The Hunter vs. Farmer sales model: Which is best for your team?
The hunter vs farmer sales model builds two distinct roles for the sales team.
In basic terms, the difference between hunters and farmers is the goal they’re reaching for. Hunters close deals, while farmers retain those converted customers.
But of course, this sales model is much more nuanced, and has taken on new meaning as the world of sales continues to evolve.
So, let’s dig into:
- What is the Hunter vs. Farmer sales methodology?
- How the Hunter vs. Farmer sales model works
- 3 Hunter and Farmer model examples for sales team structure
- Hunter vs. Farmer model advantages and disadvantages
- How to master the Hunter and Farmer sales model with your team
What is the Hunter vs. Farmer sales methodology?
The typical hunter vs farmer description is ridiculously cliche. Articles with titles like ‘Are you a hunter or a farmer?’’ talk about ‘lone wolves’ and cite personality traits as if every hunter or farmer is a clone of the next.
While certain personality types will be more likely to thrive in either a hunter or farmer role, we prefer to look at the differences from the perspective of how they each contribute to the sales process in their responsibilities.
The Hunter sales persona
Hunters actively seek new prospects and leads, working with them to determine the right fit and close the deal.
The hunter spends their days:
- Cold calling and emailing
- Hosting discovery calls
- Qualifying new leads
- Running stellar product demos
- Negotiating price and overcoming objections
- Converting leads into paying customers
A hunter might also be known as:
- Sales development rep
- Business development rep
- Account executive
A natural-born hunter gets excited about:
- Talking to new people and building rapport
- Helping people discover solutions to their business challenges
- Gaining internal champions who are excited about the solution they’re selling
- Getting a positive response after 26 follow-ups
- Successfully overcoming sticky objections
- Hitting (or exceeding) quota
The Farmer sales persona
Every good farmer knows that it takes a long time for a good, solid crop to grow. While hunters love the thrill of now-now-now, farmers enjoy the patient work of cultivating strong relationships with customers in the long term.
The farmer spends their days:
- Onboarding new customers (especially for SaaS products)
- Scheduling and running account reviews
- Connecting with customers when their contract is about to expire
- Updating customers on new features or tips to use the product more successfully
- Talking with customers to help them set up processes and workflows inside the product
- Building helpful content for customers, such as a Help Center or video tutorials
You’ll find farmers hidden in job titles like:
- Account manager
- Customer success associate/manager
- Client success manager
A natural-born farmer gets excited about:
- Helping a customer get real value from their purchase
- Convincing customers to stay with their product rather than switch to another solution
- Working to increase the value of a customer over time
- Seeing a customer succeed using the workflows and processes they helped build together in the product
How the Hunter vs. Farmer model works
When you run a synchronized hunter-farmer sales model, you’ll see significant growth with new customers while retaining the ones you’ve already closed.
You can’t retain deals that aren’t closed, and you can’t close deals if your best customers are exiting out the back door. So, both of these roles are essential to the success of your company.
Within a typical sales process, here’s how hunters and farmers work together to close and retain deals:
1. Lead generation and prospecting | Hunter
New leads are generated either through inbound or outbound strategies. Hunter sales reps start the sales process by researching potential leads and doing cold outreach.
2. Qualification | Hunter
At this stage, the lead has shown some interest in the product. It’s the salesperson’s job to discover if the lead is a good fit, and if their product can successfully solve the challenges this lead is currently facing.
They’ll normally get on a call with the lead, ask questions about their challenges and processes, and decide whether the lead is qualified to move forward in the sales process.
3. Sales pitch and product demo | Hunter
A well-developed sales pitch at this stage is personalized to the needs of the prospect and highlights how they’ll benefit from the purchase. Rather than a monologue, it’s an opportunity to engage the prospect and prove the value of your product.
In SaaS, a product demo is an excellent tool for hunter sales reps to demonstrate in real-life how their product works and what it can do for the prospect.
4. Negotiation and close | Hunter
This is typically the final stage for a hunter, and this is where their sales skills are truly put to the test.
Negotiation can be tough. Hunters need to work alongside their POC to convince stakeholders with budget control that this purchase is worth the money they’ll invest. They’ll need to handle objections, answer technical questions, and bring the whole team around to say yes.
Once the deal is closed, the account is normally handed over to a farmer. This transfer must be ultra-smooth so that customers feel well-taken care of rather than shipped off to a random stranger at the company.
5. Customer onboarding | Farmer
Whether you’re a SaaS brand, an agency, or any other type of company with long-term relationships with customers, onboarding is an essential part of your process.
Farmers enter at this stage to make the onboarding process as smooth as possible. For a SaaS product, this would normally involve setting the new customer up in the system, helping them migrate data, set up customizations, and build a workflow for their team.
6. Retention | Farmer
Like a real farmer in the fields, the farmer role in sales has a lot of hard work to cultivate the seedlings that have started to grow and turn them into valuable fruits and vegetables for the company.
Customer retention involves many interactions over a long period of time. It could include answering questions that come up about the product, helping customers when they face challenges, or performing regular account reviews. All of this helps reduce customer churn.
