Sales Training Tips  Sales Training - Are Your Salespeople Hunters or Farmers?

Sales Training Tips  Sales Training - Are Your Salespeople Hunters or Farmers?

I recently read a quote from the great salesman Sid Friedman who stated, "The harder I worked, the luckier I got." I have never met a top producer, a hunter who didn't have this statement as part of their sales DNA, while the farmers sit around, hoping to take orders and wonder how the hunters get so lucky. One word - Prospecting!

Where have all the sales gone? Is the preeminent question that reigns in the corporate sales world as well as with the professional rain maker. Remember a time when we the phone would ring? Times where good, everyone was making money and in full swing of the longest running economic expansion in US history where even the average salesperson looked like a star. Poof! The worlds turned upside down with the collapse of the dotcom's and the spiraling fall from grace of Enron, Tyco and others.

Ok, so what does an economic collapse have to do with sales? I began surveying corporate sales chiefs, business owners and management committees of professional service firms wanting to understand what is their biggest challenge in hitting their revenue goals for 2003. Most answered that their people had forgotten how to sell, or more to the point, they had forgotten how to prospect. They were no longer hunters of new business; they were farmers. Networking had become a social event were salespeople and professionals hung-out to congratulate themselves on landing the big account. Salespeople now commiserate at networking events, desperately clinging to the ill-fated paradigm of waiting for the customer to call.

The economic expansion of the last decade allowed many hunters to rest on their laurels. These old hunters became complacent and bad habits took over where good habits once dominated. These new habits made farmers of the modern day salesperson. Now, they wait for the phone to ring and when they don't hit their numbers they use the economy as an excuse. I've heard it all from, budgets are tight to non-existent and the customers don't have any money to buy our products. What's funny is that these are internal sales objections from the sales people we're paying to sell for us. Guess what, many of them haven't figured out a way to overcome their own objections. Isn't that what sales professionals do, overcome objections to discover the real needs of the prospect? They need to be a bit more introspective to discover the buying motives that will transform them from farmer to the all-capable hunter who understands that they must perform of starve.

Samurai Note: Begin measuring your prospecting success and compare yourself with the best! To understand where you stand, download "prospecting metrics" from

I understand that it's tough out there and that mentally salespeople are expecting revenue shortfalls. This goes back to goal setting 101, what you believe will appear. Let's face it, the salesperson of 2003 are farmers, not hunters. I realize this comment will stir some emotions, but it's true. I've talk to hundreds of sales people who have rolled up their tent and blamed management for not doing the things necessary to help them in the tough times. However, there are a few shinning stars out there. I recently spoke to a sales person who grew his territory 1200% last year in a highly competitive industry segment, where the rest of the industry was down and others who have been able to win new business like him. What's their secret? The rollout of a new product? Extended product financing with a discounted interest rate? Giving the product away - FREE? NO! Their secret is not really a secret at all, they haven't bought into the thought of doom and gloom, and they are hunters who've figured out a way to succeed.

I happened to walk into the office of an international company in a highly competitive industry to visit one of these top performers and noticed his associates sitting around and talking, I'm escorted back to Phil's [not his real name] office, and there he sat wrapping up a call. The first thing you notice when you walk in is the absence of pictures on the walls, he looks up and says, "yea it's kinda empty in here, I keep it that way to remind me that I am here to work. I do not want an office that's too comfortable." Once again, he reminds me, "I'm here to work". I smiled.

We had a great talk, one that I often hear from a 2%er, and a hunter. I asked him about the call he just made and he told me that he was in the process of calling 300 executives that worked for PROSPECT Corp. I asked, how long will that take you? "I've planned about four or five days, he smiled and continues saying that he really wants to land this account". I smiled too, you see Phil is a National Accounts Manager, he is not some rookie dialing for dollars, and he has the fire in his belly to sell, a hunter who realizes that if he doesn't hunt, he will starve. Phil is a dream for every sales manager on the planet, selling $750,000 in new business in 2002 when everyone else had mentally taken the year off.

Remember, the phone won't ring today or tomorrow. There is no one to blame but yourself if you fail to meet quota. Today to be successful in sales, you must dig down inside and rebuild the hunter mentality, the instinct for survival. Clients will not come to you, you as a sales professional must make the effort of dialing the phone or knocking on doors. In the challenge economy it's about the numbers, you've got to dig down deep inside.

I remember having diner with the great Tom Hopkins (internationally known speaker, sales trainer and author) a number of years ago, I had just been awarded "Salesperson of the Year" and I was feeling pretty invincible. During diner, Tom wrote something on a piece of paper and handed it to me, saying that the secret of all top performers is written on the paper. It simply read, GOYA. I glanced back at Tom with a puzzled look, and asked what did it mean? He smiled and said "Get Off Your Ass." No matter how effective all of the other sales models are, all the marketing your company does, none will help you hit your revenue goals if you don't apply the GOYA model. By the way, I still have the note!

I realize this article was more of a rant than usual; however there is a point to be made. Keep the end in mind, and know your outcome. If you stay focused on outcomes, you will begin to understand what it will take to create the win. If that means going out learning a new skill or it could simply mean applying the GOYA model with a positive attitude. The decision is yours and only you have the secret to unlock your success!


Joe Heller is one of the worlds foremost authorities on prospecting and sales. An internationally known speaker, strategy consultant and coach, he's focused on driving top-line sales revenues. Joe is known by his peers as The Sales Samurai, teaching sales best practices he learned on the [business] battle field to drive high-performance results in selling. Giving over 100 talks a year, Joe motivates and educates clients by giving maximum take home value, providing key insights and strategies for sales executives and their teams to achieve their revenue plan.

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