While every member of your sales team brings their own set of skills to the workplace, it can be helpful for companies to think of their sales reps as being one of two personality types: hunters and farmers. These personas can help you decide how to organize your sales team based on the individual strengths of each personality type.
The concept of the hunter and farmer personas was originally developed by author and psychotherapist Thom Hartman to help people understand the personality traits of ADD and ADHD. But it has since become a popular way of conceptualizing sales teams.
Sales teams may aim for a different balance of Hunter and Farmer sales reps depending on what their goals are and where they are in the business life cycle.
Let’s take a look at both of these sales personas in detail, as well as the tools that each personality type needs to thrive in the workplace.
What is a Hunter?
According to the hunter-farmer hypothesis, people with the Hunter personality type show traits that were useful in hunter-gatherer societies, before humans became better suited to farming. These traits include hyperfocus, or paying very close attention to things that interest them, and distractibility, or moving on quickly once they lose interest.
Just as with hunters in the wild, Hunters in the workplace are able to shift focus from one “target” or lead to the next. Traits that may seem like a weakness, such as having a short attention span, can actually be an asset, since the Hunter can focus in on their goal and tune out everything else when they need to.
In other words, Hunters live in the moment. They’re independent-minded, and when they set a goal, they give it all of their attention until they achieve it. But once they do, they’re more likely to move on to the next big thing rather than stick around for follow-up.
Because of these characteristics, Hunters are best suited to roles where they can chase down new leads and close sales. They may be employed as Account Executives and in Business Development roles. They’re often found in outside sales, where they can get out into the field and network with new customers.
Hunters are promotion-focused, which means they respond well to incentives. They can lose track if they don’t receive positive feedback and rewards.
When they’re motivated, hunters are valued for their charisma and for thinking big. They know how to work well on their own and set big goals for themselves.
At the same time, Hunters are not known for their account management skills. Once they close a lead, they’re more likely to move on to the next one rather than build an ongoing relationship with a customer. They also have a higher turnover rate than Farmers.
However, this doesn’t mean that Hunters are unproductive or unreliable. It just means that it’s important to pair Hunters with team members who can fill in the gaps and take over customer accounts when the Hunter moves on to a new one.
Sales hunters are always on-the-go and pursuing leads wherever they are: in the office, at a convention, or online. Hunters are just as likely to use traditional tools, such as cold calls, as they are to pursue leads on LinkedIn and other social media platforms.
Because of this, it’s important for Hunters to use a modern CRM tool like OnCourse to keep track of their outreach attempts and create a consistent messaging strategy.
A CRM is also useful for automating messages, and for handing off a client to another sales rep for Account Management once the initial sale is complete.
While CRMs are more closely associated with inside sales, the right CRM can help a Hunter improve their follow-through and close with more customers.
The main role that a Hunter plays is to bring in new business. In fact, companies that are just starting out may benefit from a team made up primarily of Hunters.
Hunters prioritize quantitative results -- finding new prospects -- over qualitative results, such as long term ROI and an ongoing relationships with customers.
Because Hunters can be competitive, they can push the team to reach sales goals more quickly and close as many deals as they can. If a company is experiencing slow growth, then bringing more Hunters on board can help increase customer acquisition.
But remember -- too many Hunters and not enough Farmers could mean your company excels at bringing in new customers, but struggles to keep them happy long-term.
What is a Farmer?
Let’s return to the original hunter-farmer hypothesis to take a look at the other personality type in this scenario. According to Hartmann, once early humans began to hunt less and farm more, the skills they needed to be successful changed.
Some people retained the typical Hunter traits of hyperfocus and distractibility, but others developed skills better suited to long-term organization and cultivation.
In business, these traits show up in the Farmer sales persona. Farmers are just as good at closing a deal as Hunters are, but they aren’t in a rush. They’re just as happy to build up a relationship with a customer over time.
As a result, they’re better suited to inside sales roles. They would rather follow up with an existing customer rather than make the first move with someone new.
Farmers are typically found in Customer Service and Account Management roles. While Hunters focus on getting new customers, Farmers focus on keeping them.
When a Hunter loses interest and moves on to the next lead, the Farmer can step in and build up a long-term relationship with that client. They’re more likely to upsell an existing customer or close on a referral rather than make cold calls to new prospects.
Farmers may not have as extensive a network as Hunters do, but that doesn’t mean that they’re any less personable or outgoing than Hunters. They’re just more organized and methodical about their contacts.
Instead of losing touch after a sale, Farmers will remember birthdays and other personal details that keep a customer happy and coming back for more purchases.
Farmers are less competitive than Hunters, and are more likely to cooperate with other members of the team to make sure a customer doesn’t fall through the cracks.
