The Four Types of Salespeople

The Four Types of Salespeople

There are four types of salespeople in the corporate sales world. Every salesperson exhibits traits of all four types, but invariably they gravitate to one or two. The goal of my book “Eliminate Your Competition” is to help salespeople develop Trapper-like tendencies.

You may purchase my book “Eliminate Your Competition” from your favorite book retailer. The ebook version is available at the most popular retailers such as Apple, Amazon, Barnes & Noble. The paperback version is also widely available at such retailers as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books A Million.

I explain these types of salespeople in much more detail in my book “Eliminate Your Competition” but the four types are:

  • A. Gatherer
  • B. Farmer
  • C. Hunter
  • D. Trapper

It is possible for a Gatherer, Farmer, Hunter, or Trapper to close an order. We have all heard the old adage: “Even the blind pig occasionally finds an acorn.” Farmers, Gatherers, and Hunters close orders and can have a successful career. Trappers, however, close more orders that are larger, and they do it more consistently. In fact, the most successful salespeople may self-identify with one of the other three traits, but invariably they end up looking very similar to a Trapper.

Gatherer

In some cases, a Gatherer is naturally another salesperson trait, but at the particular account in question, they act like a Gatherer. They act like they own the account and primarily try to be a trusted adviser to the company. They are the incumbent and therefore are susceptible to trying to protect the status quo. A Gatherer can also be a senior salesperson who has sold to the prospect earlier in her career while working for another company.

Because all traits are morphed to a Gatherer, their actual tendencies can be varied. In some cases, they can even be a Trapper who has gotten lazy. Typically, a Gatherer can only work for a great company and sell a great product deployed in many different use cases. They have generally established themselves with a lot of experience. Often the company that employs a Gatherer puts this person in roles that allow them to generate repeat business rather than new business because of their tenure and familiarity with the customer.

Gatherers are incredibly difficult to beat. Multiple studies have shown that selling more to an existing client takes a fraction of the costs of acquiring a new client. This reduced cost directly correlates to making it easier to win more business with the customer. A Gatherer has a significant advantage in any sales contest and even smaller or niche competitors can be difficult to beat once they have the benefit of an existing purchase relationship.

Farmer

Farmers can be quite successful in a territory. This is especially true if the salesperson is selling a well-known product and they are familiar with the majority of the companies and individual buyers in their territory. Farmers tend to grow relationships and use those relationships to introduce new technology.

The failure of a farmer is consistency, especially with new products and unfamiliar decision makers. A farmer will take quite a long time in growing a new patch simply because there is very little targeted prospecting or targeted selling. A farmer’s revenue performance is typically shaped like a roller coaster because they do not control the success of their prospecting and leave it up to the customer to decide the outcome of the sales campaign. Therefore they cannot regulate their successes and failures.

The Farmer is most susceptible to losing deals to “No Decision.” If you squander 30% or more of your deals to “No Decision,” then you must begin to think of yourself as a Farmer.

Hunter

Most hiring VPs instruct sales recruiters to find only Hunters. Hunters have developed the skill of ‘stealing’ to great advantage. A true Hunter doesn’t have the patience to spend time on future customer projects but rather focuses on prospects who have already identified a need for the product. Hunters will often have extremely short sales cycles because they like to find prospects who have been cultivated by other salespeople. The Hunter steals the forecasted deal from another unsuspecting salesperson.

The revenue stream for even the best Hunters can most easily be described as a rollercoaster because they work really hard to steal, leaving them little time to work on their pipeline of customers. If there are no existing salespeople who have created a new opportunity and convinced the prospect to solve a problem, the Hunter will starve. The Hunter needs prospects to come to the conclusion that a particular type of product is needed. Once the prospect has identified a goal to satisfy, the Hunter will aggressively pursue the opportunity.

The Hunter rarely loses to “No Decision.” She rarely spends time worrying about opportunities that are not in an active buying cycle. Because of this late entry, No Decision is simply not a reasonable conclusion.

Trapper

The Trapper is a thinker, a planner, and a worrier. The Trapper is constantly worried about competitors that he knows and those that he doesn’t know. Those competitors also include “No Decision,” which is a perennial competitor in most early buying cycles. Because of this worrying, the Trapper plans for a battle with each and every competitor and lays Traps to be sprung on the most likely competitors.

The Trapper is constantly trying to understand the prospect’s business. This is second nature to a Trapper because just like a “wilderness” trapper, the business Trapper understands his quarry and understands the environment. The Trapper studies the habits and peculiarities of his prospect as well as his competitor.

The Trapper isn’t just versed in the obvious parts of the business, but also in how the prospect really makes money and, more importantly, how the prospect loses money. The Trapper knows that if he helps the prospect avoid financial losses, the funding for his project will be ensured. Also, by focusing on financial rewards and losses, the Trapper is often in a completely different relationship with the prospect than the competition.

All of this worrying and thinking requires planning. The Trapper anticipates what is going to happen and makes plans to capitalize on it. He doesn’t wait until the last minute to understand the prospect and cultivate relationships. Rather, the Trapper makes an effort to completely understand the politics and driving forces of the prospect so that he is extremely prepared when an opportunity comes up to sell more products.

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