Hunters Vs. Farmers

KENNESAW, Ga. (Jun 5, 2017) — Go ahead -- google “Hunters and Farmers”. There is an astonishing amount of information and opinion about this concept of building and managing a sales organization. Which is the more important? It almost feels obligatory that we weigh in on the debate and take a position on the controversy. Of course, we would never shrink from the task.

Ok then – so our position is … “You’re both right!” How’s that for a courageous stand?

What’s completely missing in the debate is the starting point of understanding the unique characteristics of the prospects and clients we’re talking about. Because, the answer to this question drives which profile will be more likely to succeed.

At the Tenacity Center for Account Management and Client Retention, here at the Coles College of Business, we work with large “B2B” services management outsourcing contracts. These are large high value and long-term deals and they are unique because generally the people who buy the service are not the primary users and those that sell it are seldom involved in delivering it.

These characteristics require very specific processes and skills, which we work to provide through our Clients for Life® client retention process. Among the most important is the Transition MeetingSM, which provides the “Farmers” (the account managers) the opportunity to understand, manage, and ultimately own the corporate expectations of their new client. This positions the “Farmers” to succeed and take ownership. It puts their skin squarely in the game. No more of those meetings where you can get your eyes poked out from all the finger pointing as to who should take the blame.

Immediately after the transition has occurred and the contract has begun, a whole separate set of skills and behaviors will be applied to achieve both client satisfaction and client retention (remember they’re different). The important principle is this:

Effective account management is NOT about persuading your client to behave and act in ways that suit your own corporate objectives.  Instead, enlightened account management is understanding the client’s corporate expectations that define high levels of relevant value, and then aligning the resources of your firm to consistently exceed those expectations (“by just a little bit”).  Finally, the account manager must diligently document and report the value created and repeat this cycle (for life).

This is what “Farmers” do, not “Hunters”. It’s a very different task and your organization will be ill served if management misaligns these unique assets.

There are several firms doing a good job of using profiling / aptitude tools to identify people for these roles. But, regardless of how you get there, once the right people are in the right roles, giving them the tools to succeed and to build their skills is the real difference-maker.

Of course, that’s what we do at Tenacity – think of us as sort of the farmer’s Agricultural Extension Service.  For more information, contact us at or 470-578-3191

Steve, John & Gary