How Do You Tell Hunter from Farmer Sales People? Four Tips

Situation: A company hired a sales person who looked during the interview process like a hunter, but turned out to be a farmer. The company’s product-service mix is new to the market and requires a sales person who excels at landing new accounts. How do you tell hunter from farmer sales candidates?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • The hunter sales person is naturally more aggressive and loves the thrill of landing new accounts. The farmer excels at follow-up sales and cultivating existing accounts for new purchasing potential. Neither is particularly good at the others’ job, and it is rare to find individuals who excel in both roles.
  • To differentiate between these two personalities, behavioral interviewing is better than tests.
    • Screen resumes for past sales success in companies in a similar size range as yours to select a group for further evaluation.
    • Behavioral interviews are very different from traditional interviews. They the focus on specific skills and requirements associated with the job and require candidates to give concrete examples of when and how they have demonstrated the skills needed for the job. The interviewer then follows up with probing questions to elicit more details. Responses can be verified in follow-up with references provided by the candidate.
    • During the questioning process, the interviewer may interrupt the candidate with a question like “what are you thinking right now?” These questions provide more insight into the interviewee’s personality and also help to filter out B.S.
    • You are seeking someone who’s “been there done that” in a company which resembles yours and who can convincingly demonstrate what they’ve done.
  • Thoroughly check references – not just those provided by the candidate, but dig and talk to others in the same companies.
  • Strongly align the pay and incentives for a hunter. Hunters prefer a comp package that is heavily commission-based and this will scare away farmers. If they don’t sell, they get paid little.
  • Offer an extended trial period with burden of proof on performance by the sales person.

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