Why I Feel Hunter/Farmer Roles in Sales are Designed to Fail

For years, consultants, advisors, and business executives have pushed the concept that sales people are either Hunters or Farmers.  I want to challenge that concept today and add a new role to the mix called the Prospector.  By breaking down the actual sales process, I hope to demonstrate that a company must recruit and hire three different types of sales people in order to attain revenue goals.  Let’s start by identifying who the hunter, farmer and prospector really are. If you paint a picture in your mind of a hunter, farmer, and prospector you get a pretty clear idea of what each one does to survive.  The hunter kills in order to feed the family. The farmer plants seeds and nurtures them to provide food for the family. Finally, the prospector looks for gold nuggets to sell to buy food for the family.  These are three very distinct approaches or skill sets used to the same end goal. Now turn the approach into sales for a company and the prospector looks for business, the hunter closes the sale, and the farmer does the account management. I have managed many sales teams during my career, and I used a simple spreadsheet for tracking lead to sale conversions in every one of them.  I had four columns labeled cold, warm, hot, and sale in which every lead is loaded in based on the stage of the sales process.  What I found was remarkable.  Some of my sales people could load the pipeline with hundreds of leads and move them from cold to warm but could not get them to hot if their life depended on it (the Prospector).  On the other hand, other sales people could close every lead on their list but their list only contained a few leads (the Hunter).  Each could do a portion of the sales process but none could do it all. My sales goals were not being met.  As for the farmer, I honestly do not consider the farmer to be a sales person.  They are customer satisfaction people  and are not responsible for a sales quota.  These people have a true gift when it comes to helping and working with customers.  This is not limited to customer issues, but includes customer utility of our company and our product/service.  Referrals and up sells would be difficult without them.  All of this is why I  design my sales teams around three (prospector/hunter/farmer) specific positions to accomplish my forecasted goals and revenue targets. Here is my concept on using these three different sales styles in sales groups.  The prospector is my cold caller but also works with my farmer to develop referrals and up sell existing customers.  They build the pipeline with potential sales but do not close.  I have never met a sales person that excelled at the cold call and the close.  I’m sure they are out there, but for a typical sales group, you have to deal with what is available to you.  My farmer is my account manager and makes sure my customer is happy and is using the services/products we sold them.  My hunter is my closer. Before I close today I wanted to address the cost of what I suggest.  By using three “sales people” in the roles I describe above, rather than the typical hunter and farmer, you will actually save money and increase revenue.  According to the most recent Sales 2.0 conference, there were 18 million salespeople in the United States.  If the general rule of thumb holds true that 20% of the sales people produce 80% of the sales, that’s 14 million sales people that can’t  produce.  Could it possibly be because they are being ask to do something they are not capable of doing?  Are they in a hunter role when in fact they are Farmers or even prospectors?  What is it already costing your company to have sales people in the wrong roles?  How much did it cost you to hire them, train them, and support them in their failure to produce?  I propose that by allowing sales people to do what they do best, you will increase sales revenue by amazing amounts and you will also have a happier company. Take some time to look at your current sales team and see if my concept is already working within your sales group and you never knew it.  Salespeople (all people for that matter) will do what they are comfortable doing the most and what is uncomfortable for them to do the least.  Allow your salespeople to do what they do best and watch your revenue goals explode.  Trust me, it works!


Keenan is A Sales Guy Inc’s CEO/President and Chief Antagonist. He’s been selling something to someone for his entire life. He’s been teaching and coaching almost as long. With over 20 years of sales experience, which he’ll tell you he doesn’t give a shit about, Keenan has been influencing, learning from and shaping the world of sales for a long time. Finder of the elephant in the room, Keenan calls it as he sees it and lets nothing or no one go unnoticed.