The landscaper called me over to look at a tree on our property. He showed me the enormous hole and I asked, "What did that?"
"Woodpecker," he said.
On one side of the tree we had this perfectly cut, huge hole, and the other side of the tree had many small holes. I learned that the Woodpecker that made the small holes were looking for food while the Woodpecker that made the huge hole was making a home. Hunters and Farmers.
Just like the two types of Woodpeckers, salespeople tend to fall into the same two categories of being either Hunters or Farmers. In a perfect world, Hunters make lots of outgoing calls in order to find an opportunity which could pay them to eat. Farmers work a single account and try to make them bigger.
Other than predators, there isn't much to stop a woodpecker from doing their thing, but there are plenty of things that could interfere with a salesperson's Hunting or Farming efforts. Let's discuss them.
Let's begin with the Hunters. While many tech companies have adopted the use of BDRs to conduct inbound and outbound prospecting, most companies in most industries did not go there. So let's assume that we are talking about a traditional sales organization with traditional salespeople who have responsibility for both finding and selling opportunities. If the salesperson already works at your company, you know if they are hunting because those who hunt consistently regularly add new opportunities to the pipeline. But what about the salespeople who don't hunt consistently. Do you know why? The seven reasons most often to blame are:
- Sales Managers. What? Yes, sales managers who fail to hold their salespeople accountable for the agreed upon prospecting activities are enabling those non-hunting salespeople.
- Fear of Rejection - they fear that a prospect will say, "No," or "Not Interested," and that will destroy them
- Need to be Liked - they believe that if they interrupt a prospect and the prospect becomes upset, the prospect won't like them.
- Call Reluctance - they refuse to make cold calls.
- Perfectionist - they won't make the calls until they are sure the calls will be perfect but, of course, there is no such thing as a perfect call.
- Time Management - they have time for everything except making prospecting calls
- Nobody Answers the Phone - a nice excuse since it can take anywhere from 8-15 attempts to reach a decision maker and most salespeople give up after 4 attempts.
If the salesperson does not work for you - yet - but they are candidates for a sales role that requires Hunting, you need a crystal ball. In this case, you aren't as concerned with why they might not hunt, you must know, in advance, if they WILL hunt.
In both scenarios, one of the assessments from Objective Management Group (OMG) can help. For your existing salespeople, a sales team evaluation will help you understand if you can get your non-hunting salespeople to become hunters. For potential salespeople, OMG's Sales Candidate Assessment will tell you whether or not they WILL prospect consistently and you can take that prediction to the bank as no assessment is as accurate and predictive as OMG's Sales Candidate Assessments.
According to OMG's data from the evaluations and assessments of more than 2.3 million salespeople, 68% of salespeople are strong in the Hunter Competency. But don't rejoice just yet. If we look more closely, we see that 95% of the top 10% of all salespeople are strong Hunters so what does that mean for the rest? If we look at the bottom 50% - half of your current and potential future salespeople - only 34% are strong Hunters and that drops to just 6% of the bottom 10%. Ugh.
Thankfully, OMG measures more than the Hunting competency as that is only one of the twenty-one Sales Core Competencies featured in OMG's various evaluation tools.
The other type of salesperson we were discussing earlier in the article is the Farmer. While more salespeople tend to be attracted to the Farmer role than the Hunter role, attraction does not equal well-suited. There are several reasons why salespeople in Farmer roles fail to significantly grow their large accounts:
- Unable to reach decision makers so those in power are unfamiliar with the salesperson.
- Unable to penetrate the account both vertically and horizontally resulting in lost opportunities
- Unable to provide value because of a focus on pricing
- Order-taking vs account growth mentality
- Risk averse so they focus on not losing the account rather than growing the account
- Lack of strong relationships across the account so when a key individual leaves the account is vulnerable
- Faulty sense of loyalty where they advocate for their customer instead of for their company
The next time you are in your yard you might hear a woodpecker but you probably won't see it. Is the Woodpecker hunting or farming, and does that even matter? There's not much you can do about it anyway. However, at your company, there is a lot you can do. Get your sales team evaluated so you can identify why your sales team isn't more effective and what you can do to train and coach them up. Utilize OMG's Sales Candidate Assessments to improve your sales selection. Your salespeople don't have to be Woodpeckers!
Check out all 21 Sales Core Competencies, comparison data by industry, and even how your salespeople compare here.
Take OMG's Sales Candidate Assessments for a free trial here.
Check out OMG's Sales Team Evaluation Samples here.