My coaching client Daniel asked me, “Bill, are you a Hunter or a Farmer? Do you constantly prospect for new business, or do you focus on the clients you currently have?”
I replied, “I’m more of a Trapper. I like to apply the principles of value-centered marketing, so people see me as a resource and come to me for further assistance.” However, even though I take on this persona, it’s still essential to understand how different salespeople like to work. This post will explain the difference between the hunter and farmer sales persona and how they take on sales activity.
Hunter vs. Farmer In Sales
The main distinction between the hunter and farmer sales personas is what each spends their time doing. Farmers cultivate existing relationships with clients and seek opportunities within existing accounts, while hunters are constantly prospecting and seeking opportunities with new, unfamiliar leads.
Below we’ll go more in-depth into each sales persona and its main characteristics.
The Hunter Sales Persona
As the name suggests, the hunter salesperson goes out and hunts for new opportunities, prospects, and accounts. They’re independent and enjoy moving from one deal to the next as they’re motivated to continue finding and drawing in new leads.
Hunters are good at quickly building rapport with prospects but not necessarily cultivating long-term salesperson and client relationships. They go to many networking events, join other organizations, use LinkedIn and social media platforms to reach out to leads, make lots of calls, and ask for referrals regularly.
A hunter will thrive in a role where they can be independent. People with this persona will do well as account executives, field representatives, or business development managers.
The Farmer Sales Persona
The farmer salesperson is most comfortable fertilizing and watering existing relationships. They work to foster relationships and build long-lasting rapport with their existing accounts before anything else.
Their clients know that they’re there for them should any issues arise, and the farmer is eager to assist when they do. Their client-first mindset greatly influences and increases customer retention and loyalty. They also drive revenue with existing clients, sometimes through encouraging upgrades to higher software tiers as a business scales.
Sales roles that farmer personas thrive in are account managers, customer service representatives, or client success managers.
While hunters and farmers are on either end of the spectrum, the trapper persona falls somewhere in the middle.
The Trapper Sales Persona
The trapper salesperson has a critical understanding of their business’ target audience and buyer personas, and they meet prospects where they already are in their buyer’s journey.
A trapper may use inbound marketing to create a fine-tuned way to communicate the value of what they’re selling to their prospects in the channels they’re already present, like social selling to B2B professionals on LinkedIn.
An effective trapper is also adept at generating various forms of social proof, such as testimonials and case studies, to present to clients as a means of inspiring them to do business with them. Trappers are also closing-focused in their roles.
Hunter vs. Farmer vs. Trapper
While all three personas are client-focused, it’s important to understand the distinction between them. The infographic below is a rundown of the difference between the three personas.
Can You Change Sales Personas?
I’ve been in the world of sales, marketing, and business development for over 30 years.
It is rare to find someone who is truly well-developed in more than one of these personas. For example, my predominant persona is the trapper. I enjoy determining my market, finding prospects, and crafting the right message to pull them in. As I’ve honed these skills, the less hunting I need to do — although I still need to bring the sale to fruition when I bring someone into my world. I’m a good trapper, decent farmer, and okay hunter.
As you have probably already guessed, every industry, business model, and personal style will ultimately dictate the right blend of these three personas. Great marketing will bring people into your world, but you still have to close the deal, so to speak. Sometimes they come into your world through marketing, but you have to keep tracking them until the time is right and they truly see your value.
If you’re a front-line salesperson, focus on cultivating the strengths of your sales persona rather than becoming a different one or imitating their approach. If you’re a sales leader or business owner, hire the personas that complement yours and work together to build a fast-growing, profitable company.
Editor's Note: This blog post was originally posted in April 2017, but was updated in April 2021 for comprehensiveness.