Hunters and Farmers — How Do You Sell?

Common wisdom in sales holds that there are two types of salespeople: hunters and farmers. Just as one might expect from their names, hunters prefer to chase down new sales and draw in new business, while farmers start from the business that’s already there and grow it into radically higher profits. If you’re new to the world of sales, whether it’s because you’ve started a new job or your responsibilities have grown, you may not know which of the two you fall into. Self-reflection, and knowing how you prefer to do business, can open up a lot of avenues for both personal and monetary growth.

Below is a nine question quiz about hunters and farmers. It should only take about a minute, and is designed to provide insight into the inclinations of both types of salespeople. You might find from doing this that you are a mixture of hunter traits and farmer traits. You might also find that you are a hunter in certain market conditions and a farmer in others. Knowing which is best for your situation is what the quiz aims to achieve.

As you go along, take a quick tally of how many questions you answer with A, B, C, or D.

When you attend a conference, exhibition, or expo, what do you start doing as soon as you can?

A) Start networking with new people. I haven’t met at least half of the people at the conference, so I need to start now.

B) Find a panel that I’m interested in and attend. Sit and mingle afterward.

C) Find a panel that I’m interested in and attend. Take notes on anything that might interest current customers.

D) Meet up with current customers and find out the aspects of the event in which they are most interested.

How fast do you get bored or tired of doing something?

A) I have a hard time staying interested in the same thing for more than a few hours.

B) I can keep my attention on something if it’s important to me, but I tend to start multitasking eventually.

C) As long as I break it up and occasionally stop to do something else entirely for a little while, I can keep my attention on the same thing for a long time.

D) I become more engaged the longer I do something, up to a point. My stamina isn’t infinite, but I’m hard to wear out.

How many customers’ needs can you keep in your head at once?

A) The more the better. I might forget occasionally, but it usually turns out fine.

B) If I have a good CRM program, I can balance a pretty broad set of customers.

C) It’s a little bit of a strain on my attention span to keep more than a few in my head, though a CRM helps.

D) The amount of information I like to know about each customer makes it difficult to deal with many customers on a given day. I do my best with just one or two.

How often do you upsell or cross-sell?

A) It’s probably my weakest area. I identify problems and offer solutions.

B) It can be hard for me to spot the opportunities until I have some time to think it over, and that time doesn’t always come.

C) I’m good at cross-selling, and when I see an opportunity to upsell I usually take it.

D) Whenever I’m reviewing information about a client, I consider whether it’s time to upsell or cross-sell.

Can you get a customer excited about something? Not just interested, but enthusiastic.

A) Always. I’m so good at generating hype that I’ve considered pursuing marketing as well as sales.

B) Usually. My customers know what’s coming soon, and after I talk with them they start figuring the product into their long-term plans.

C) Not on the first few calls. Once I get familiar with a customer’s needs, though, I can get them to start thinking about long-term buying plans.

D) Even when I make good sales, I’m just meeting a need. Customers don’t usually get too excited about my products.

How do you take losing a customer?

A) Easy come, easy go. I move on quickly, but make sure they don’t leave unsatisfied.

B) I have better things to be concerned about. I’m already reaching out to three more.

C) I don’t get upset, but I do have to take some time to sort out my mid-term sales plans.

D) Sometimes, I take it personally or get upset. I can dwell on a lost customer for a while.

How often do you find yourself needing to work with other departments?

A) I almost never need to contact another department.

B) Sometimes I need to find out if functionality I’ve been talking about with a customer, but not often.

C) I need a little support, especially when a customer comes asking about potential features.

D) Between calls with customers, I’m often on the phone with members of other departments advocating on their behalf, asking questions, or solving problems.

How often do you need to break it off with a customer or lead, or significantly reduce time spent on one?

A) Fairly often. If a lead isn’t turning into a customer, or a customer’s starting to buy less, I should be doing something else.

B) From time to time, I need to adjust my priorities.

C) I can do it, but it takes me some time to build up to it, and I try to make it seem like the customer’s idea.

D) I guard every relationship I build. Undertaking divestment is all but impossible for me, and something I sometimes try to push to someone else.

During which of these activities do you feel most attentive?

A) Sales calls to new customers. I don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.

B) Any lead generation activities I’m involved with. Those are the lifeblood of the sales team.

C) Keeping up with industry news and trends. I should have something new when I call a customer.

D) Sales calls with existing customers. I need to anticipate their needs.

Interpreting the results

Mostly As and Bs: The Path of the Hunter

If you’ve answered with mostly As or Bs, your natural tendency is toward hunting rather than farming. You like to chase new leads and make short-term sales, but you might have trouble forming the lasting relationships necessary to keep a customer buying. Consider partnering up with a farmer or learning a few tricks from one. A CRM program can help supplement your efforts with easy access to information on customers and leads.

Mostly Cs and Ds: The Path of the Farmer

If your answers are mostly Cs and Ds, you’re more likely to focus on farming, learning about your customers and making sure each one’s needs are met to the best of the company’s abilities. You also rapidly see opportunities to upsell or cross-sell. Whether it’s shyness or not knowing where to begin, though, you have trouble making that initial connection, and should consider pairing yourself with a hunter or finding ways to supplement your organization’s lead generation efforts in order to cover your weaknesses.

What do you think?

How did you fare on the quiz? Do you think hunters or farmers fare better in today’s sales environment? Let us know in the comments.

2 Replies to “Hunters and Farmers — How Do You Sell?”

  1. I am a hunter and knew that before I took your questionnaire. I love people and am very enthusiastic and energetic! I love farmers though, because I need to work along side of them to balance myself. I’m also experienced enough to know that a balance of both skills are necessary in today’s business environment. You must be a hunter and a farmer and be darn skilled at both, but I’m a natural Hunter and always have been.

  2. Hunters are very rare. The overwhelming majority of salespeople are farmers. Some may think they are hunters but if they are not setting up their own appointments every single week and prospectively calling, which very few are, then they are not hunters.

    The direct sales model of expensive, and too often ineffective, field sales representatives is broken. I think, in the next 5-10 years you will see a huge shakeout in professional selling as entrepreneurs build systems to broker communication between buyers and sellers.

    The economic model of employing salespeople, many of whom don’t sell anything and move from job to job selling their “experience” is ripe for change.

    The number of direct sales jobs will go down, probably by 20% as the dead wood will be cut out. Those who can sell will remain whether hunter or farmer. Their renumeration will increase.

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