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Who are the salespeople? This question comes up over and over in sales organizations. I have this conversation several times a week these days, with current and prospective clients. Organizations of the past were somewhat closed-minded, where operations only handled operations, marketing only handled marketing, and sales only handled sales. This siloed approach has definitely been blurred in the past decade. Now, in many organizations everyone has at least a sliver of the sales pie (no matter how small).

I personally grapple with this concept as I do not consider myself a salesperson in the traditional sense. I am a marketer, trainer, coach, and consultant. Rarely is it natural for me to identify myself as a salesperson. However, I have come to realize that many individuals, myself included, can’t see the value they can bring in sales because they have only one idea of what a salesperson is: a hunter.

What is a hunter?

A hunter is the salesperson that lives for sales. They are the natural networkers. They enjoy being out in the field, meeting new people and closing new business. They are driven to compete, make connections provide solutions and move to the next opportunity – and are usually most comfortable in traditional Business Development positions.

If this is you, I commend you and admire you.

As for the rest of us, I challenge you to remember the other type of salesperson; the type that is frequently forgotten or overlooked: the farmer.

What is a farmer?

A farmer is the salesperson that is relationship driven. They love to cultivate relationships and to discover new opportunities within their existing database in order to retain their clients. They typically don’t need a big book of business, and are adept at upselling and cross-selling (intentionally or not).

I would argue that the farmer is the hidden salesperson that works in departments such as Marketing, Operations, and HR. These are the people that contribute to the sales pipeline, despite not having an official job title in sales.

If this is you, own your strengths in the farming aspect of business. Look for ways to bolster your skills in this area.

Partner with the “hunter” on your organization’s sales team and become the person they feel comfortable handing new business over to once they close the deal. Nurture the relationships with your current clients. Look for ways to solve new problems and/or offer additional services that meet their needs.

Tips for Managers

If you are in a management or executive level position and are reading this post, I think it’s important to understand and identify where your employees fall on this spectrum. Everyone needs a combination of these folks on their team. Having all hunters or all farmers in your organization spells doom, regardless of the department they work in.

An example of this is described in an OPENforum article I read awhile back. TJ McCue states, “If you look at your customer/prospect base as an area, you have to do a lot as a farmer to keep that area healthy and growing. But you also have to protect it from predators and other forces of nature, so you need some hunters who will patrol the perimeter and expand it from time to time.”

Now apply this to your business. Is your team great at attracting new business, but has a horrible renewal rate? Perhaps you need to identify the farmer to help retain those clients. Or do you have a loyal set of clients, but are struggling to bring in new business? In this case, you may want to consider hiring a hunter.

It is also equally important to provide training and guidance to help the hunters become better at farming and vice versa. Take a look at my colleague’s recent blog post, “9 Elements of a Winning Sales Team.”

I hope this post helps to uncover the diverse set of characteristics that make up salespeople. In today’s business landscape, we are all a part of sales. As an individual, discover where your strengths lie and use them to your advantage. And if you are a manager, help your team to uncover their roles in propelling sales.

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