Article Details

Hunter vs. Farmer

January 3, 2018
Author: Bill Wallace

The classic definition and role designation of “Hunters” and “Farmers” has become obsolete and counter-productive to a sales organization’s revenue growth. Traditionally, Hunters were people that enjoyed the pursuit of opportunities with new accounts, while Farmers were responsible for maintaining and growing existing account relationships and revenue. In many cases, these positions emphasized different competencies, revenue responsibility, and governance. Interestingly, the new thinking is that the competencies for these positions are not very different. In too many past instances, Account Managers played a more reactive and passive role, which translated into less than desirable revenue results. The role demarcation between a person focused on winning new accounts and one that is focused on generating revenue from existing accounts has become increasingly blurred.
Both groups should be focused on the same important competencies. Creating and capturing demand through leveraging creative ideas and applications, building the necessary relationships with the “right” people, and navigating the political environment within the account. Groups should also be focused on building compelling value propositions and exploiting business acumen on a more strategic basis. These are all critical in today’s business environment. They do not vary based on what truly matters to clients. In fact, client expectations have increased to the point where these skills are considered critical to a long-term relationship. 

The biggest change is occurring within the Account Management ranks. The shift is now to Account Leadership. This is why the competencies become similar to that of a traditional Hunter. The Account Leader is a proactive visionary that is able to articulate their plan for an account, is capable of building relationships with the right members of the executive ranks, and can leverage client value on the part of their company. They are highly tuned to drive revenue opportunities and are capable of aligning resources as they develop strategies to defeat their competition. The shift to this new approach and talent is that revenue penetration can be potentially doubled within the existing base, which lessens the pressure on overall plan achievement for the organization. An additional benefit is that by increasing the revenue penetration, increasing the relationships and level, and by leveraging more value, the Account Leader has also increased the probability of renewal and/or lessened the competitive risk.
While the competencies may be similar between Hunters and Farmers, the attributes of the individuals may vary
. The risk tolerance, assertiveness, or collaborative nature are examples of potential variance. Otherwise, it may be wise to view both roles in a very similar fashion. The fact is, many sales organizations have less than 50% penetration into their client’s addressable spend. The amount of upside, from a revenue point of view, suggests that attacking the embedded base of accounts with people similar to what was previously called a Hunter could reap tremendous rewards.  

The importance of thought leadership and business acumen cannot be understated. It FAR surpasses product knowledge. These two competencies will be determining factors for revenue success as the selling profession continues to evolve. Creating executive level contact, trust, and credibility will be a singular defining competency for both of these roles. The merging of the competencies for both roles should influence thinking relative to your recruitment, selection, compensation, training, and development in your field. For sales leaders, the good news is that, if you can identify critical competencies, you can potentially build a profile for success and inter-change role assignments depending on the greatest revenue opportunity.
The most recent estimates for GDP growth in the US are 3.5-4%. This positive surge will certainly influence growth throughout the global economy. In the new year, it may be time to look closely at your competencies and roles you have been playing in an effort to be part of a more lucrative approach to both new account revenue, and deeper revenue penetration from the existing base.


Personal Challenge:  Whether you are presently considered a Hunter or a Farmer, know where you stand when it comes to critical competencies in selling. Review/take a talent assessment, such as the Revenue Storm Sales Talent Predictor. From there, create a plan to address any deficiencies so you can make 2018 your best year ever—no matter what “role” you play. 

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