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Hunter v. Farmer: Why You Are Doing Your Salesforce a Disservice

Time and time again we speak with sales leaders who refer to their salesforce as “hunters” and “farmers.”

I believe these are outdated, over-simplistic stereotypes designed to drive the wrong behavior. Now, don’t get me wrong, I will certainly acknowledge there are different skill set requirements for those who work in the world of account management v. new client acquisition, but calling them hunters and farmers puts you on a slippery slope, and may be contributing to lower client retention. Why?

We must start with the two most difficult things to do in sales:

1. Win a new multi-year customer contract

1A. Retain and expand in your multi-year customer contracts

Notice, they are numbered “1” and “1A” and here’s why…

Let’s start with some facts and data:

According to consulting behemoth, Bain & Company¹:

  • It is 6-7X more expensive to sell a new customer than to resell into an existing customer.

  • Additionally, the probability of selling to a new prospect has an 80-95% defect rate while selling into an existing customer has a 30-40% defect rate.

In a world where we all have a finite amount of time and a finite amount of capital, whether you are a salesperson or a sales leader, what is that costing you?

From a skillset perspective, the #1 reason sales people fail is they fail to prospect. The theory with “hunters” is that they are not afraid of the rejection associated with prospecting and are able to get meetings, uncover customer problems and use their resources to close sales. A “farmer” typically possesses the same skills with the possible exception of prospecting.

I cannot tell you how many times we perform a Discovery of a client’s existing sales training programs and there is little to no training on how to effectively prospect.

We are so committed to the following mantra as a customer-focused organization, we trademarked it:

If we solve our customers problems, they will reward us with the revenue so that we can invest in our people, process and technology to hopefully, find more problems that we can solve.

Isn’t this what consultative/solution selling is all about?

Whether you are selling print to digital, staffing, workforce optimization, or pharmaceuticals, aren’t we…in the end…trying to help our customers solve their problems?

In today’s hyper competitive environment, the “farmers” must hunt on the farm!!! You must put your most talented sales people on client retention and expansion. When you consider the cost to acquire a customer and the fact that your competition is putting their best “hunters” against your “farmers” one could make the argument that you are putting best clients and most profitable revenue at risk.

We can also argue that in today’s world of specialization, if getting appointments is the main difference between the two skill sets, then you must either:

  1. Make prospecting and social selling a key part of your sales training

  2. Or… outsource lead gen and appointment setting to a third party firm (i.e. MarketSource)

At Butler Street, we specialize in client acquisition, retention and expansion—ClientFirst A.R.E.® Our Become the Only Choice Sales Effectiveness training includes modules on Prospecting and Social Selling combined with 12 one-hour, bi-weekly virtual training sessions to ensure the training sticks. Click CONTACT and let’s start a conversation.


¹ Bain & Company. Retrieved from

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