Month: May 2020

Salespeople Affect The Decision-Making Process Of Their Prospects

Salespeople Affect The Decision-Making Process Of Their Prospects

I was recently interviewed by Colin Stewart of Predictable Revenue in his podcast. I have posted links to that podcast as well as the transcript.

During that interview, I made the point that sales is nothing more than affecting decisions. I contend that it is the job of a salesperson to influence the decisions of a prospect. I will take this one step farther and say that a salesperson tries to affect the prospect making a favorable decision in the desired timeframe.

Making a decision in an organization is a very complicated process. It is not like the criminal TV dramas where the wise old judge weighs the evidence and renders a sound decision. It is more like jury trials – relationships between individuals and their personalities are far more powerful than the facts. The reader is encouraged to read “12 Angry Men” or watch the movie starring Peter Fonda and George C. Scott. It is an excellent example of emotions getting in the way of making an impartial decision. It also shows that a poor salesperson (the defendant’s lawyer) can blow the sale. Peter Fonda’s character is an excellent example of a Champion who can sway the emotions of the decision-making group.

The team making a decision is not trying to select the best solution. They will settle for a product that satisfies the majority of their perceived needs. They will look at enough options to make themselves confident that they have a good market sampling.

If you have ever wondered why a company bought a competitor’s offering and not yours, perfection is not the goal in most buying decisions. In many cases, the goal is simply to make a choice that isn’t terrible. It is your job as a salesperson to put your product into those decision criteria.

Do you know how your prospect is making their decision?

This is a common question by every sales manager for all time when reviewing the deals in the pipeline. The question comes even more frequently if the individual salesperson is relatively new or tends to lose deals too often. The simple fact is that your deal is at a significant risk if you do not know the answer to this question.

Of course, if you do know the answer to that question, you may still be at risk if you do not understand that it is your job to influence that decision-making process. The first step is to understand, and the next step is influence, but you cannot affect what you do not understand.

If you want your boss to get off your back about your deals, then know the answer to that vital question AND understand how you will affect that decision. Once you have those two things under control, your manager will be much more interested in the timing of the deal and if you have the resources to execute on your plan to influence the decision.

Too Much Information Doesn’t Help Your Prospects

Too Much Information Doesn’t Help Your Prospects

The prospect’s role in the decision-making process is to collect information pertinent to their problems and find a solution to these challenges. Your stated role in this process is to provide information to the prospect that will allow them to purchase your product. Your unstated, but understood, role in this process is to affect the buyer in such a way that your competition loses the order, and you win. You are a combination of an information provider and a decision influencer.

You must give the prospect information to assist them or else they may not see value in you and may not purchase your product. You also must help them eliminate choices that do not benefit you. Therefore you must choose the information that you give them very carefully so that it not only helps them understand the benefits of you, your company and your solution but also helps them understand that your competition’s solution is not a perfect fit. It does not matter if your product is a perfect fit since it is rare for any product to be a perfect fit. You are probably familiar with the adage ‘putting a round peg into a square hole.’ Unfortunately, most prospects do not truly understand what size hole they have, or the shape. Your goal is to make them see that they have a hole that is the size and shape that perfectly accommodates your peg.

Many salespeople will assist in the decision-making process by overwhelming the prospect with too much information about their product or service in the hopes that the prospect will make the decision that they want. How many times have we shopped for hours or days for a particular product (home, stereo, TV, car, etc.) to make sure we understand the pricing schemes and the features and benefits and then end up buying from the last store that we enter? Surely it was not random fate that the first salesperson that we talked to in each case was very incompetent and could not match us up with the perfect product. Rather, what happens is we start the process by gathering information. When we understand the specifications and the issues regarding our planned purchase, we start eliminating choices, then we delve into those few remaining products that we know we like and we make a decision to purchase one. However, we rarely go back to the first person who started the education process – we buy from one of the last few. We are simply too tired to go back to the first person – we have suffered from information overload, and that first salesperson is going to lose the sale. 

You probably have purchased a house/condominium or rented an apartment. Invariably, your search began by driving around neighborhoods that you thought suited your needs. You may have evaluated your financial situation and decided on a price that you could afford. You also probably started looking at properties that might fit your needs and goals. 

