6. Is customer retention very important?
  7. Do you need to pursue new accounts, new customers and new territories?
  8. Do you have a salary cap?
  9. Do you need someone who is an opportunist and can close deals as fast as possible?
  10. Do you need someone that can talk to the same customers regularly to collaborate and try to sell them more products and services?

Are you looking for farmers or hunters?

If you answered yes to more of the even numbered questions you likely need farmers. If you said yes to the odd numbers you probably need hunters.

Farmers are salespeople who focus on customer retention. They nurture your customers and hopefully grow a long-term relationship between them and your company.

Hunters, on the other hand, are focused on customer acquisition. They enjoy prospecting and pursuing people and companies who could become customers. They’re trying to close as many deals as possible.

If you are looking for inside sales and use terminology like customer service or account manager, then you are probably looking for a farmer.

If you need representatives in the field and use terminology such as account executives, business development leads, outside sales reps or sales agents, you are typically looking for a hunter.

You have choices to make

Unfortunately, you cannot have one perfect hybrid person that is half hunter and half farmer (although sometimes we call these people entrepreneurs). But nothing is stopping you from having both types on your team, as long as it’s clear who will do what and where.

It’s important to reflect on the type of salesperson you need. Do you need someone who doesn’t necessarily need to travel to visit customers face to face, who can work from a cubicle or a home office? Then, an inside sales team might be effective for you.

Conversely, an outside salesperson changes their workplace daily. They can be travelling to meet customers face to face at their place of business. They might be in contract negotiations with decision-makers. Typically in a career, a salesperson might start on the inside and transition to outside sales, or vice versa, depending on their talents and experience.

Sales agents are another option

Another solution is to work with sales agents. Typically they are an extension of your salesforce but are paid commission only. They can be local or in a different market, but they have the knowledge of your industry and their territory.

Let’s say you are based in Ontario, but you get a lot of requests from California, and you think your products have a good potential there. You could go through the long and expensive process of hiring a salesperson in California, but where do you start? A sales agent who knows the territory can get new customers for you and follow up directly on leads that you provide.

Obviously there are drawbacks. The agent typically won’t work exclusively for you because they need to work for other companies to make a living. They might have up to 10 or more other companies such as yours.

Compensation will vary

Farmers and hunters may have different targets. Typically, higher complexity and risk would mean higher compensation. Hunters can bring in more net new business, increasing the company’s sales and taking business from competitors. So they may need to be compensated accordingly.

For farmers, retaining customer might be the No. 1 priority and, as such, upselling might need to be compensated appropriately. These are important things to be aware of as you add to your sales team. What is the industry standard? How much is too much, and how much is not enough?

You need the right skills and mindset

Every type of salesperson should have a particular combination of skills and product or service knowledge. Furthermore, a positive mindset with the proper attitude and intention can go a long way.

All too often companies fall short in finding salespeople who combine both a strong skill set and mindset. Sometimes, they have the skill set but not the mindset, or vice versa.

The ones that offer both send good signals to clients and the market, helping your company to offer a stronger brand promise.

The benefits of a CRM system

It’s one thing to set targets, but it’s another thing to reach them. With your hunters and farmers you need to be able to manage all opportunities.

You can have weekly, monthly or quarterly reports or sales meetings, but if you don’t have a customer relationship management system (CRM), you may not be efficiently tracking the purchase lifecycle with your existing and potential customers (prospects).

A CRM can be an excellent tool for forecasting short, medium and long-term sales performance. As a business owner, you need to have the details and the clarity about ongoing and new opportunities, and correct course if necessary.

Consider the pros and cons

You know your company and your products and services. You have to consider all the pros and cons of the type of salesperson you need.

Keep in mind that companies evolve over time. You have a business model that’s been successful in the past but may require adjustments for today and tomorrow.

How have you grown your sales team? What are your challenges? Let us know!

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