The Importance of the Sales Hunter in Today’s Environment

By Bob Anderson, President, Star Performance Inc., and member of HSMAI’s Sales Advisory Board

There are two main types of salespeople: farmers who focus on long-term relationships, and hunters who go out and find customers with whom to build those relationships. Right now, hunters are desperately needed, according to HSMAI’s Sales Advisory Board (SAB), who on a recent call discussed what makes a good hunter and why this type of salesperson is so valuable right now.


Fearlessness. Aggressiveness. Creativity. Self-motivation. Curiosity. These are just a few of the traits that SAB members said set hunters apart from other salespeople. But overall, what makes a hunter a hunter is not something that can be taught. “It’s just the way their minds work,” one SAB member said. “The people I have on my team that are hunters were just innately hunters and went that route on their own. Being able to hunt is a skill that can’t be taught. They either have it or they don’t.”

“Hunters see the whole picture,” another SAB member said. “They’re not just in it to make the sale. They’re developing and working on building those relationships. It’s almost like a lifestyle. They’re constantly touching base and constantly working.”

Farmers, on the other hand, are good at sales training and keeping long-term business intact. Both positions are valuable but require different skill sets. “The hunter is not the person that’s going to be able to then actually make the phone call and be the warm and fuzzy conversation,” one SAB member said. “They’re the person that’s going to be able to do the entirety of the due diligence. They bridge between the sales and the revenue side of things, and are able to dive into analytics and follow what those trends are saying.

“The hunter is actually not the one that’s going to complete the action,” the SAB member said. “They’re going to then serve it up to our sales professionals that are more of the farmers, who farm the opportunity and see it bear fruit from their efforts. Then the hunter moves on to what they can then serve up to the next person.”


“You don’t develop a hunter,” one SAB member said. “That’s how they get out of bed in the morning. It’s more about identifying who the hunters are and then just figuring out if you can structure and manage up enough freedom for that position to do what it needs to do.”

SAB members agreed that hunters have to work in the right position in order to be successful. The most successful path for them doesn’t necessarily head into leadership, one SAB member said. “We sometimes make those hunters directors of sales and they fail,” the member said. “A lot of times, we do a disservice to them and put them in a role that they’re just not meant to be in.” Another member added: “They don’t want to lead, they just want to sell.”

Often hunters turn into farmers if there isn’t a clear process spelled out once they bring in new accounts. “We wind up with some great hunters who wind up getting buried within the accounts that they’ve hunted and they then end up becoming farmers,” an SAB member said. “Because we haven’t thought out the process on what do we do after they find accounts.”

While hunters are typically the salespeople who go out and find business, farmers actually make the sale down the road, once a relationship between the two entities has been established. “I think a really critical piece is figuring out where the handoff is,” one SAB member said. “The misperception is that we’re going to prospect and find business, and they’re going to have a need right away, but it’s a lot different than that. There can be a seven-month span between when you start engaging with the customer and when they book. What point in the buyer-behavior process do you move that business to a different seller? It’s a critical piece to identify.”


Hunters are more valuable than ever, because new business is so desperately needed as the industry continues to struggle through the pandemic. However, many owners don’t have the cash or the foresight to work on long-term strategy right now, which leads to hunters being cut if they aren’t the ones directly booking business.

“You’ve got the obstacle of getting ownership to understand that, yes, we’re paying this person a salary to go out and hunt this business, and no, this month they didn’t put room nights on the books,” one SAB member said. “But there’s still a value and we’ve got to show them that value.”

Hunters, like the rest of the industry, have to adapt to a virtual environment, one SAB member said. “It’s almost starting a new career,” the member said. “You’re starting almost from scratch, because you’ve got to create some new methods, making everything virtual.”

“Right now, because things are so different, the hunter has to have that creativity,” another member said. “We have to go about business differently, so you have to think, ‘How am I going to get someone that’s not currently traveling? How do I change the landscape? How do I do it all virtually?’”

Another SAB member, who has seen his portfolio’s sales team slashed in half, said that he sees his hunters’ networking skills coming into play strongly right now. “If they get a piece of business, they’re asking, ‘Where else are you going?’” the member said. “Then they’re alerting everybody to the account. They’ve been very successful in that. They’ve also been very successful in tapping into their resources in the community, reaching out, wherever the business is coming. Whether it’s hospitals, retirement facilities, distribution centers, they’ve been just out there thinking and dissecting,”

For additional information, insights, and tools, visit HSMAI’s Global Coronavirus Recovery Resources page.

Categories: Sales, Prospecting, Sales Strategies
Insight Type: Articles