The Hunter, The Farmer, and The Farmer’s Wife
There are three distinct types of Sales People, The Hunter, The Farmer, and the Farmer’s wife.
The hunter is a wily character. He goes out each morning in search of his prey. He will research an area to find where the best meat is available and he will focus his efforts there. He will generally go for the big kill, not bothering with the small prey unless he is really hungry. Hunting is hard work. He may have to run for miles tracking a large animal but the rewards are high when he succeeds. If he fails he goes hungry. Hunters do not spend years cultivating a relationship with their prey; they simply go for the kill and move on.
Good hunters are rare, a special breed, and while the successful hunters live the high life with plenty of protean to eat, the hunters who are not successful often starve to death. The hunter is a risk taker.
The farmer is different. The farmer will be happy to take his time cultivating the land, developing an understanding of the crops he will plant and eventually harvest. He knows there is a season for everything and things happen in their own time. Having found the correct land to cultivate he will plough the ground and make ready for the seeds. Carefully he will plant the seeds and tend them until they are ready to harvest. He will make sure the seeds are watered and when the seedlings start to grow he will put up a scarecrow to frighten away any birds who might like to help themselves to the crop. The Farmer doesn’t take many risks.
The farmer is a patient man. He seldom has the high life because his diet consists mostly of food grown from the ground, as opposed to the high protean diet enjoyed by the hunter. When the hunter brings home live animals, the farmer will keep the animals and care for them developing a heard that can produce meat in the future. The Farmer never goes hungry because he is always cultivating food.
The Farmer’s wife
The farmer’s wife neither hunts nor grows. She often goes out to collect food that the farmer has grown or the hunter has caught and prepares that for the evening meal and, because of that, she is a valuable member of the team. The farmer’s wife is not a risk taker at all. She simply prepares the food that the hunter or the farmer provides and would starve without them.
The Hunter, The Farmer and The Farmer’s wife are three very different characters. The Farmer will never be comfortable with the high pressure of hunting, and the hunter would get very board on the farm all day. The Farmer’s wife does not have the enthusiasm to hunt or the skills to farm but she would soon starve if left on her own.
In selling we have the same three characters.
The Hunter salesperson is the high flyer. He goes out each morning looking for the big catch, the big company that will earn him the high commission payments. He is well trained in the art of prospecting. He is exceptional at “Cold Call” knowing exactly what to say to get the appointment and how to convert the prospect when he gets there. Once he has made the kill (closed the sale) and fed off the meat (and spent the commission) he loses interest preferring to go off after bigger game. The hunter is almost entirely commission based with a commission structure that will ensure that he is well rewarded when he brings in the “Big One”. Good hunters are the highest paid people in the company. They are often arrogant, difficult to manage, have flashy cars, the latest cell phone and a high lifestyle. They are, however, invaluable to a developing company and should be highly praised and well paid if they do well, because if they do badly, they know they will be fired.
The Farmer salesperson is much more patient. He will spend months, even years, developing a relationship before closing the sale. Once the sale is closed he will continue to grow the relationship, providing an exceptional service and expecting continued sales from the same customer. The farmer is more common in companies operating in a mature market and will expect to have a good basic salary with a smaller proportion based on commission (less risk).
The Farmer’s wife salesperson is an order taker. The company they work for will probably have developed the business and their reputation using a combination of hunter salespeople and farmer salespeople, and the farmer’s wife is simply waiting by the phone for the customer to ring with an order or sitting behind a desk waiting for the customer to walk in the shop. The farmer’s wife salesperson will not want to earn commission, preferring to have a basic salary with no risk at all.
Sometimes the hunter is caught by his prey and the farmer is asked to put down his hoe and pick up a spear. Sometimes the farmer is lured to the bright lights of the city, and the farmer’s wife has to get out into the fields to bring in the harvest. Of course the farmer may kill an animal or two and bring home some meat and the farmer’s wife may work hard and bring in the harvest, but this work is not what they are comfortable with and they will eventually find the work very stressful and ultimately they will leave the farm going off to look for the work they prefer.
From time to time I am asked to train Farmers to be Hunters or Hunters to develop better relationship skills and I am, of course, happy to help. The challenge with this is if you take someone out of their comfort zone they will learn new skills but when the pressure is off the Hunter will hunt, the Farmer will farm and the Farmer’s wife will go back to making the best milk tart in the province.
Disclaimer: Although I have chosen to use specific genders in this example each could either be male or female.