In your search for a new living place, it is doubtful that you selected the first place that you visited. Instead, you began to evaluate your options and change your criteria based on the available amenities. You started to look at flooring options, wall coverings, the sizes of rooms, the arrangement of rooms and dozens or hundreds more choices. As you looked, it is likely that you modified your list of needs and goals as you became educated. Eventually, after days or weeks of looking and changing your list, you decided on a place. Most house hunters do not go back to the first few places to compare them to this new, modified list – those properties have lost the sale to you.

So, what does a Trapper salesperson do in this situation? It is almost impossible to get only educated buyers, and in fact, we probably do not want to be in that situation. If we only have completely educated customers, then they will only evaluate us against their pre-determined conclusions and ultimately make a decision on price, terms, and conditions. Instead, you need to position yourself to educate the prospect, but never fully let the prospect leave your control. This applies to all sales situations – the consumer salesperson knows the prospect is going to leave and needs to make sure that the prospect returns. The corporate salesperson knows the sales cycle is going to be long and it is impossible to be at every meeting. So he provides enough information early on to be seen as being valuable, doesn’t want to spend so much time on the company that he can’t close other business, and still wants to make the short list to be involved in the close at the end.

If we only have completely educated customers, then they will only evaluate us against their pre-determined conclusions and ultimately make a decision on price, terms, and conditions.

We know that there are going to be competitors on the deal, so we need to anticipate that they are going to give the prospect information. We need to structure our information as being incredibly valuable so that we are seen to add value to the prospect’s search but at the same time not spend all of our time educating the prospect on all of the minutiae. This is a delicate line, but experienced Trappers learn how to find this balance.

No one makes money by giving out information. So why do we do it? Why are we doing something for free? Simple – because we think we get value out of it. The goal should be to maximize the value that we receive. We do this by breaking our information into Bait. Bait needs to be benefit-based and not feature-based so that it is immediately ‘tasty’ to the prospect. The Bait is big enough to get our point across but not so big as to be confusing. Most importantly, Bait needs to lead to a Trap that makes the prospect think more highly of you, your company, and your product and allows the prospect to see your advantages over your competitors. In chapters six and seven of my book, Eliminate Your Competition, we discuss how to break up features and benefits into Bait.

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.

Photo by geralt (Pixabay)
Focus on unrealized goals with your prospects and not pain

Focus on unrealized goals with your prospects and not pain

During my recent podcast with Colin Stewart of Predictable Revenue, I discussed the concept that people do not buy from pain but rather from missed goals. I want to build on that topic in this post as it is a critical concept in your thought process.

When people make a decision to spend their own (or their company’s) money, they do so because their goals do not align with their reality. They wish that they were in a different situation and their desire to be in that situation is acute enough that they are willing to invest their time and their money to get closer to that goal.

Many people discuss ‘pain’ as the reason that people buy. This belief is not entirely true. Pain is the result of not realizing goals. Therefore, ‘pain’ is a ‘lagging indicator’ of the situation. In a competitive situation where there are no Trappers, pain may be a good driving force. Trappers try to get ahead of the situation and drive the buyer into a situation that is conducive to them winning the order. If you wait for ‘pain’ to occur, you run the risk of involving many more competitors and being much later in the sales process. Instead, you want to control the process, which means that you want to discuss the goals of both the organization and the individual people.

In addition to ‘pain’ being a secondary and lagging situation, it also has very negative connotations. It is much harder to discuss an individual’s ‘pains’ than it is to discuss the individual’s goals. Goals have a very positive feel and therefore make you a valued partner to the prospect. 

A similarity from your everyday life: if you have knee pain then you may see a doctor. While you and your insurance company will likely give the doctor money to cure that pain, it does not give you a positive feeling about the doctor – it is more of a necessary evil. However, you may have a goal of getting into shape and losing weight and therefore join the local gym. You are more likely to develop a long-term friendship with that gym and its employees even though you may give them much more money over the term of your membership. The people who are working in the gym are helping you get to your goal whereas the doctor is solving a problem or a ‘pain.’

Pain means that something is broken. It is a negative. While it may be common in this age of social media to whine and complain about broken things, it does not create a feeling of excitement or enjoyment. The excitement only comes when you are trying to achieve a goal.

The athletes on your favorite sports team don’t work hard in practice because they want to avoid the pain of losing. Instead, they work hard because they want to win. Winning is the goal. The desire to accomplish a goal allows everyone to be motivated to work hard. Talking about pain with an athlete is to talk about losses, hard practices, and injury. The athlete is much more motivated talking about the game wins and the plans to win the next games. The same is true with your prospect.

