SALES HUNTER’S HORIZON

Hunting in common parlance means to chase, to pursue, to search, to seek for, obtain and to scour. Mainly it was for subsistence (as in food) or for a profit (tusks, animal hide, skin etc.) or a sport (was construed as a royal sport in certain cultures). Hunting for food was the way mankind survived once. Today it isn’t so. In the civilized world, one doesn’t have to hunt for food but one has to hunt for the means to acquire food such as a job, business or other means of sustenance. Businesses (which creates these jobs) make money by providing a product or service of considerable value to the market place. To make these products/services reach its intended customers, businesses need to embrace selling as an expedient functional tool. Sales hunters are a designated breed who not just look for these customers but also bring these serviceable deals to the seller’s firm. 

WHY SALES HUNTING IS NEEDED?

Why the word hunting is used in a selling parlance? People do love to buy of their own accord don’t they? Television, print, radio, billboards, flyers, signage, in-store, out-of-home (bus benches, shelters, automobile & building wraps, graffiti, street advertising, wallscapes), email, direct mail, digital pull (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook etc.) all these capture the buyer’s attention at different points. In short, buyers are well advertised to and in a way have their mind made up. Why then do you need sales hunters? For FMCG, consumer goods and the likes of it, all the above methods of informing the buyer is fine but when it comes to technology selling or engineering products/services or large infrastructure deals or bulk deals there is too much at stake hence companies would like to give it a personalized touch in terms of their full-fledged representation prior to buyer having formed any decision.

Besides, there are too many similar/competing products/services hence the information that buyers have may not be sufficient for them to make a comprehensive decision. Well, this is what every selling firm thinks anyway! They feel buyers need to be further educated about sellers products and solution suitability hence to carry this message they recruit sales evangelists, train and condition them and rechristen them as hunters. Breathing is the process in which the lungs suck fresh air from which oxygen is absorbed and passed on to the bloodstream for transportation to body cells, where it is used in respiration to release energy from food. Sales hunting is akin to breathing, it brings fresh prospects, leads, RFP’s, opportunities into the firm from which the pertinent ones are distilled and passed on to the firm’s management for scrutiny, participation and eventual deal strike. Sales hunter role is essential for the firm’s oxygenation.

HUNTING- FARMING PARABLE 

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Quintessential sales hunters do not like to get tied up as farmers or get allocated as account management maven’s. The mind composition of both these sales people are different. There are no absolutisms here, and this composition can be unquestionably altered with training and conditioning however it is  individual preference that make sales people  seek hunting or farming as a career. Amateur sales people are tired and overheated after a prolonged bout of hunting after all it does expend energy and it takes grit to bounce back from incessant rejections. Since sales people are not paid for activities and efforts but only for accomplishments and winning deals, some hunters like to settle down, have something concrete on their palette, get a bit comfortable and seek to do some meaningful account mining tasks.  Farming could be used as a reprieve from the tougher hunting role though there are many sales people who seem to find their passion in account management roles once they are into it.

There are many firms who want their expensive, proficient and experienced hunters to rivet themselves to a large account after they have secured it. These firms want the sales hunters to focus their energies to grow the account but this may not always be a prudent approach. There are also firms who do not contaminate the mission of hunters regardless of how big an account they have landed for the firm. These firms are quick to detect hunting burnouts and keep the vivacity and ardour of their sales hunters intact. As the deal is secured, the hunter moves on and gallops to the next prospect in the qualified pipeline. Such firms are market leaders as they are the quickest to acquire new business. Of course without a proper distribution of hunters and farmers in the selling contingent combined with other aspects such as innovative products/ services, branding, competitive alacrity, customer loyalty etc., one cannot become a market leader. Mining the account hence is of paramount importance in addition to hunting.

