May 19, 2015 DrK

Is It Time To Be A Hunter Or A Farmer?

The right approach at the right time can make all the difference.

When I started my photography business 20 years ago, I bought a camera and several lenses. One afternoon, after several hours doing a photo-shoot and painstakingly developing each shot, I found myself storming into my local photography store carrying that camera and those lenses. I dropped the box on the counter and ranted and raved to the salesman, Chris. I had spent a ton of money on that equipment. But shutterstock_220128292_Webevery picture I took had a defect on it. They looked like crap! I was done. I wanted to get rid of the whole mess.

I was prepared to replace the entire system and pay whatever I needed to. But Chris surprised me. In the face of what would have been a fairly substantial sale, Chris instead took the time to listen and address my concerns. Rather than encouraging me to purchase all new equipment ($20-$25K!!), he recommended that I send the camera back to the manufacturer for replacement.

Instead of trying to sell me, he had started a relationship with me.


Hunters and Farmers

Chris’ behavior resonated with me, (and it is the reason he and I have a fantastic business relationship 20 years later). His goal was to build relationship, not simply to make a sale. He was developing a relational interaction instead of a transactional one. At that moment, he was being a Farmer instead of a Hunter.

“Great professional work does not exist solely on transactions…These are just punctuation marks in the longer narrative of relationships.”

Hunters are nomads. They go after their next ‘kill.’ They fight for the next sale, customer, promotion, or raise. Once the bottom line is reached, they move on.

Farmers cultivate relationship. They put down roots. They nurture, they feed, and they invest the time and energy it takes to get buy in for the long haul. They go the extra mile for their client.

Pros and Cons

Here is the challenge. As consumers, we no longer respond to pure Hunters. In today’s business climate, Hunters may be temporarily effective, but they are not sustainable for the long-term.

When people see you as a Hunter, they perceive you as exclusively transactional and almost wholly self-interested (think used car salesman). Hunters avoid repetition. They are looking for the next novel thing. They make rapid changes. To say it more colloquially, it’s all about them and their ROI. If you benefit, that is merely a convenient byproduct. With this approach, it is difficult for a consumer to build trust in a pure Hunter.

Farmers provide stability. They are the ones responsible for account retention, account development, and customer service. But the reality is that Farmers can sometimes lack the killer instinct needed to close the deal or make the sale.

So how do you balance the two? In “the wild,” we rarely see our business interactions as purely relational or purely transactional.

There are moments in every business that call for a Hunter. You need to drum up new clients. You need to finalize a proposal. You want to advance within your field, and against your opponents.

Equally importantly, there are times in every business that require a Farmer. You need to caress a frustrated client. You want to provide long-term sales to a particular group or industry. You want your clients to buy in to your business and philosophy.

The trick is to identify where your natural strength is. We all have both the Hunter and the Farmer within us. You just need to identify which way you lean and make sure you have tactics in place to compensate. If you lean towards being a Hunter, great! Utilize that skill, but make sure you have a partner coming behind you with a softer touch.

Likewise, if you lean towards being a Farmer, wonderful! But if you know that you will need help closing the deal, make sure your partner is available.

Best-case scenario? Like Chris, you can access both skill sets to great advantage.

A Winning Combination

True, Chris missed out on a large commission by not selling me all new equipment. But he gained a much bigger reward. He earned my respect, my trust, and ultimately 20 years worth of business and referrals.

“Trust is the fundamental, single most important attribute, of a relational enterprise.”

By earning my trust, Chris effectively guaranteed all my future business instead of a one-time sale. Over the years, I have seen Chris’ Hunter side. When a new product arrives, he will give me a call with an update. I generally purchase things he recommends. But without our solid relational foundation, I doubt this would be the case. With me, he has found the perfect balance of Hunter and Farmer.

It was John C. Maxwell who said, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Farmers show how they care, and Hunters show what they know. But if you balance the two? You have a winning combination.


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