Hunter vs Farmer Sales: The Difference

Hunter vs Farmer Sales: The Difference

Have you heard of hunter vs farmer sales roles? There’s a long-standing debate in the sales world about which of the two is most important to the success of a sales organization.

Hunters are traditionally responsible for going out and finding new accounts, while farmers are responsible for tending to and expanding existing accounts.

The truth is, most successful organizations require a healthy mix of both types of salespeople. In fact, today’s sales landscape demands a sales professional that can play both roles somewhat fluidly throughout the course of the sales process.

In this article, we’ll go over everything you need to know about the hunter vs farmer sales method — including how to leverage it within your organization for optimized success.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

What’s the Difference between Hunter vs Farmer in Sales?

The main difference in the hunter vs farmer sales approach is how they each go about generating revenue.

The “hunter” sales rep drives revenue by generating new leads and converting them.

The “farmer,” on the other hand, generates revenue by nurturing and growing existing accounts. They cultivate what’s already there. 

The hunter vs farmer sales framework allows sales reps to specialize in their strengths. With hunters focusing on the prospects in the sales funnel, and farmers focusing on retaining and increasing the value of existing accounts, both groups will have access to experts regardless of where they are in the process.

hunter vs farmer sales: benchmarks

With the right combination of hunters and farmers (the “trapper,” somewhat of a newcomer in the sales world, also plays an important role), sales organizations can reliably expect a performance that consistently opens new accounts while maintaining and growing the existing ones. 

It’s important to note here that, while there will be some reps who lean more toward hunters, some more toward farmers, and some more toward trappers, the most successful teams are made up of reps who can toggle between various roles if need be.

Hunter Sales Persona

The hunter is responsible for signing new accounts to the company.

To the hunter, sales is a numbers game. Their goal is to connect with and convert as many leads as possible. 

Hunters don’t worry about rejection or objections; those are part of the territory in this role.

The skillset of a hunter is generally best-suited for roles like sales development representative (SDR), business development representative (BDR), or account executive (AE).

Traits of a Hunter

Hunters are easy to spot with the following predominant characteristics:

  • Independent: Hunter-type sales reps are great at tuning out the noise and getting their job done. They don’t need a ton of direction, and can easily motivate themselves. 
  • Commission-Driven: The hunter knows that the more they reach out and convert, the more they get paid. For the most part, most reps with this skill set will accept a lower base pay in favor of a high (and unlimited) commission.
  • Persistent: The hunter is undeterred by setbacks, objections, or negativity. They focus on their quota and stop at nothing to reach it.
  • Thick-Skinned: The hunter is impervious to rejection; each “no” only fuels more determination to convert the next prospect.
  • Disciplined: Because their salary depends heavily on commission, you can count on hunters to work diligently. Their paycheck depends directly on their productivity.

Activities Hunters Do

You can easily pinpoint the hunters on a sales team; they are usually found doing one of the following:

  • Generating leads and qualifying them
  • Making great first impressions
  • Attending networking events
  • Joining professional organizations or groups
  • Leveraging LinkedIn and other social media to make new connections
  • Making cold calls and writing cold emails
  • Asking for referrals
  • Giving demos and sales pitches
  • Overcoming objections and negotiating terms 

In other words, the hunter excels at most of the things that are traditionally considered the job of a sales rep.

chart-barReach more buyersCreate multi-touch, multi-channel campaigns with emails, calls, and social touches

Pros and Cons

There are several benefits to having strong hunters on your sales team.

First, it goes without saying that no organization could exist without hunters. Any business would stop growing and eventually cease to exist without someone responsible for generating new revenue. 

Hunters also often give a “face” to your brand — given how charismatic hunters tend to be, this can be a big advantage and can go a long way in starting the relationship off on the right foot.

On the other hand, a team with only hunters isn’t necessarily sustainable, either. It’s  8 – 10x more expensive to bring on a new customer than it is to retain an existing one; even the most effective hunters require a lot of resources to be successful.

Hunters are also sometimes known to be more of a “lone wolf” type — they may not necessarily care about or contribute to company culture. By that same token, they may be more likely to abandon your organization if a better opportunity arises.

