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Want to cultivate sales? Forget farmer or hunter types – find a pioneer

Posted by Deb Muoio

Dec 9, 2014 3:12:00 PM

A football team comprised of only quarterbacks probably won’t win a football game. Similarly, a sales team ofgI_89114_iStock_000007325341XSmall only hunters or farmers won’t necessarily net the most prospects - or profits. Most experts would agree that a good balance of hunters and farmers is essential, but what about throwing in a few “pioneers?” Essentially, salespeople who possess the personality profile of both sales styles.

At PsychTests, we assessed 423 salespeople with our SPPP - R4 (Salesperson Personality Profile - 4th Revision) and what we discovered is that top salespeople are able to take on the role of both a hunter and a farmer, and actually enjoy both aspects of the sales process.

As the name suggests, typical hunters “hunt” for prospects and customers, scouting their territory with their eyes locked on the prize. They measure their success by the headcount. They are opportunists who persevere, are assertive, are at ease about asking for business, and skilled at closing. They face rejection on a daily basis, so they need to have a pretty thick skin and solid coping skills. It’s harsh on the psyche, and there is typically a high turnover rate in hunter positions, with cold-calling being especially soul-crushing.

Farmers’ mission is to tend the land – they are caretakers who ensure that customers, once acquired, stay put and keep using the company’s products and service. They lack the “killer instinct” of a hunter, and are likely to struggle if required to find new clients. However, they are good at keeping customers happy, finding the best solutions for their needs, and helping them to resolve issues. Farmers nurture relationships and do damage control when necessary, doing everything they can to ensure company or product loyalty.

It would stand to reason, then, that in order for a sales company to thrive, finding a good group of hunters and farmers is the sensible route. But I beg to differ. When we compared Hunters, Farmers, and those who possess an amalgamation of the two styles, it was the Pioneers who outperformed their individual counterparts on nearly every sales competency, including the following:

Pioneers vs. Hunters

  • Pioneers are more comfortable with risk-taking (score of 88 vs. 79 on a scale from 0 to 100).
  • Pioneers are more at ease making decisions (score of 85 vs. 68).
  • Pioneers have better communication skills (score of 89 vs. 77).
  • Pioneers possess a strong sense of self-efficacy (score of 86 vs. 76).
  • Pioneers are more conscientious (score of 85 vs. 74).

Pioneers vs. Farmers

  • Pioneers are more comfortable with public speaking or speaking to new people (score of 85 vs. 55).
  • Pioneers are better equipped, on a psychological level, to deal with rejection and criticism (score of 81 vs. 52).
  • Pioneers are more confident (score of 86 vs. 54).
  • Pioneers are better at adapting to change, unpredictable work environments, and new situations (score of 88 vs. 58).
  • Pioneers are actually better at relationship building (score of 88 vs. 64).

Of the 45 sales competencies we assessed, Pioneers outperformed Hunters on 36 of them – the remaining 9 did not reveal significant differences. Pioneers also outscored Farmers on all scales. Why? They have the best of both styles: They possess the initiative and assertiveness that Hunters need to find prospects, but can balance that “killer instinct” with the warm and helpful attitude of Farmers. In fact, 62% of salespeople with a Pioneer style were rated as “Excellent” by their supervisor in their most recent performance review, compared to 40% for Hunters, and 28% for Farmers.

This isn’t to say that staffing your company with Farmers and Hunters alone would lead to failure. But if you take the time during your pre-employment process to find someone who can be a Pioneer, you may find your company in a much better position to adapt to different types of clients and sales avenues.

Want to learn more about using psychological tests for hiring, leadership development, career development or talent retention? Download our free eBook loaded with down-to-earth information about psychological testing for HR purposes.

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Topics: HR Tips, Recruitment, Hiring, Sales, Personality Assessment, Pre-employment Testing

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