How to Hire Sales Hunters Versus Sales Farmers [Research]

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Ji-A Min
Ji-A Min




sales hunter vs sales farmer: image shows field with crop machinery

Categorizing salespeople as sales hunters and sales farmers is considered a bit old school these days, but it's still a useful distinction when it comes to hiring salespeople. In general, sales hunters are reps who excel at prospecting, generating leads, and closing deals. Sales farmers are better at managing and growing current accounts.

But how do you hire a sales hunter vs. a sales farmer? Let's look at what the data tells us.

Sales hunters are promotion-focused.

Research examining the personality differences among salespeople found that promotion-focused salespeople, who are motivated to achieve goals, are more likely to be sales hunters.

Based on recommendations from the Harvard Business Review, when hiring a sales hunter, look for promotion-focused salespeople who are:

  • Creative 
  • Optimistic
  • Willing to take risks

But keep in mind that these promotion-focused salespeople are also more likely to: 

  • Lose steam without positive feedback
  • Make more mistakes
  • Are unprepared when things go wrong

Data shows the best ways to motivate your promotion-focused sales hunters are compensation and incentivizing and rewarding wins.

Sales farmers are prevention-focused.

The same research found that prevention-focused salespeople, who are motivated to avoid losses, are more likely to be sales farmers.

Again, based on recommendations from the Harvard Business Review, when hiring a sales farmer, look for prevention-focused salespeople who are:

  • Deliberate and careful
  • Prepared for the worst
  • Excellent problem-solvers

But keep in mind that these prevention-focused salespeople are also more likely to: 

  • Be risk-averse
  • Work slowly
  • Be stressed by tight deadlines
  • Maintain the status quo

Data shows the best ways to motivate your prevention-focused sales farmers are providing work-life balance, career progression opportunities, and incentivizing and rewarding avoiding losses.

The takeaways

In general, people are motivated by promotion (getting a win) or prevention (avoiding a loss). Research shows that when hiring sales hunters, you should look for promotion-focused salespeople and when hiring sales farmers, you should look for prevention-focused salespeople. Keeping in mind that someone can only have one motivational focus at a time, assessing and hiring salespeople who can learn and adapt to a constantly changing sales environment is a big competitive advantage.

More of a visual person? Here's a handy infographic outlining Ideal Candidate's research on the subject.


Are you looking for salespeople that are a perfect fit for your sales role, team, and company culture? Use Ideal Candidate to automate candidate sourcing and duplicate your top sales performers. Sign up for a free trial now

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Topics: Sales Hiring

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