Hunters may be great at making a first impression with a new client, but Farmers are better at follow-through.
Because they spend most of their time in the office, Farmers are more reliant on inside sales technologies than Hunters are. They still use some of the same sales tools that Hunters do, but they need a more robust set of CRM capabilities.
Instead of cold calling new prospects, Farmers can cultivate existing leads by setting up an automated sequence of phone calls, SMS messages, and emails.
Tools like OnCourse allow them to create a customized sales pipeline, using analytics to refine it with activity tracking, call recording, and more.
To stick with the Farmer analogy, these tools can be used as an automated “irrigation system,” making sure that accounts get “watered” on a consistent basis and that their interest doesn’t dry up for lack of attention.
In addition to CRMs, Farmers may rely on lead generation software, sales demos, and personal productivity tools to reach their sales quotas.
While Hunters are promotion-focused, Farmers are prevention-focused. This means they tend to be more risk-averse and don’t want to lose what they already have -- hence, their focus on customer retention over customer acquisition.
Farmers are in it for the long-term, and they’re willing to invest time and energy into their jobs. They have a lower turnover rate than Hunters do.
Therefore, Farmers are a solid investment when a company wants to focus on stability and maintaining a loyal customer base over time.
Farmers won’t make up for a shortfall of new customers, but they can increase revenue by upselling and renewing contracts. Without attention from a Farmer, even a satisfied customer will drift away over time.
Since Farmers are more receptive to customer feedback, they can offer ways to improve a company’s products and boost customer satisfaction.
Farmers can increase the lifetime value of a customer, and reduce the money spent on outbound marketing and customer acquisition.
Hunters vs. Farmers
As you look over the Hunter and Farmer sales personas, you might wonder how relevant they are to modern businesses. Shouldn’t sales reps these days be able to handle both roles effectively? Isn’t the best sales representative a hunter-farmer hybrid?
The truth is, how people are wired really makes a difference, and you’ll end up with a more effective sales team if you recognize those differences rather than try to fit sales reps into a role they aren’t comfortable with.
Marketing coaches will tell you that they’ve tried to turn Hunters into Farmers, and vice versa, and it just doesn’t work.
That said, there are some new ways of thinking about the Hunter vs. Farmer approach that might suit some sales teams.
For example, the Trapper is someone who relies on inbound marketing to attract clients. Unlike the Hunter, who actively pursues leads, and the Farmer, who cultivates existing ones, the Trapper sets a “trap” and waits for clients to come along to them.
The Trapper is adept at using modern marketing tools, such as LinkedIn, YouTube, and social media platforms to build up social proof and craft appealing offers.
You can often find them in the role of a “helper,” offering advice to prospects rather than leading with a sales pitch.
In short, while a Hunter focuses on quantity, by converting as many new customers as possible, and a Farmer focuses on quality, by creating strong business relationships, a Trapper focuses on strategy, by attracting the right customers in the first place.
How To Balance Your Sales Team
Companies may require a different balance of Hunters and Farmers at different stages of their life cycle. A new business that is only just starting to build up a customer base may need a higher percentage of Hunters as they seek out new clients.
Once you have a solid customer base and want to focus on increasing the lifetime value of your clients, you may want to hire more Farmers to manage their accounts.
Your ratio of Hunters to Farmers doesn’t need to be exactly 50/50, but it does need to be in balance. That means making sure you have enough Farmers to step in when Hunters move on to a new client, and enough Hunters to bring in a steady stream of leads.
Your sales team may benefit from adding a Trapper, or you may find that encouraging Trapper skills among your Hunters and Farmers improves your sales quotas.
But remember, don’t push your Hunters and Farmers to be something that they’re not. Only by accepting their built-in personality traits, and helping them develop them to the best of their abilities, can you build the most effective sales team.
The Right CRM Software Can Work for Hunters and Farmers Alike
Fortunately, you don’t have to completely rethink your business tools in order to shift the balance of your company between Hunters and Farmers. The same CRM software can be used by both Hunters and Farmers, if you know how to apply it properly.
OnCourse is ideal for hybrid teams because it can track every step in the sales pipeline, from lead generation all the way through to customer retention and data analysis.
Its task management tools allow multiple team members to keep tabs on an account, set reminders, and schedule follow-ups.
And, its data migration and integration tools make it easy to connect it to other tools that your sales reps are already using, like Gmail and Google Calendar.
With the right CRM, each of your sales reps can focus on the tasks they’re best at, while being able to step back and look at the bigger picture at any time.
Plus, you can use its built-in data analysis and forecasting tools to track your sales goals and make adjustments to your strategy when necessary.
Reach out to us today to schedule a product demo and find out how OnCourse can help you find the right balance between Hunters and Farmers on your sales team.