Do Hunters Hate Farmers?

Last Updated Dec 13, 2007 8:35 AM EST

Cain the Hunter and Abel the FarmerA couple of days ago, I asked "Are Sales Stars Made or Born?" That post, which came out of a conversation I had with sales guru John Asher, has generated an interesting discussion about the nature and effectiveness of sales training. It occurred to me, though, that I was guilty of blurring things a bit by discussing the notion of "Sales Star" as if there weren't different types of stars.

In our conversation, Asher pointed out that there's a big difference, in terms of the required personality traits and training, between being a "hunter" (who takes qualified leads and closes them into customers) and being a "farmer" (who develops the account, expands contacts and engages in up-sell/cross-sell activity. I've heard a lot of sales managers talk about the "hunter/farmer" model, and yet I observe that it's an idea that's generally honored more in the breach than the observance.

Specifically, I think your average successful hunter doesn't want to hand over the account to a farmer because the "hunter" feels like he or she has done all the difficult work and that the "farmer" end up reaping the rewards. The hunters apparently believe (rightly I think) that getting into an account and getting the first sales is becoming more difficult (due to voice mail, overwork, etc.) while up-sell/cross-sell (once you're inside the account) is becoming easier.

I suspect that many compensation plans pay almost exactly the same percentages for revenue generated by hunters as that generate by farmers. Asher (who is a very smart guy) is a proponent of separating sales reps into the two groups, on the basis that few people perform both functions well. But I'll bet that many hunters disagree. So I'm curious...

Are you a hunter, a farmer, or a combination of both? And if you're a hunter in an organization that splits the two functions, do you resent the farmers?
I'm really curious about how real world folks deal with this issue.