By Alejandro Cabral
Global Digital Sales Transformation Leader
I’ve been hearing terms such as “hunter” and “farmer” to describe sales roles since I began my sales career. For some reason, they are becoming more and more frequent these days. As if they were new, or as if it better defined the type of seller you’re talking about. A hunter will typically go after new customers, while a farmer will keep the ones we already hunted. Doesn’t sound right if you’re a customer, does it?
Before I jump into the cool part of the article, I just wanted to say this: sales specialization is not new. It’s been around for almost 150 years. The whole idea of “hunting” and “farming” is that old. According to Predictable Revenue, it was invented in the 1870’s, in the Insurance Industry. They realized what you probably know and figured out yourself as well: no seller can be really productive if they need to continuously prospect for new customers and at the same time take care of those who have already acquired our products or services.
The actual sales model focuses in just one thing: SELL. That’s it.
Go get the money. Glengarry Glenn Ross and all of that.
Back to 2019 now, the time when we are all looking at sales as a hunting and farming game, and the realization I had of something that of course, is not new either: we need to change our mindsets.
I came by this amazing article by Gerhard Gschwandtner, who has a unique way of looking at the “why” this change is needed, and most importantly, he helps sellers do just that: change. In his article, two things hit me hard:
Their minds (seller’s minds) often run in “automatic” mode. Automatic mode means limited awareness and lack of focus.
They (sellers) ignore their mental states and ignore the fact that happy salespeople sell 38% more.
There’s a lot more to the article and I can only advise you to read it if you are in sales, sales management and/or sales effectiveness.
I’ll sum up what happened to me when I read this. The first thought I was able to recognize was a question: “Doesn’t automation favor focus?” and the second one was a bit stronger, more of a statement: “Every amazing seller I know is usually quite happy.” So I sat down and tried to answer the first thought I had, and then develop the statement I made afterward. Here’s what I got.
AUTOMATION DOES NOT ALWAYS MEAN MORE FOCUS
That is maybe the obvious answer to the focus question, but I feel it makes the point. Automating means to convert a manual process to one that runs on itself. In sales, that usually means that we free-up some of our sellers’ time so they can use it to focus on more important tasks, like visiting new customers or devising an account plan.
But does that always help the seller gain focus? Gaining back some time, freeing up their agenda doesn’t really mean they’ll suddenly focus on all those other things they can’t do because they’re buried in manual tasks. It just means you are freeing up their time.
If you are a seller and suddenly got a lot of free time back, what would you do? Would you consciously and willingly sit down to devise your prospecting strategy? Will you start mapping that account that you’ve never been able to get into yet? Some might…but in my experience, most sellers won’t. Why? You just handed them some time back. Don’t they know what they’re supposed to do? Don’t they want to do it?
It’s the mindset. I can’t really say a lot about it like Gerard can, but after spending so much time learning from sellers and training some, I can tell you that’s it. How do your sellers perceive themselves? Most importantly: how do they perceive customers? Do they see themselves as business partners, people of service or something similar, or do they just feel like employees who suddenly got some free time handed to them?
And an (obvious) tip here:
The mindset of a sales force stream down from its leadership team.
THOSE WHO LOVE SELLING ARE HAPPY DOING IT
And if you’re really happy doing something, it’s not a surprise that you become very good at doing it, which would support that statement I made. Yes, happy sellers sell more. Gerard says up to 38% more, but I will challenge that and say it doesn’t matter how much more. They just sell more because their mindset is different.
Every seller I know who’s gone to a President’s Club kind of venue is usually happy doing what they do, and most of the time that translates into just one thing: they didn’t just do their job, they killed at it. Now, if you focus on the really really small tip of the pyramid there and you just talk to the 1% of seller that didn’t just kill it but actually achieved amazing numbers…you’ll see that they have great relationships with their customers. Not just external but also internal. Those sellers are rarely unhappy but most importantly, they very rarely think they can’t make it.
I know how it sounds though: “Success-ism.” Yes, in some cases that’s what it means. Those are definitely hunters though might not know it. It’s the old “thrill of the hunt” that drives them. But if you look deeper you’ll notice something: those are actually rare now. It is easier to find sellers that are only driven by the numbers now. Why? They changed their mindsets.
As customers reclaim the center stage and empower themselves, sellers must adapt to this reality and instead of fighting for the wheel with their customers, they need to call shotgun and ride with them.
That right there is a mindset change. The fact that so many sellers now understand this and are switching to it drives this conclusion, but more importantly: by changing their mindsets from just hunting to actually letting their customers drive, they can focus on listening which is kind of the “prime directive” from anyone in sales, especially in B2B.
A mindset change can help sellers sell more. That’s the best way of summing it up I think.
And it does open a question for you (if you are in sales): how do you feel about sales, right now?
Alejandro Cabral has worked in sales and marketing for his entire career, spanning over 22 years of work in multiple industries and Fortune 500 Companies. He specializes in Modern Selling and Digital Transformation in Sales, and is currently the Global Leader for Digital Sales Transformation at Kimberly-Clark Professional, as well as a public speaker.