I attended the University of Georgia (Go Dawgs!) back in the mid-1980s, but as my Uncle Howard once told me – my real education was the summer of my freshman year I spent selling books door-to-door. In those short two and one-half months, I developed many of the life skills that have become an integral part of who I am today.
Knocking on doors and proactively presenting my product to families with a specific need my educational books could help solve showed me that I can earn a lot more commission by taking the game to my customer than waiting for them to come to me.
As a result, for most of my career I have made “prospecting” my soapbox, my platform. I believe it is the missing link between just getting by, and real success in sales.
If you have been in or around the sales profession for any length of time, you have undoubtedly heard salespeople described as “hunters” and “farmers”. Unfortunately, the latter is how most sales people, regardless of their product or service, operate. Even those who do recognize the value of prospecting often wind up as farmers. These terms, now cliché, have literal meaning.
The hunter studies her prey. She learns its habits, wants, and needs and then actively pursues it. If you have ever seen a cat stalk a bug or laser light, you have witnessed a great example of the hunting process. In prospecting terms, the hunter is a salesperson who has identified her ideal client. She painstakingly studies her prospect, identifies the specific problem she can help solve, and takes her shot. If she misses, she continues to pursue the prospect until she either makes the sale or determines it’s time to move on.
The farmer on the other hand, plants the seeds and lovingly tends to his crop. No matter how well the fields have been nurtured, the farmer is always at the mercy of his environment. Droughts, insects, flooding, freezes- all things out of his control. Some years crops are plentiful, and others they may dry up and wither on the vine. It’s feast or famine for many salespeople. They are farmers who plant seeds via attraction marketing, and wait for them to sprout in the form of a reactive response. In the end, a lot of time and energy is invested in attracting and nurturing these prospective customers. The results may be plentiful or often insufficient to consistently support the goals of the salesperson.
The hunter has the advantage over the farmer. She is in control of her own destiny, not simply because she chooses to pursue her prey, but because she has an arsenal of weapons and uses them to her advantage. The most important weapon, equal to that of the speed and stealthiness of a lion – is the simple telephone.
She knows that without it, she is at a distinct disadvantage. The hunter knows she can have meaningful conversations with more qualified prospects with the telephone than by any other means.
Hunters are typically and consistently at the top of the leaderboard in most companies. In my experience, true hunters represent less than 10% of the sale population. They are different than other salespeople, and should be managed differently. Micro managing a hunter is the equivalent of reigning in a racehorse; you must let them run or they will run away.
Many salespeople exhibit traits of both. While farming tends to be the predominate trait in many salespeople, they do engage in a form of prospecting by asking existing customers for referrals. There is nothing better than getting an introduction to a potential client than from a satisfied customer. But, how many salespeople 1) have a formal process for asking for referrals and 2) follow up with the lead when they get one?
In my experience, only a fraction of referrals are ever really worked properly. The reason is simple: it goes against the natural instincts of the farmer. He may make one call, send an email or put them on a mail list, but that is usually as far as it goes.
In sales, like sports, it comes down to winning or losing. Either you make the sale or not – there are no participation trophies in this game. We often forget that this is real life, with real consequences. Our score determines whether we can feed our family, send our kids to college, or enjoy a certain lifestyle. I was fortunate to have learned this before my career even started.
The real secret to sales success is prospecting. You can learn to become a hunter if you are committed to the process. It can change your life in ways you can only imagine.
Dan Chappelle specializes in helping sales professionals achieve their full potential by thinking BIGGER, working SMARTER, and producing real RESULTS.
Dan Chappelle is a professional sales coach, business advisor, author, and speaker. His specialty is Sales Acceleration.
His training and consulting firm helps develop sales oriented business leaders.
In addition to working with individual salespeople and entrepreneurs, his corporate clients include AAA, Cruise Planners, Ensemble Travel Group, and Travel Leaders Group. His best-selling book, Get Your S.H.I.P. Together: The Wealthy Travel Agent Guide to Sales, is available on Amazon.com. For information on Dan’s Sales Acceleration programs, visit: www.DanChappelle.com