Don’t Ask a Hunter to Farm and Don’t Ask a Farmer to Hunt

This post is on an “aha” from one of our recently published THiNKaha books, ask #DEMAND GENERATION tweet Book01: 140 Insights on Powering Your Sales Pipeline by Gaurav Kumar.  Allow us to elaborate on aha #12: Don’t ask a hunter to farm and don’t ask a farmer to hunt.

Sales executives will no doubt be familiar with the idea of hunters and farmers in the sales arena. It’s a distinction that has governed business practices since the late 20th century.

The idea is that sales people are divided into one of two categories. While hunters are tasked with generating sales from new clients, discount farmers are responsible for growing sales from already existing ones.

But the questions remain, more about why can’t sales people do both? And why can’t one do the other?

Understanding Hunters and Farmers

Having a healthy mix of hunters and farmers are absolutely essential for a business. They’re both tasked with making sales, but they do it in distinctly unique ways. At the same time, they each have their own set of strengths and weaknesses.

Hunters are responsible for bringing in new business and are often characterized as aggressive and persistent. They search for new prospects and track them until they yield. Hunters are absolutely essential for a business that aims to expand rapidly. They specialize in customer acquisition and excel at transactional selling.

Unfortunately, what hunters bring in growth, they lose in loyalty. They suffer from a high professional turn-over and are limited by the network they generate. In the spirit of transactional selling, they aim to maximize the revenue of every new deal but pay little heed to fostering a long lasting relationship with their customers.

Farmers, on the other hand, are responsible for doing what the hunter cannot. They are responsible for nurturing relationships with existing clients. They are experts in up-selling and relationship marketing. They foster customer loyalty and build the foundation for return clientele.

But farmers take a long time to become profitable. They are the harbinger of loyalty cards, reward points, and special discounts. Because of this, farmers become particularly problematic for businesses with no long-term plan, or with few services or low turn-around times.

From these two short definitions, it’s easy to see that the requirements of a hunter and a farmer are drastically different. They demand a different set of skills and varying approaches in selling.

This is why it’s important to know exactly what your sales personnel excel at, and make sure to tap those skills.

The Importance of Specialization

A sales team dedicated to both customer acquisition and customer loyalty will easily find itself spread too thin. While smaller enterprises are often forced to maximize what few sales personnel they have, it’s often due to lack of resources that sales staff are forced to “double-up” on their sales responsibilities.

While it is completely possible to turn your sales team into a hunting/farming force, it is rarely practical or realistic. Without the benefit of clearly defined roles or objectives, the result will be squandered opportunities, missed goals, and of course, lost sales.

Because of this, it’s important that sales personnel know exactly what role they play in the company, and to specialize in that role.

Here are just some of the key benefits of sale specialization:

  • Clearly defined roles and objectives – This gives sales teams the immediate security of the roles and goals they have. From there, sales managers can create strategies to meet their specific objectives and quotas.
  • Specialization promotes expertise – The more often you do something, the better you’ll become. The same principle can be applied in sales. If a sales team is practiced on a system of specialization, its team members will only get better with time whether it’s as a farmer or a hunter. This prevents your sales team from becoming a “jack of all trades, king of none.”
  • Addressing both customer relations and customer acquisition – With dedicated sales personnel, you can efficiently address the various needs of your customers. You’ll be able to quickly identify key sales issues and easily suggest points of improvement.

However, specialization isn’t as simple as lumping your sales personnel as either hunters or farmers. As mentioned earlier, they each have their own sets of skills and expertise.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of simply motivating your sales personnel with enticing incentives and commission. But a great sales person is also defined by their personality, work ethic, and experience. This is why it’s important to assess your sales departments on the kind of talent you have available and to deploy them accordingly.

If your sales teams are filled with farmers, don’t expect to rapidly grow your company through new business. If your sales teams are filled with hunters, don’t expect to create long standing relationships with your client base. As aha #12 states from Kumar’s book, “Don’t ask a hunter to farm and don’t ask a farmer to hunt.”

While it’s common business practice to want to address weaknesses in your sales pipeline, it’s equally important to focus on your strengths as well.


In the plethora of expert voices offering wisdom on how to generate demand, keep pipelines full, or retain clients, only a few come across as true experts–sharing guidance and tips that are practical, applicable, and worth the read. #DEMAND GENERATION tweet by Gaurav Kumar is one such book–a voice that stands apart from the crowd. Written by a serial entrepreneur who walks his talk, the book is a compilation of 140 true and tested insights that will help you rev up your sales pipeline, both in the long and short terms. If your charter is to boost your sales pipeline, whether individually or as part of a group effort, then you will surely benefit from this brand new book.

Read an excerpt of #DEMAND GENERATION tweet here and buy a copy here!

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