Approach any group of sales leaders and this debate is likely to come up in their sales strategy conversation: Which is the better sales-type — Hunter or Farmer? And can a person be both? Most often, there are true distinctions and objectives for each role. And there are nuances in terms of the personality traits that are similar and different between them. Both personalities have definite strengths, and just like anything else, they both also come with some challenges. Many people feel that the Hunter is the most lucrative sales persona, but is that truly the case? In reality, both are valuable for different reasons. The key is determining which sales type you need for the various functions of your business so you can keep them inspired and successful.
Hunters are ambitious, challenge-driven go-getters. They are competitors who strive to beat their own (and everyone else’s) record because of their innate need to achieve. At the risk of sounding like Captain Kirk, Hunters like to boldly go where no one has gone before (emphasis on boldly.) Taking a prospect who has never even heard of your company — or, better yet, one who is not at all interested in doing business with you — and transforming them into a client is exhilarating to them.
In terms of the Omnia assessment, Hunters often have extremely tall columns 1-3-5-7 – assertive, social, fast-paced, decisive, and independent. This means they are focused on the win and proactive enough to make it happen. Hunters are outgoing communicators who enjoy initiating contact with new leads, adaptable multitaskers who want to secure deals quickly, and self-directed decision-makers who focus on closing sales.
Farmers are also goal focused and enjoy taking on new challenges, but rather than seeking out new sales, they are often most effective at working with existing customers to retain and grow their business with your organization. Farmers want to see your customers succeed, which will help your company succeed too. They proactively investigate and inquire about your customers’ needs and readily recommend the specific product or service that can thoroughly meet those needs. Farmers often position themselves as subject matter experts who provide informative, consultative guidance to your customers. Clients may view them as knowledgeable, trusted points of contact for your organization.
Omnia assessment graphs for Farmers often show a moderately tall column 1, equal columns 3 and 4 or a tall column 4, tall column 5, and a moderately tall column 7 or equal columns 7 and 8 — goal-oriented, professionally personable, adaptable, and self-directed within the parameters of the position. Farmers are ambitious yet willing to work with others to reach desired objectives. They are more concise in their speaking style, time-sensitive for responding to customers’ requests, and they make decisions using company protocols and industry best practices to guide them.
At first glance, it might appear that the Hunter is the most valuable personality for many sales positions because they can forge new paths and seemingly make sales materialize out of thin air. It’s true that Hunters make a huge direct impact on a company’s bottom line. The new clients that Hunters bring in equal more revenue coming into your organization. Hunters can show impressive dollar signs on a sales leaderboard, making it easy to visualize exactly how they help grow the company.
Farmers also make strong positive contributions to an organization, even if those contributions aren’t as splashy or easy to quantify. Farmers have the tenacity to ensure that your customers stay loyal to your brand rather than seeing if the grass is greener with your competitors. They have the initiative to seek out areas where they can grow accounts as well as determine how to make your company’s products and services such an integral part of a customer’s business that they wouldn’t dream of leaving. It’s hard to fully quantify the impact that customers who stop doing business with your organization would have, but the effects are felt significantly, which shows just how vital Farmers are.
First, we need to reframe the question. Rather than asking Hunter OR Farmer, let’s look at sales from the perspective of Hunter AND Farmer. Working together, Hunters and Farmers can have great synergy, with one sales type bringing in their strengths to mitigate the other’s weaknesses and vice versa.
Hunters are invigorated by drawing in new customers, and they are inspired by closing deals. However, they aren’t often interested in managing the account after the close; they have already targeted their sights on the next prospect. Conversely, Farmers typically don’t want to turn a cold call into a buying customer, but they can ensure a current customer stays with your company by adding value and managing the account after the customer has e-signed on the virtual dotted line.
Both Hunters and Farmers bring value to an organization, but they require different management approaches, incentives, and job functions to reach optimal capacity. A client recently asked The Omnia Group to assess their sales team to determine who were Hunters and who were Farmers, understanding that each group is uniquely motivated and needs different things from the job and management to thrive.
Hunters work best in a sales position that allows them to shine and prove themselves through their individual successes. They want to be out in front, meeting with prospects, and having the chance to reach ambitious targets. Earning commissions based on their performance is motivating to Hunters, as is participating in sales contests and earning public accolades and awards. They want to work in a rapidly paced environment and favor handling multiple sales at once; they need a quick sales cycle so they can experience a frequent sense of achievement. Hunters also need ample freedom to determine how to handle each situation as it arises. They do not like feeling confined by strict processes that leave no room for interpretation.
Farmers often have similar needs and wants, though in a more tempered way. They enjoy working toward enterprising objectives and proving themselves, but they understand how managing client accounts can move them toward those objectives. Rather than straight commissions, they may want to earn bonuses or a combination of salary and commissions. Farmers can be inspired by opportunities to continually increase their expertise so they can offer insightful recommendations to customers. They also appreciate recognition for their contributions. Like Hunters, Farmers enjoy working in a bustling atmosphere where they can feel ongoing progress and work on several tasks at once. They can also work autonomously, though they are most confident when they have some structure around their role.
Whether you’re looking to hire Hunters or Farmers or identify them on your existing team, Omnia is here to help. It begins with assessing the key sales personality traits. Omnia’s personality assessment is quick, easy, and accurate. Our selection reports allow you to compare candidates against a Hunter and Farmer profile to make sure you’re hiring for the right job fit. Our sales style reports are ideal for identifying the Hunter and Farmer traits on your current sales team. You can fine-tune your coaching and development strategies specific to each individual and your company objectives.
Using the Omnia Assessment will unlock the answers you need to find, select, and manage great salespeople of all types. Contact us to get started.
Co-authored by Alaina Sims and Keather Snyder.