Pain is also not the reason to choose one product over another. Pain may justify the purchase, or it may start an evaluation process. If all the products solve the pain, then ultimately price and ‘terms and conditions’ will be the deciding factors. However, most evaluations are more concerned about goals and achieving those goals. In my book, I give an example of buying a TV, if your pain is that you have a broken TV then any TV should solve your pain. If your goal is to watch sporting events and feature films on the best-looking and best-sounding audiovisual system on the market, then your list may be more detailed and more demanding. 

Similarly, if your pain is that you cannot get to work in the morning, then hundreds of automobiles, along with some public transportation options, will solve your problem. If you have a goal of getting to work in a sporty red convertible, you will eliminate many of the choices, and the car salespeople must help you meet your goals.

The chosen product will match the goals of the prospect, not just the pains of the prospect.

In sales, we can use this to our benefit. We will center our initial questioning and needs development with our prospect on goals and the ability (or inability) to reach those goals. By doing this with the Discoverer (a role that we discuss more in my book, Eliminate Your Competition), we have the advantage of being a long-term and trusted ally. As the sales process evolves, other vendors are brought in to ascertain their possible remedies, but the prospect sees them as solutions to a problem (pain) that you have helped them identify because their reality was not the same as their goal. You, on the other hand, are a trusted confidant who only has their best interest at heart and you are willing to guide them as they explore their goals.

If you are curious about some of the terms that I use in this post, you may want to read my book. 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.

Photo by Tumisu (Pixabay)
The four types of salespeople

The four types of salespeople

I was recently interviewed by Colin Stewart for his podcast “Predictable Revenue.” I spoke in great detail about the four types of salespeople. I created a transcript of the conversation, but that still might have been moderately difficult to understand the differences. I am hopeful that this blog post eliminates some of the confusion.

There are four types of salespeople in a corporate sale. Every salesperson exhibits traits of all four types, but invariably they gravitate to one or two. The goal of this book is to help salespeople develop Trapper-like tendencies.

The four types are:

  1. Gatherer
  2. Farmer
  3. Hunter
  4. 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 rollercoaster 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 real 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.

Transcript of 151st episode of podcast Predictable Revenue

Transcript of 151st episode of podcast Predictable Revenue

As I discussed earlier on this site, I was recently interviewed on the 151st edition of The Predictable Revenue Podcast, by co-host Collin Stewart. If you go to my earlier post, you can play the podcast right here on my site. This posting is the transcript of that podcast.

Throughout the pod, Collin and I discuss how to update the traditional Hunter-Farmer sales model to better reflect the responsibilities of today’s sales professional.

Highlights include:

  • the problem with the Hunter-Farmer sales model [3:18],
  • specializing sales roles [20:11],
  • what does a good Trapper do that too many salespeople do not? [22:32],
  • the makings of a great salesperson [35:15],
  • my unique celebrations after closing a big deal [42:55],
  • and cold call with Colin for my current company, Agile Stacks, Inc. [48:46].

This article has multiple pages for your reading ease. They are:

  • Page 1 – Opening and the discussion of a Trapper
  • Page 2 – Discussion of decision-making timeline
  • Page 3 – Strategic Selling, Solution Selling and building the need with the prospect
  • Page 4 – Three things that every salesperson needs to sell (and only one matters)
  • Page 5 – Goals and Rewards (TEQUILA!)
  • Page 6 – Cold call with Colin

Following is the transcript of the 151st podcast of Predictable Revenue. The podcast is a conversation between Colin Stewart, as host, and myself, Sean O’Shaughnessey, as the guest. I am doing this interview in my official capacity as the Chief Revenue Officer of Agile Stacks, Inc. and the author of Eliminate Your Competition which is available wherever books are sold.

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.

The transcript has been slightly edited for readability but no substantial content was changed from the original recording.

Colin Stewart 

Welcome to the Predictable Revenue podcast, where frontline sales leaders teach you how to build and scale an outbound sales team.

Welcome back to The Predictable Revenue podcast. I’m your host, Colin Stewart. Today I’m joined by Sean O’Shaughnessey. He’s the CRO over at Agile Stacks, and author of the book “Eliminate Your Competition.” 

Sean, welcome to the show.

Sean O’Shaughnessey

Thank you very much for having me. Appreciate it.

