Week 48 – Strategy – Chapter 12

Every salesperson is different, but there are some remarkable similarities. In order to show you which type is best suited to which strategy, I will introduce the four most common varieties of salespeople. Ask yourself: How much of this applies to your employees?

Have you heard of the “hunter” and the “farmer”? Something akin to a field sales representative vs. an account manager or inside sales manager. This general distinction between salespeople who are supposedly aggressive and those who tend toward harmony, however, is not quite accurate.

I’m generalizing too, of course, but in our model there are four different salesperson types. The typology will help you choose the right sales professional for any given strategy.

I will start with the bottom right-hand category. There you will find:

The Hunters

They are motivated, aggressive and want quick results. In other words, their actions should lead to a clear and direct outcome. Hunters take no prisoners. They are not looking to build relationships. Hunters want to hunt, close deals and celebrate. Have you seen the movie “The Wolf of Wall Street?” Then you know what I mean.

With a little effort, though, hunters can engage in consulting-oriented selling as in the top right-hand corner. It does take some doing, because they have to leave their proverbial gun in the drawer and cannot instantly say, “Sign here!”—but it is conceivable.
Hunters have little empathy and confuse their keen sense for an easy prey with knowledge of human nature. In their worst form they are con artists looking to scam people. In the best case, however, they are sensitive salespeople who win over their customers, put their customers’ doubts to rest and lead them swiftly to a decision.

Now let’s turn to the top right-hand category:

The Nurturers

These value the nurturing of customer relationships. They can consult, which means that they understand the customer’s perspective, take it into account and offer the best option accordingly.

Nurturers love complex discussions. In the worst case, they are decision killers. They are so wrapped up in the truth of facts that they forget the people and their decisions along the way. They’re happy to discuss alternatives upon alternatives and details upon details and do so conscientiously. In the process, though, they dismantle the customer’s ability to come to a decision. In the best cases they are cool diagnosticians, who soberly expose the customer’s problem and find a solution to it, without straying into academic pontifications.

Many companies send a nurturer and a hunter together to visit the client. This is the typical salesperson/engineer duo that can be very effective, but can also drive up sales costs.

Now I come to:

The Contactors

What characterizes the contactors? They love their clients. When they say “my clients” they actually mean it. They invest an enormous amount in their customer relationships. They know everything about them, including birthdays and anniversaries, first names, names of grandchildren, and even pets’ names, so to speak.

Closeness to people is the salient strength of this type of sales professional. In the worst case they are fawning servants who want to read every wish off the client’s lips—though the client is not willing to pay them for it. They constantly make concessions and dream of future rewards. In the best cases they are confidants to their clients.

Last, but not least:

The Administrators

These types know that their clients have many alternatives at their disposal. Their products do not set themselves apart much from the competition; therefore they look to optimize the ordering process.

The sales professionals in this category are being increasingly replaced by machines. Amazon and similar companies are their competitors. Why? Because the clients know what they want and don’t want to shell out one cent more for it. The era of door-to-door vacuum cleaner salespeople is over. How long will this species still be able to survive?


Note: In principle, each of these types can cover both of their adjacent categories as well.

Now consider the contrast between the administrators and the nurturers. They clash: The nurturers want to change the world and the administrators want to cut costs. Or look at the hunters and the contactors. They both think that the others can never be successful. The hunters see the contactors as wimps, whereas the contactors deem the hunters ruthless and egoistic. And yet both are perfectly suited to their respective areas. It would hardly be possible, however, to unify these two contrasting positions under the same sales strategy.

Now you can see why it is so difficult to implement more than one strategy in a sales organization. On paper it might sound reasonable, whereas in practical terms it isn’t feasible to blend two even partially diverging conceptions of customer relationships in a single team.

Now ask yourself: Which of these sales types are you dealing with? And how could you best deploy them? You have to establish whether your sales professionals are hunters, nurturers, contactors or administrators. Just don’t make the mistake of suddenly referring to one of your employees as “Harry the Hunter.”