Do you need Hunters or Farmers?

It’s important to understand that, in sales, you predominantly have two modes of operation; new business (Hunters) and account management (Farmers).

Companies can spend a lot of time dressing these aspects up to look very differently but fundamentally they usually break down into these two components.

The question at the top of this blog is of course spurious; you need them both. But, do you understand the differences between the two functions well enough to employ the right people in the right roles, because, they are very different, and often need clear and independent strategies in order to succeed and add value together.

Let’s look at each persona in detail;

The Hunter

Good Hunters tend to display similar personality and behavioural traits to the ones I’ve listed here;

Extrovert Optimistic Influential
Self-starting Always ‘Selling’ Highly active
Self-confident Well groomed Target focused


However, for every great Hunter out there (and there are many) you can quite often come across ‘duds’ that may display some or all of the following traits;

Narcissism Arrogance Non-existent Admin
‘Deal Picking’ Sexism Can’t close


I kid you not. I have come across all of the above over time and it can make managing, hiring and firing Hunters a full-time job!

Hunters (generally) live for the thrill of the deal, know exactly how much commission they’re owed for each sale, and then can’t wait to move onto the next one. For them, quite often, having a multitude of sales opportunities totally drives them and keeps them focused. They are a competitive animal and a great Hunter will add vitality and unlimited optimism to your business. Of course, once you know this you can learn how to deal with it (a subject I handle in a later blog), but in essence you can take it for what it is; materialistic enthusiasm. It’s not a bad thing.

Where managing Hunters can get tricky usually manifests itself in one of two ways; they display all the right traits but can’t actually sell anything (they can’t ‘close’), or, they’re great salespeople but are such high maintenance that their ‘downside’ outweighs any ‘upside’ gained in revenues. In both these scenarios these people need to leave your organisation.

For the non-closers the reason should be obvious. They’re here for a reason and if they can’t make it happen then you’re just prolonging the pain with very little chance of return. Cut your losses and move on, quickly.

For those high maintenance people the answer seems harder. It’s not. Irrespective of their performance, if their behaviour is unacceptable it’s unacceptable. End of. You will demonstrate strong leadership to your sales team and your company by acting positively in these scenarios. There are plenty of other salespeople out there that can represent you properly.

Great Hunters can make a massive difference to the growth prospects of any business. Choose wisely, make targets achievable but be ruthless with performance and behaviour.



The Farmer

Compared to Hunters, Farmers are almost an entirely different species! Where Hunters are almost always looking at the short-term, highly tactical position, Farmers are designed to do the exact opposite; manage long-term strategic customer revenue protection and growth.

In order to do this properly, a different mindset and set of behavioural traits are required;

Borderline introvert Emotionally intelligent Strategist
Conservative outlook Planner Trusted Advisor
Relationship builder ‘Completer-Finisher’ Situationally aware


Good Farmers are very different people and if you can implement them into your sales process, you can begin to feel very confident that not only will you keep your existing customer base happy, but you’ll also grow your revenues within that base over time.

It costs a lot of money and time to acquire new customers so not having a plan to support and grow the revenues from this source is borderline criminal, and a real waste of the effort it took to win them in the first place.

You do also have to be aware though of some of the traits that sometimes show up in Farmers that aren’t necessarily helpful when trying to build long-term, profitable, customer relationships;

Going ‘native’ Customer first, you second Lack of networking growth
Too passive No ‘call to action’ Ineffective planning


These traits can leave you exposed and make your Farming activities expensive as returns will be low. Farmers can’t just be order takers; they need to generate ‘net new’ revenue (perhaps in new areas within a customer landscape) in order to justify your investment in them. There are lots of ways to do this but there are also lots of pitfalls to be aware of too.

Having a Farmer go ‘native’ on you is a big no-no. What this means is that your employee is basically advocating on the customers behalf to you and your team instead of the other way around. It can easily happen and is painful to experience as they have their priorities in the wrong place. To get around this, have your Farmers move to different customers from time to time. Not only does this reduce the chance of them going native, it also gives the new ‘owner’ a chance to be objective with what they see as the opportunity within this customer space.

Play Nicely!

So, in most cases you’ll need both Hunters and Farmers within your business, and for very different reasons. They don’t always play well together but that shouldn’t concern you too much. Also, for the reasons above, don’t believe anyone who tells you they can do both. This is very rare in my experience!

Be ruthless with your evaluation of their performance and keep an eye on behaviour you’ll be on your way to getting an optimal sales performance.





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