The Hunter-Farmer Strategy: 3 Reasons Why It Often BACKFIRES

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Separating your sales team into hunters and farmers may seem like a great idea. Before you implement it, check out this episode of the Sales Management Minute to learn how to avoid three common blunders.

When businesses reach a certain maturity level, the idea of segmenting the sales team into hunters and farmers is introduced. And, on paper, this strategy seems like a logical way to position the business for explosive growth. The hunters go after new accounts… The farmers grow the existing ones… Success is imminent, right? Unfortunately, more often than not, the results of this strategy are 1+1=1 because three key implementation points are missed.

The first is The Handoff.  Since the hunters have been working for an extended period of time with the prospects, how do you transition them to the farmers? This hits on two big issues starting with trust. So, for last six months, the hunters have regular contact with the prospects. The deals get signed, the hunters disappear and new people step in. How often have we all been told that people buy from those they trust? Without careful planning, this handoff can feel like a “bait and switch” sale with trust eradicated. Identify the right insertion points in your process to include farmers before the sale is finalized and consider keeping hunters involved until the client is satisfied with the transition.

Second is Compensation. Hunters want a huge chunk of cash for bringing in the deal. Farmers want their piece of the pie for growing the accounts. Since compensation plans should drive desired behaviors, how do you pay both entities without sacrificing the entire deal margin? A common mistake is throwing money at one of these parties rather than structuring compensation based on their contribution to the revenue of the accounts.

Third is Skillset. All roads lead back to the decisions you make when hiring sales people for these roles. A common mistake is to hire farmers with an eye on servicing. The farmer’s role is to grow the accounts, not just serve as expensive customer service reps. That said, the make-up of the successful hunter is very different than that of the successful farmer. Few sales people develop mastery in both. Before you hire or assign sales people to hunters or farmers, develop a detailed profile of your ideal sales person for each of the two roles and carefully evaluate candidates for fit.

With careful planning, the Hunter-Farmer Model may be a viable option for your business. However, as with any strategy, the devil is in the details.

See you next time on the Sales Management Minute.


Lee B. Salz is a leading sales management strategist specializing in helping companies build scalable, high-performance sales organizations through hiring the right salespeople, effectively onboarding them, and aligning their sales activities with business objectives through process, metrics and compensation. He is the Founder and CEO of Sales Architects, Business Expert Webinars and The Revenue Accelerator. Lee has authored several books including award-winning,  best-seller “Hire Right, Higher Profits.” He is a results-driven sales management consultant and a passionate, dynamic speaker . Lee can be reached at lsalz@SalesArchitects.net or 763.416.4321.