Too much farming & not enough hunting?


We keep hearing about this hybrid sales rep referred to as a “hunter/farmer”. Let me begin by saying that when helping clients find a new sales rep we come across few true “hunters”. In fact, we estimate fewer than 15% of the reps we evaluate are hunters. Think about it for a minute. How many real rainmakers do you have on your staff? Heck, how many true rainmakers do you even know?

Considering we have so few hunters, how come so many sales managers task their salespeople with account management responsibilities than detract from their efforts to find new business? We continually hear how all these other sales functions are so important. Then, in almost the same breath, that same sales manager complains about lack of new business development.

Given the choice between solving an existing customer problem and prospecting, where do your sales reps turn? Let me guess; existing customer, right? It’s easier to deal with the customer you know rather than the prospect you haven’t met. Customers answer your call, return your email messages and know your name.Prospects often don’t do any of those things.

Try this and see what you uncover.

  • Ask your salespeople to track their time – just for a week – and see how time is spent prospecting versus time in front of existing customers.
  • Ask your salespeople to review the job description you gave them when they were hired. You did give them a job description; right? Compare the expectations of the job description with what they are actually doing today. How far apart are those expectations?
  • Look at your compensation plan. Is it structured to pay the same for orders from existing customers as a new order from a new customer? You may want to re-think that concept.

You want new accounts, you deserve new accounts, but you are not pursuing new accounts. You don’t have the time, the will, the energy or structure to do it. Why? Because you have the people tasked with finding new business spending countless hours in account management.

Start this New Year off with a re-evaluation of expectations for your salespeople. Let the hunters (if you have any) pursue new business and reward them accordingly. Let your salespeople that are good at detail, follow through and developing relationships manage your existing accounts. This hybrid hunter/farmer sales rep notion is wishful thinking.

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