At this stage, every action that farmers take has the goal of keeping customers with the company and providing them with an extraordinary experience that convinces them to stay.
7. Upsell and renew | Farmer
A farmer’s job also includes knowing when the customer’s contract is due to expire and making sure they’re ready to renew.
In many cases, upselling and cross-selling is part of a farmer’s job as well, showing them where they can expand and looking for opportunities where an upgraded pricing plan or add-on will give them exactly what they need to succeed.
When the hunter and farmer sales model is polished and adapted to your target market and your team, both hunters and farmers contribute to growing sales and a higher-value customer base, bringing solid results into the long term.
3 Hunter and Farmer model examples for sales team structure
Most sales teams have both hunters and farmers working together in separate roles. But the way you structure your sales team can vary depending on the resources you have and the market you sell to.
Here are three examples of sales team organization with the hunter and farmer model:
1. Give specialists room to shine with an assembly line
The assembly line structure breaks down the sales process we outlined above and separates it by function into groups. Within the hunters, you’ll typically find lead generation, SDRs, and Account Executive. Then, the assembly line passes to the customer success team.
The benefit of this structure is that each person is highly focused and specialized. You find exactly where your reps perform best and keep them doing what they excel at. This creates a repeatable process with predictable results.
2. Boost responsibility with hunter-farmer pods
This structure follows the idea of the assembly line but organizes individual team members with different roles into tight-knit pods that work together to close and retain deals.
As an example, a pod might have two SDRs, an Account Executive, and a Customer Success rep.
With this structure, hunters and farmers work together in close groups, building more meaningful connections between these different roles and using that to bring more value to customers. Rather than competing individually against others, the pods compete against other pods, using teamwork to their advantage.
3. Create a team of all-in-one reps
If you’re running a lean startup sales team, you probably read the above and thought:
“That sounds great. But I don’t have enough people to fill all these roles.”
We’ve been there, and we get you. Building your first sales team isn’t an easy task, and in many cases, roles will have to overlap.
We’ve always recommended hiring salespeople two at a time. These two individuals should be able to work together while competing with each other to hit quota and reach goals.
In startup sales, the hunter and farmer roles will blur a bit. To make sure you’re still getting the best of both roles, hire reps that are hungry and willing to learn. Let them take responsibility for prospects beyond the closed deal, and have them handle contract renewals and other key milestones in the customer lifecycle.
As your sales team grows, you’ll be able to separate these roles and create a more specialized hunter-farmer sales model. But don’t forget that you need both to be truly successful, even from day one.
Hunter vs. Farmer model advantages and disadvantages
Every sales methodology has its pros and cons. Here’s how the hunter vs farmer model stacks up:
Benefits & advantages of the Hunter vs. Farmer sales model
Separating teams into specialized roles isn’t something unique to sales. There’s a reason this team structure is so popular: it works. Here’s how:
- Allows each role to focus on where they excel: Some people are naturally great at sending cold emails that resonate with leads. Others love building long-term relationships with customers. With hunter-farmer sales, each individual fits into the bigger picture in a way that allows them to do what they love.
- Gives your customers the benefit of speaking with an expert, no matter what stage they’re in: Hunter-farmer roles are specialized in the stage of the sales process where they work. That means your customers will always be speaking with an expert, their questions will always be answered, and interactions will always be adapted to where they are in their purchase journey.
- Brings better collaboration to the sales organization: When done correctly, the hunter and farmer sales model allows individuals to work together to close higher-quality deals that will last longer.
Challenges & disadvantages of the Hunter vs. Farmer sales model
Depending on your team, your market, and the resources you have available, there will be cons to the hunter-farmer model.
- More difficult to implement for startups with small sales teams: Startup sales teams are lean at best and likely nonexistent at the early stages. So, your sales team will need to act as hunters and farmers simultaneously until you grow.
- Risk of bad customer experience with sloppy hand-offs: The hunter vs farmer sales model involves a lot of hand-offs to different team members. If this is done smoothly, it works. But if this process isn’t documented and repeatable, there’s a high risk of customers feeling abandoned by the rep when they’re handed off to customer success.
- Doesn’t give a clear role for inbound sales: Since the hunter role is mainly focused on going after new business with outbound strategies, this sales model is missing a clear role for handling and closing new inbound leads.
How to master the Hunter and Farmer sales model with your team
Despite its challenges, the hunter and farmer sales model allows teams to set up a repeatable process to bring in new deals and retain existing customers over time.
Make sure to follow these best practices to get the most out of this sales model:
Respect the personalities of your reps. When you know where each team member excels, you can place them in the roles where they’re most likely to succeed.
Adjust this model according to your market and your team. Whether you’re running a small startup sales team or working in a market where the sales process is longer and more complex, you can adapt and adjust the hunter-farmer model to close higher-quality deals that stay with you for longer.
When you set up a hunter-farmer model that works for your team and your customers, you’ll build a high-volume, high-value sales process that means success for your business.
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