No Room For Farmers!


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Sales people are often described as Hunters or Farmers. Hunters have been characterized as chasing after new customers and new opportunities. Farmers focus on nurturing established accounts, keeping loyal customers, growing the business primarily through servicing the customer and growing the relationship.

I’m not sure that model has ever been appropriate, but in today’s world of value creation, the model falls far short of what our customers need and what our own organizations need.

Everybody Hunts! It’s the responsibility of each sales person to constantly develop their territories–whether it’s an industry segment, a geographic region, or a named account, everyone hunts. We have to constantly be assessing our territories, looking for opportunities to grow. We have to be constantly exploring–developing new relationships, finding new ways to contribute to our customers.

Our customers deserve far more than nurturing and great service. Those are table stakes for any sales territory, but they don’t help our customers grow and improve. They don’t help our customers get better. Our customers need us to be hunting–helping them to discover new opportunities, new ideas, ways to grow and improve. Our customers and prospects need us to challenge them, to get them to think about new opportunities for their businesses, to improve their own success.

Hunting demands curiosity and creativity. Hunters have to search, they have to discover, they have to push. Hunters are constantly exploring–finding untapped potential in their territory, a new customer, a new opportunity, something different for current customers. Hunters know, they must create new ideas and visions for their customers and prospects. They know they must nurture and develop those ideas over time. Hunters know they must be patient, working with the customer, developing them until the time is right, until they are prepared to buy.

Your customers want hunters not farmers, they want us to help them build their business. Are you hunting within your territory, are you living up to your customers’ expectations?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Dave Brock
Dave has spent his career developing high performance organizations. He worked in sales, marketing, and executive management capacities with IBM, Tektronix and Keithley Instruments. His consulting clients include companies in the semiconductor, aerospace, electronics, consumer products, computer, telecommunications, retailing, internet, software, professional and financial services industries.


  1. Dave, I’ve heard these terms many times over the years, and I think it’s time to put them to bed, 6 feet under.

    In my experience, “hunters” means new account sales specialists and “farmers” means reps assigned to grow existing accounts. In neither case should the job be to sit back and wait for something to happen.

    I really dislike these terms. Would you want to tell your customer that you’re a “hunter” and they are the target? Or that you’re the rep assigned to “farm” them?

    And even if the terms are not used externally, is it the right message to send to reps? I don’t think so.

    I think a “challenger”-style rep could be successful in either role. I don’t know what the right words are, but to me the sales job is to create relationships and grow business — whether from new accounts or existing.

    Hunters and Farmers are dated terms. Can’t we invent something more appropriate for today’s sales challenges?

  2. Bob, I couldn’t agree with you more—the concept is outdated (I’m not sure it was ever appropriate). Effective sales people combine elements of both.

    That being said, it seems that people refuse to put the notion to rest, so sometimes it’s worthwhile using those terms and models to start to break them down.


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