Hunters versus Farmers

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Berry season is just wrapping up for me and while I was out in the patch for what may be the last harvest I got to thinking about paleontology. I seem to recall different articles, probably from National Geographic, or perhaps maybe the History Channel, where there is discussion about ancient civilizations being hunters and gatherers or advancing to farmers. I guess according to the experts farming was a sign of a more advanced society with more understanding of natural cycles and the process of cultivation. There I was out gathering berries and wondering if this meant that I was not very advanced. However, I convinced myself that I was OK because, even though my berry patch is comprised of wild black raspberry and wild blackberry, I actually cultivate the patch, performing a number of things like brush clearing to encourage growth. It was a weak argument but it satisfied my self esteem.

Having overcome that small internal crisis I then moved on to thinking about the concept of hunters versus farmers in the corporate world. It is amazing how the mind wanders while you are in the process of pulling little round purple things off of a branch and dropping it in a plastic container. Sales hunters and sales farmers started to drive my cogitation. The interesting thing to me about this while I was out in the patch that day was that according to the paleontologists the hunters were the more advanced cultures, but according to today’s corporate cultures, the sales hunters are the more revered species. Those that go out and bring in the big game are more highly rewarded than those that just keep the annuity flowing.



I don’t get that. I think the paleontology-minded view of this is more accurate.

Hunters don’t attract the glory, perhaps because their actions are invisible and because their corporate contribution is too steady. Landing a big account and with a big up front sale has big numbers attached to it – rhinoceros and elephant kind of stuff. A steady stream of beans and corn just pales in comparison, although that is what keeps the village alive during the long spells between the big deals.

As our culture moves toward a greater volume of social-based buying, driven through social marketing programs, we will become even more farmer-like. How will this be perceived? Will this drive a bigger chasm between sales and marketing? Will the value of the hunter finally be recognized in our corporate culture?

My advice is that we need to embrace farmers, recognize their contribution, celebrate the fact that they keep us fed. Let’s reward those who drive loyalty, who ensure contract renewal, who do the cross-sell. Perhaps more importantly, we need to make sure that the hunter-type selling is done correctly. Do you have the role defined? Do those how farm have clear direction or does this conflict with another element of their role. I often see that this is the case with many of the organizations I work with. Hunters are not only more regarded, farming is often performed on the side, by people who are tasked with something else as their primary focus.

One tangent we might ponder, continuing with the metaphor, is how the social CRM trend will impact sales as a function. Interestingly, I think one thing that might happen is that we may see hunters become more like ranchers. Too bad ranchers and farmers have never been all that good at getting along.



Stay tuned.

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