Hunters and Farmers

When I was working at a well-known national university as a young enrollment advisor I learned quickly about the differences between hunting and farming, as it relates to sales. There, in the highly competitive world of student recruiting, enrolling a student was the equivalent to a sale, and where that student (the “lead”) came from made all the difference.

There was a call center that worked as a giant SDR (Sales Development Representative) call center and that funnel leads from marketing and the website. These were the hottest leads and these were the easiest to obtain.  You could literally get a prospective student on the phone, get them to apply, and then have them in class a week later.  These were clearly the best “leads”.  To go without access to these leads almost always meant you would not hit your number.  AND if you don’t hit your number, then you were out. 

To be a really good Enrollment Representative, all you really had to do was sit at your desk, make sure you kept getting those good leads.  To keep getting good leads, you needed to not miss calls and hit some KPI targets around talk time and dials.  Once you were in, it was just a matter of talking to students about the merits of having a college degree to close the deal.   In many ways, the job was 90% farming and 10% hunting.  Sure, I got an occasional referral, or every once in a while I would dial someone who would be interested, but for the most part, because I was provided a constant source of leads, I was farming.

Fast forward to my first real SaaS sales gig, and I quickly began to learn the differences between farming and hunting.  I worked with a startup and there was very little marketing, no SDRs, and no sales process.  This is where I really began to grow as a salesperson.  Literally, there was no process because it had never been done.  We invented the process of creating leads where there were none as well as implementing a sales process from the ground up.

It was then that I realized I needed a repeatable process to call a GateKeeper, find the decision-maker, convince them to hear me out on a larger call, and more importantly close the deal.  Without marketing help, a hunter’s role can be much tougher but is not impossible.

After much practice, many failures, and a good bit of homemade “luck”, I was able to get one of my key Target accounts not only interested but actually in a real buying cycle.  Things started were looking up, I was going to crush my goals.  And then reality hit.  The client informed me that their budget cycle was going to keep them from purchasing for an additional four months.  I remember this point in my career distinctly because it was the point where I realized that I would have to fight to keep the progress that I’d already made. I wasn’t able to just sit back and wait for another deal to come about, this was the only chance I had.  Fortunately, I was able to convince the client somehow that a couple of free months on the front end would allow us to push them into a new budget cycle. It felt extremely lucky.

It was the contrast of these two jobs that really made me appreciate the first role at the university.  Now understanding how hard it was to nurture someone who is unaware of our product or offering all the way to the point where we would close a deal was allowing me to, for the first time, understand the amount of work and effort that went into generating a lead.  

My point here is that whether your role is one where you’re mostly farming, or mostly hunting, or a combination of the two, every swing at that plate is an expensive endeavor.  What does your company pay to acquire a lead?  What if you had to submit an expense report for every lead that you received?  Would you not want to treat them like gold (or maybe a little better)?  

If your entire sales organization is not using all the available tools that they have at their disposal to both create leads by hunting and close them when the deal matters most, then you are wasting company resources and you are likely not meeting your own personal goals.  When a manager you go begins to train a new sales rep and gives them the “throwaway” leads, the manager is you are essentially giving them something that represents both time and money.  Why wouldn’t they be given the best shot at closing anything that they can get in front of?  Why would you hire someone great, only to give them a low chance of success?  That is a rhetorical question, the sales manager does this because they want the sales rep to learn in a non-critical environment.  Ultimately, the Sales Manager is afraid that the sales rep does not know enough to adequately hold a conversation with a very rare and precious lead. With ABSTRAKT, that you can take a relatively new Sales Person and put them with the hottest leads and the Sales Manager can rest assured that they will have all the information and tools available to them to make the most out of the heavy investment that you’ve made.  They will have the intuitions that you hired them for, all of the capability to know the answers on the calls, using a proven framework that they can follow to success out of the gate.

ABSTRAKT offers Real-Time Conversational Coaching software. Our software provides the right sales information at the right time, live on the sales call or demo presentation.

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