Colin Stewart 

Yeah, great having you on. I don’t know if you can hear the difference. Or you can certainly see the difference. But because we are now in self-quarantine, and everybody in the office is working from home, I am dialing in from my bedroom. I am really hoping the kids on the other side of this wall, don’t wake up and start screaming. If they do, they may come and join the podcast. Hopefully, that naptime lasts for another 45 minutes or an hour and a half would be great. But no promises. No guarantees.

Sean O’Shaughnessey  

Yeah, it’s kind of amazing what we’re having to go through as an economy right now.

Colin Stewart  

It’s interesting. 

I’m super grateful that we had set the company up to work remotely from day one. Even though we had offices, everybody uses laptops. There’s no paper. I fought for us to never buy a printer so that people didn’t get tied to paper. And our accounting team finally snuck one in, they just went out and bought it, which is something I would do and so I gotta respect that. 

We’re very fortunate that we’ve been able to transition from living in offices to being fully remote. I’m hoping everybody that is listening is doing the same, and they’re safe and healthy and happy with the transition, even if it is temporary to be remote. 

Talking about the episode today, Sean, you’re not a big fan of the old Hunter-Farmer model. You actually wrote a book about the Trapper model, and the book is called “Eliminate Your Competition,” but we’re not going to go into the book here. I’m curious. What’s your beef with the old Hunter and Farmer model?

Sean O’Shaughnessey   

So the traditional Hunter-Farmer model is just a bit too simplistic, and that’s my big beef with it. It’s just too simplistic in a relatively complicated world now. I’m going to be kind of forthright. I have always been involved in B2B sales. Selling products that are fairly complicated to sell. Long decision times with lots of people involved in the decision-making process. It’s not unusual for me to go six months to two years to close some deals. So the Farmer model or the Hunter model is just too simplistic. 

And I’ve seen salespeople that don’t say that they’re Farmers. That’s kind of a negative connotation in sales. But they’ll say that they’re Hunters and I also see them just losing deals because of their Hunter mentality. I concluded there’s got to be a better way. That’s when I actually came up with this model. I break it down into four different categories. I contend that we still have Hunters and Farmers. But we also have salespeople called Gatherers, and we have Trappers. 

So a lot of the things I talk about in my book, and when I explain this concept, I also fall back on the 1700s or 1800s generalization on being a Trapper. What does a Hunter look like? What does a Farmer look like? So I use those as my examples as I am talking about it. It’s just too simplistic to say there are only Hunters and Farmers. There are bad things that Hunters do, and there are bad things that Farmers do. On the flip side, there are good things that they do.

Colin Stewart  

So talk to me about the idea of a Trapper from how we evolve and how it’s different from Hunter and Farmer. I’m thinking you’re getting into some like, “Is this person using NLP to trap them into agreeing to sales?” Help me understand your thinking because I doubt it’s that nefarious.

Sean O’Shaughnessey   

So let’s use those examples from pioneer days because everybody’s a little familiar with it. You’ve watched Daniel Boone or whatever on TV. Let’s use those examples a bit. Let’s start with something that everybody knows. 

“What is a Farmer?” Farmers typically have their farm. They have their 40 acres or 80 acres, whatever. They have the land that they’re working on. They are going to put a lot of work on that land. They’re going to keep going to it over and over and over again. They’re going to cultivate it. They’re going to put good seed on it. Those are all good qualities. Let’s be honest, those are all good qualities. However, you get a bad rainstorm, get a bad hailstorm, get a drought, and suddenly the Farmer is now starving. 

That doesn’t mean that a Farmer doesn’t close deals. I know people that I would categorize as a Farmer, and they close deals. That’s the downside of saying the Farmers are bad. Because they do close a significant amount of deals. But they also tend to have ups and down years where things aren’t going well, their patch is not doing as well that year. That’s the problem with a Farmer. 

Now, for a Hunter. Hunter sees and shoots. That’s really what the Hunter is doing, walking around the woods in the traditional Hunter mythology. He or she walks around the woods, and sees an animal or sees prey and shoots. That’s wonderful! You saw something you were able to get, and you were able to win the deal. And you closed it. That’s fantastic! Those are good traits. 

