Salespeople – insights from a venture capitalist


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Over the years there have been many frameworks introdued to distinguish different types of sales reps – hunters vs. farmers, top performers vs. underachievers, and territory sales reps vs. national account executives.

Steve Case – CEO of Revolution (a venture capital company) and co-founder of AOL recently suggested that there are two different types of people who operate in the world of business. Although he was talking about the business world in general, we thought his observations held some interest for the world of sales. Let’s take a look.

Attackers. “The world of business really separates into two groups: the Attackers are the entrepreneurs who disrupt the status quo, try to change the world, take the hill, and who possess an anything is possible attitude.” They’re driven by passion, intensity and the power of their ideas.

Defenders. “Defenders aren’t trying to pursue the art of the possible, or how to maximize opportunity. They are trying to minimize the downside and hedge risk.” They are more concerned about protecting what is rather than wondering what could be. They may not prosper but they will survive.

Implications for Sales?

Like most categorical distinctions, one needs to proceed with care. Most people don’t fit nice and tidy into distinct categories. Most are somewhere in the middle depending on the situation and timing. Yet with that caution in mind distinctions can be helpful in getting away from the one-size-fits-all trap.

When sales managers take a close look at the sales reps making up their sales team, they’ll see sales reps that pursue the tried and true. They don’t take risks for fear of alienating their client base. So they are more likely to sell the established product line vs. getting excited about that new product which could have installation issues. And, they’re probably not in that group that would take a shine to the Challenger Sale model.

On the other hand there are those sales reps who embrace the Attacker attitude and the entrepreneurial focus. They put the puzzle together differently; they provide different solutions to their clients. They hit home runs but also sometimes get thrown out trying to steal second. They also can take more of their sales managers’ time because they just don’t do what everyone else does.

When it comes to sales, the point of any type of distinction of this sort is it helps the sales manager see differences otherwise missed, and helps fine-tune the sales manager’s approach to sales coaching? We thought Steve’s ideas met those criteria.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Richard Ruff
For more than 30 years Richard Ruff has worked with the Fortune 1000 to craft sales training programs that make a difference. Working with market leaders Dick has learned that today's great sales force significantly differs from yesterday. So, Sales Momentum offers firms effective sales training programs affordably priced. Dick is the co-author of Parlez-Vous Business, to help sales people have smart business conversations with customers, and the Sales Training Connection.


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