Stop Wishing for a Hunter


When I am talking with business owners, so many of them tell me the same thing when it comes to sales: “If I could only find a pure hunter, all my problems would be solved.”

This idea of hunter and farmer is antiquated and should really be shelved. For good.

Here is the deal, you don’t even really want a hunter.

When we look at what a hunter is and break down what a hunter looks like, it really isn’t any different from what a farmer is.  

What separates a hunter from a farmer is motivation and mindset, and the gap couldn’t be further apart.

The Hunter

The stereotypical hunter, the lone wolf, the road warrior, the salesperson who gets the deal closed no matter what. The truth is, they usually do more damage than anything else.

  • Culture – The culture of your company is of no concern to them. You’ve taken the time to build the company and culture you want, but those values hold no sway over the hunter. They are hired to come in, sell to whoever will listen, and do it however they need to. They are essentially a mercenary, but instead of protecting and/or killing people, they want to sell. This sounds great on the surface, but culture is such an important part of a company that you really need everyone to be on the same page.
  • Target Market – Just like with culture, they don’t care about who your target market is. They’ll sell to anybody, regardless of whether or not they are a good fit. The stigma of the salesperson over promising and then leaving it for the support staff to handle comes from this type of salesperson. Money and success is what they care about. The aftermath doesn’t matter. 
  • You – This should be pretty self explanatory if you read the section above.  They want to make money, they don’t really care who pays them the most. So they hold no loyalty to you or your business. When a better offer comes up, they’re gone.

If you have seen The Office, the kind of person I am talking about is Packer. The road warrior that everyone in the office hates. He is, of course, crude and made larger than life for the sake of humor, but if you compare him to a real person, he doesn’t care about anyone in the office and just wants to be left alone to sell.

I’ve been in sales long enough to have known my fair share of hunters. I can’t say that they’re not successful. Some of them make a lot of money for themselves and the company that they work for. Typically, the businesses that this relationship works best for have very short selling cycles and are not relationship driven. They do a great job of kicking down doors, and they burn through relationships quickly.

But the whole culture of sales is changing. Selling cycles are getting longer and relationships are more important than ever.

The real reason that hunters are sought after is because they are easy to motivate. Money makes them work, and they will grind themselves into a pulp if there is enough money to be made. You don’t have to spend time coaching them and nurturing them, because they wouldn’t use any of that anyway. 

And I get it. We all want to make more money.

But what I am about to tell you is going to blow your mind… Anyone can be a hunter.

Go back and read that again and get your eye-rolling out of the way because this is important.

Anyone can be a hunter if you motivate them the right way.

Unfortunately, most managers treat motivation like it is two sides of the same coin; money and fear.

If I give you more money, you will work harder. If you don’t perform, I will threaten your job and that will make you work.  :insert evil laugh here:

This idea is even more antiquated than the idea that hunters are what are needed for a successful sales team.

I have been in sales for 15 years and, believe it or not, my biggest motivator is not money. Many of the highest performing, quota-crushing salespeople I know are not motivated by money. They find their motivation from different sources.

Business owners and sales managers who cry about never being able to find a hunter should instead spend that time learning how to coach and motivate their team.

Coach and motivate, not pressure and threaten.

Those two skills alone will take you so far as a sales manager, and they are two of the hardest things to do well. If you have kids, you already know how hard it is to coach in a nurturing but effective way. It isn’t something that happens naturally for most people.

Understanding someone’s motivation is not as hard as being a good coach, but it is harder than just dangling money in front of someone’s face to get them to work harder. You can use assessments to discover someone’s biggest motivational levers, or use trial and error if you don’t see value in assessments.

As the percentage of millennials in the workforce continues to climb, understanding motivation will become an even larger need. Since fewer and fewer companies offer pensions, and since most millennial adults tend to know their value, (some too much), they have no problem making a move to another company where the grass is greener.  

Now that we have ran off most of the middle managers who disagree with everything that I have said so far, let’s talk about how to fix the problem.

First:

You have to spend time with your people and know them inside and out.  Personality assessments can do some of the heavy lifting, but not all.  

You need to know how people on your team are going to handle different things. What happens to the people on your team when they:

  • make a sale? – Do they get motivated, or do they relish the win?
  • lose a big customer? – Do they hammer the phones to replace that customer, or do they need some time to figure out why?
  • get cussed out by a pissed off client? – Hopefully this doesn’t happen a lot, but it certainly happens. Do they shrug it off, or do they need to go get some warm and fuzzies from another client?
  • find out you changed the commission/pay structure? – The only constant in sales is change, but salespeople still hate change as much as anyone else. Most people in a company don’t have that much fluctuation in their compensation, but most salespeople deal with it every reporting period. Plus, commissions and pay structures have to change with growing or hurting businesses.

If you know your team and how they react to things, you can anticipate what will happen and use your management and sales skills to help them. You can also guide them into finding their motivation. They might not care about the extra $1500 on their commission check, but they might break their neck for you if they get extra time off, see their name on a board, or know they are working towards a promotion.

Second:

This is important and nothing new, but you need to communicate the “why” and make sure that your team is bought in. This starts from the very beginning during the hiring process. If you don’t think a salesperson is truly tied in to the reason why everyone is working their tails off, you shouldn’t hire them, not even if they have crushed every quota at every company they have been with before.

Most new businesses and small businesses start out with a very clear “why” or at least a solid mission and value statement. With growth, it often becomes muddled. Keep it top of mind and very clear, from the top of the chain to the bottom. Everyone should know it inside and out and understand how they can bring impact from their role.

A CEO of a company that I worked with once asked me if I understood how what I did each day lined up with the 5 core values of the company. That type of brutally clear conversation is what is needed to make sure that everyone is on the same page. And sadly, it was the first time in my entire career that any manager or owner had had that conversation with me.

Pure “hunters” are not that common. Even if you do find one, it’s probably not to your company’s benefit. They can often be disastrous to an organization. They will over sell and under deliver, burn through relationships, and couldn’t care less about your company culture. If you look at the team you already have and take the time to really understand and coach them, you’ll be able to cultivate several highly motivated sales producers.

To help with that, research some assessments. Make sure that the one you pick looks into motivations and communication.

Schedule time to sit with your reps. I know there is a lot to do as a sales manager with paperwork, forecasting, and meetings, but this is as important as any of those things. 

Remember, if you don’t have a successful sales team, you don’t have a job.

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