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Hiring your first sales rep? Answer these 3 questions first… (part 2 of a 3-part series)

March 27th, 2013

This is part 2 of a 3-part series to help answer a few important questions for those firms in the market research industry that are thinking about hiring their first sales rep.

In part 1, we discussed the advantages and disadvantages of Inside vs. Outside sales rep.  In this post…

Question #2: Hunter or Farmer?

Most sales roles are generally defined in one of two ways:

  • Hunter – someone whose primary responsible is to uncover and work with ‘new leads’ until they become a first time buyer, after which they are turned over to someone else at their firm.  Think ‘Account Executive.’
  • Farmer – someone whose primary responsibility is to work with established clients, to build deeper relationships within them and to expand the breadth and depth of their business with them.  Think ‘Account Manager.’
  • In fact, there’s a third – the Hunter/Farmer – who has both some hunting and farming responsibilities.  Their job is to uncover new leads, work with them until they become a first-time buyer and then grow and nurture them over a long period of time.

The question is, which structure is best for your firm?  Thoughts and comparison points (in no particular order):

  • Hunters are often inside sales reps; it’s a numbers game… trying to connect with as many prospects as possible – and working the phone makes that possible.
  • Farmers often work with a firm’s largest clients – with the bottom line goal of keeping the business… and then hopefully increasing it; working with large clients is really the only way to justify the role.
  • The Hunter/Farmer hybrid role seems to be the most popular. Turn a lead into a client… then work with that client over time to grow the relationship.  Clients like it too… they don’t necessarily like getting handed off to someone else after building a relationship with the initial sales rep.
  • Hunters and Hunter/Farmers generally have a territory of some sort – usually geographical, by industry vertical or some other client profile. Farmers generally have a defined group of clients; the criteria is usually size only (that is, large/established clients).
  • Some Hunter/Farmers have only one [really large] client… a client so large that it’s worth investing one full-time employee to ensure that the business is maintained.  Depending on the relationship, sometimes the Farmer actually works inside the offices of the large client.
  • Some Hunters are just lead generators… trying to find those who show some interest, scheduling an appointment for the ‘closer’ and then handing them off.

We see mostly Hunter/Farmers and Farmers in the Market Research industry.  Other than a few technology and panel companies, this is not an industry that has fully embraced sales, so the pure Hunter position is not all that common.

So, what’s right for your firm?

Again, every firm is different, has different needs and budgets, etc., but as a ‘safe’ starting point… my first sales rep would be a Hunter/Farmer.  I think it’s the easiest for most managers to understand, the role makes sense to the clients and if you decide to add to your sales team, it simply becomes a matter of deciding how to define territories moving forward.

The one exception might be this… If you have one huge client or a group of large clients that account for a significant percentage or your revenue, you might want to consider bringing in a Farmer to take care of them… to get inside of those few clients and meet and work with as many contacts as possible… to become a valuable resource for their team.  And while they’re there… to cross-sell and up-sell to grow the relationship.  It’s a bit of a ‘defensive’ move to be sure… but in many cases, it’s worth the investment.  Think of it this way… can you afford to lose your largest client?

Do you have a preference – Hunter or Farmer – and why?  We welcome your feedback below.

Next month: Part 3- How to compensate?

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