Sales and marketing

Sales Hunters vs. Farmers: Is That Relevant Anymore?

Author: David Brock, president, Partners in Excellence
Author: David Brock

It  seems like the concept of "hunters and farmers" has been around virtually as long as sales.

In theory, hunters are the people that have to prospect, to bring in new accounts or logos. The farmers, according to mythology nurture those accounts, retaining the business, possibly growing to drive more revenue.

In much of the literature, there’s a lot of jockeying and ego about which is the “real” sales job.

Frankly, I think these categorizations aren’t useful–if they ever have been.

The salesperson’s job is to maximize the share of account or territory for which they are responsible. I believe it is our God-given right to gain 100% share of customer and share of territory. But it’s our jobs as sales professionals to figure out how to do this.

Hunters vs Farmers: The Disappearing Gap

This implies several things that bridge the traditional distinctions between hunters and farmers.

In maximizing their share of account/territory, it means salespeople have to constantly search for new opportunities in which they can help customers, driving business for their companies. That sounds a lot like hunting.

In maximizing share of account/territory, salespeople also have to focus on retaining all the revenue currently being generated in the account and territory.  That sounds a lot like farming.

Our jobs are really about growth. We have to sell more within our territories and accounts every year. We have to prospect to find new opportunities.  If we lose something through retention problems, then from a performance point of view we are in a deficit position. As a result, we have to find a way to make up that deficit and grow.

Fundamentally, the notions of hunting and farming are no longer relevant, so let’s stop wasting time talking about them. We are all unified in growing our accounts and territories.  So let’s focus on how we do this rather than defending outdated ideas.

David Brock is president of Partners in EXCELLENCE, a management consulting firm focused on sales productivity, channel development, strategic alliances and more.