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16 TRAITS OF SALES HUNTERS

  1. Always on the lookout for deals, possess boundless curiosity and very well networked.
  2. They are ambitious, bold and indomitable to rejections.
  3. They like instant gratification, incentives, perks and fame.
  4. They feed on excitement and always in a ‘search for opportunity’ mode.
  5. They are intrinsically motivated.
  6. They are less suited for long-term relationships with any client as they are not motivated to mine the account.
  7. They like the smell of the kill and instead of savouring the kill, would like to move on to the next one.
  8. It used to be construed that hunters could manage any opening with a client and can do business without referrals and endorsements but this is an antiquated approach. These days’ sales hunters need to be fully equipped with all these referrals, endorsements, well-researched opening discussion cues and many other requisites which are few amongst scaffolding pillars in consultative selling approach.
  9. They are excellent listeners, sense customer’s pleasure and pain points with remarkable sagacity and able to rephrase customers problem areas and frame solutions with acumen, subtlety and finesse.
  10. Very high on action centricity particularly in moving the lead forward into an opportunity.
  11. They are persistent, tenacious and competition vigilant.
  12. They generate multiple contact points within the prospect’s firm.
  13. They create sales advocates within the prospect’s firm.
  14. They have the attentiveness to pick up prospect firm’s vision, mission, strategic priorities, media broadcasts and other vital cues that provide them with an inclination of buyer’s challenges, intent and onward leaps.
  15. Extraordinary digital participation. They are present on LinkedIn, Twitter, Blogs and many other social media forums and produce relevant and perceptive content.
  16. They have a more varied personality with interest in broad range of life aspects. This is an important trait that eliminates staple conversations with clients and instead facilitates a connect with the personal side of customers.

 A FEW TRAITS OF FARMERS

  • They are more relational, exhibit more patience and adopt a consultative approach to selling.
  • They are good at customizing solutions for the client and creating need.
  • Farmers too have pressure to grow the business and they are not impervious to ‘incentive avarice; however they like a robust base salary than variable pay.
  • They nurse and nurture the account hence enjoy immense customer loyalty. The customer will eventually know the selling firm from the lens of the farmer.
  • They are supremely resourceful, team players and move management on both sides to grow the account.
  • Valuation of any company depends also on the brawn of large accounts that it has cultivated hence the farmers role is of tremendous importance.

TYPES OF SALES HUNTERS:

In the animal world, some predators such as dogs, leopards and alligators are generalists and will hunt for anything while other predators are specialists and seek to capture a specific type and species of prey. In the sales world, similarly there are firms who have generic sales hunters who go after any deal as long as it gives them some revenue but such firms operate at the lower end of the competitive chain or just starting their game. These days’ sales hunters are domain specific as each domain has its own elaborateness and intricacies. A sales hunter who is well acclimatised in a specific area gets self-persuaded to stay in that domain e.g. car sales people, insurance, medical, property sales persons etc. In the technology industry these domains could be manufacturing, financial & insurance services, energy & utilities, engineering services, mobile computing, telecom etc. Sales people can move from one domain to another and they do but the learning curve is sharp and protracted and firms do not have time for experimentation.

shutterstock_104708672In the animal kingdom we have two kinds of hunters; one that kill large prey and dismember it or chew it before eating it such as a jaguars and then there are other hunters/predators who eat their prey whole (usually smaller) e.g. a bottlenose dolphin swallowing a fish or a snake, duck or stork swallowing a frog. Similarly in the sales world, there are hunters who pitch for large RFP’s or deals and hungry for the whole deal and there are other sales hunters who somehow are happy if they get a small portion to gnaw at whilst they seek stronger and steadier inroads into the buyer’s firm. There is another kind of hunting strategy which is called ‘social predation’ in which predators combine and quarantine the prey which is usually much bigger in size than any individual predator. Hyenas, lions, wild dogs, piranhas are such hunters who take on other larger herbivores. Some of the very large deals in today’s market place is dealt by combining forces with partners, joint positioning strategy etc.

CONCLUSION

The archaic sales hunter may perhaps become happy if there is a 10 % acceptance from 100 cold calls and would construe his efforts as worthwhile but modern hunting is first about exploring the customer in a healthy way by attempting to understand the prospect’s pain areas to effect a genuine sale. More than voluminous targeting tactics, it is about deeper prospect mining maneuvers prior to beginning the hunt that creates efficacy in the approach. A depth oriented hunt for a few select prospects may be sensible but again this depends on what part of the business development curve and ambition each firm is perched on.

Most companies have about 10 % of their selling staff as hunters. Every firm, including the ones who now boast of a robust hunting team, more or less keep altering their sales hunter to farmer composition depending on market dynamics. Most companies are busy servicing existing customers. Whilst this is a good position to be in, unless new business acquisition is an indispensable rallying cry of the selling firm, there would always be sales fluctuations. Maintaining an enriched prospect pipeline, supplying prospect cues to the sales hunter and rendering marketing and leadership support to the hunting team are basic organizational imperatives to temper such fluctuations and improve sales forecasting. Having a dedicated sales hunting team is an intellectual asset for the firm and constitute one amongst myriad organizing principles of sales.

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