Farmer Sales Persona

While the hunter believes that sales is a numbers game, the farmer believes that sales is all about relationships and people.

The farmer-type sales professionals provide some much-needed balance to the hunters; they focus on maintaining and, ideally, growing existing customer accounts. 

Farmers provide important predictability and profitability in long-term planning and sales forecasting.

Sales reps who adopt the farmer mentality do best in roles like account manager, customer success executive, or customer service representative.

Traits of a Farmer

In addition to those listed in the chart in the previous section, hunters often excel with the following characteristics:

  • Friendly: Farmers need to be able to form authentic, lasting relationships with customers. They are genuinely friendly and easy to get along with.
  • Relationship-Driven: The farmer always puts the customer first. The relationship always comes before business goals or quotas.
  • Service-Oriented: Farmers are eager to help and will do anything to ensure a smooth and hassle-free customer experience.
  • Results-Focused: Farmers are strong problem-solvers. They hear customer concerns and work diligently to go above and beyond to resolve them. 
  • Loyal: Customers who work with farmer-type salespeople know that they always have someone in their corner. This goes a long way in maintaining long-term customer relationships.

Activities Farmers Do

Farmers are not as involved in the front-facing hustle and bustle of traditional sales. Instead, they work behind the scenes to ensure an outstanding customer experience.

Farmers can be found:

  • Creating new opportunities for revenue within existing accounts through upselling and/or cross-selling
  • Providing a stellar onboarding experience for new accounts 
  • Proactively scheduling and completing account reviews
  • Creating helpful content for existing customers, like user guides and how-to manuals
  • Sending contract reminders when necessary 

The farmer who does their job well also communicates with the hunters of the group; they provide feedback about how real customers experience the sales process and the product itself, which hunters can use to further optimize the sales process.

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Pros and Cons

Sales reps who play the farmer role are increasingly more important in today’s sales world. 

Customers today have access to more buying information than ever before. They can quickly and easily make buying decisions with very little input from sales reps; they can also terminate a contract very suddenly if they discover a better opportunity.

The farmer’s job is to carefully cultivate and nurture accounts to prevent that churn

In doing so, they increase customer loyalty and promote long-term business.

They also help increase the lifetime customer value (LCV) of each account.

This kind of attention to detail and customer-focused behavior is what creates lucrative referrals and successful cross-selling and upselling.

The downside to the farmer role is that the sales rep is at the mercy of how well the hunter performs. If hunters are closing poor-fit accounts, or not closing enough of them, the farmer is less likely to be successful — no matter how well they perform their own role.

How the Hunter and Farmer Can Work Together

The best and most successful sales teams are the ones that have an effective mix of hunters and farmers. 

If the sales reps in each role perform their responsibilities effectively, it allows for a very scalable and predictable sales process.

The hunter should be responsible for the various parts of the sales pipeline, up until “Post-purchase.” 

hunter vs farmer sales: sales pipeline

The farmer takes the lead post-purchase. They ensure efficient onboarding and optimal customer outcomes.

It’s worth noting here that the landscape of sales has changed dramatically in the last twenty, ten, and even five years, and it will continue to change at an accelerated pace.

Today, the sales relationship is as important as the sales process itself.

The hunter vs farmer sales debate is becoming moot, and the reality is becoming more clear: the sales reps who will see the most success over the course of their careers are the ones who can effectively perform both roles.

The Trappers

With the rise in popularity of inbound marketing, a new role has recently developed in the sales team: the “trapper.” 

The trapper has a very intricate and nuanced understanding of their buyer personas. They use this insight to create or position targeted sales collateral that attracts good-fit leads to them.

In other words, they lay a “trap” through content or other marketing initiatives, and then they engage an already-warm prospect.

Trappers have a unique ability to meet prospects exactly where they are in the buyer’s journey.

hunter vs farmer sales: buyers journey

They’re also adept at generating glowing social proof like testimonials and case studies. 

Like hunters and farmers, trappers are an important member of an effective and holistically-sound sales team. 

Do you recognize hunters, farmers, or trappers on your sales team? Which role do you most identify with? How can you strengthen the skills required for the other roles?

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