However, just like with a Farmer, there are some bad things about that too. What if you don’t see anything? What if you can’t find prey to actually go after? So that’s the problem with the Hunter. The Hunter always has to have a deal to trip over otherwise what’s he going to catch? That’s a problem because if you can’t find it, then you aren’t going to be successful. So in mythology times or in pioneer days, you roam wide and far looking for game. We’ve heard about Native Americans back in the back in the day, and they would follow the bison herds across the plains. They would travel long distances. They’d have houses that were very portable so that they can follow animals around. That’s what they had to do. And that worked really well, but it had lots of problems. 

That’s the problem with the model being simplistic and saying, “I’m just going to be a Hunter.” I look at the good things about Farmers and suggest, let’s turn them into Gatherers. 

Let’s think about what a Gatherer is. A Gatherer is somebody that looks for berries or roots or whatever. They went out, and they kept on gathering. They have to really know their area to do that. 

I categorize Gatherers, in the sales model, as people that have good relationships with high-quality companies and work for a high-quality company. So they are in the account every day or every other day. Maybe three times a week. They are constantly trying to grow the business at that account. That’s not a Hunter, you would think that’d be a great thing. But that’s not a Hunter.

It’s also a very important trait. There are whole companies that have set up their entire methodology to make Gatherers successful. They become trusted advisors, and being a trusted advisor is a great thing. A Hunter that runs around and is only trying to look for the next deal rarely turns into a trusted adviser. We all hear that trusted advisors are a good thing. We need our salespeople to be trusted advisors. 

If you take all the good things for all of those personas, we turn that into a Trapper. Let’s think about what a Trapper does. A Trapper does look for game. He’s always moving around looking for prey. But he also understands the kind of prey to catch. He’s not just shooting anything that moves, he’s only trapping the prey that he can sell. 

A Trapper also understands where to put the traps? How do I relate my traps to the customer? Of course, a lot of this came from the standard sales methodology of setting traps to win deals or not lose deals. So I developed that terminology because of that use case. 

We have this very complicated and long sales process. You have to know exactly what you’re doing in order to be successful. And you have to think ahead about your prey. And I’m not saying that customers are prey, but my prey is going to walk down this path to get to this waterhole, and I need to put a trap there to get that right. Or, in the case of beating my competition, my competitor is going to go down this path, so I’ve got to trip him up. I need to set a trap here so that my competition does not proceed farther. 

I developed those methodologies when I started to think of how to make this model better since the Hunter and Farmer terms are just too simplistic. If we look at this traditional four-quadrant chart, which is similar to what you would see in any personality test. I’m a firm believer that nobody is actually a pure Hunter, a pure Farmer, a pure Gatherer, or a pure Trapper. If we look at it, they are different instances of different capabilities. The instances are actually growing from each other. A Farmer can easily become a Gatherer if that relationship is stronger and become a trusted adviser.

A Hunter can start to become a trusted adviser when they start thinking ahead and planning again. The Hunter becomes a Trapper. A Gatherer obviously can move over to become a Trapper as well. 

The strongest salespeople, in my opinion, are Trappers that are in a Gatherer position. It’s almost impossible to beat a Gatherer in an existing account. 

Let me give you an example of that. I am a salesperson selling for a high-quality company, not a fly-by-night company, but a company with decades of experience with a lot of great products that are dominant in their industry. That person’s job is to maximize the revenue coming from this large company, a Fortune 500, and probably a Fortune 50 company. We know these people, they might even be a vice president level salesperson assigned to one account. That person is totally entrenched. That salesperson is talking to the CEO and talking to the board. Potentially talking to various vice presidents in the organization. You want to compete with that person? Good luck! That’s gonna be the hardest deal that you’re ever going to do. You almost never can be a great Gatherer in a deal. 

So we need to think larger than just Farmer and Hunter because too many people that are Farmers and Hunters constantly lose to Gatherers. Many salespeople avoid Gatherer accounts. Salespeople will say, “That account is sold on XYZ competitor. If it’s not painted blue, or it’s not painted purple or not painted red, then that company won’t buy my product because of the sales team that’s on that account.” That’s a significant benefit to that company with the Gatherer. We all need to get that good at selling to most of our customers.

Colin Stewart   

That was a lot of Hunter-Gatherer-Farmer-Trapper. Let me see if I can kind of place this into how into the roles that I see in the world here. 

If you just go back to that graph. It feels like the Farmer is really more of the account manager type individuals where they’re more focused on servicing the account and dealing with upsells, dealing with contract extensions. Almost like a customer success role. 

Sean O’Shaughnessey   

Almost. Yes. 

Colin Stewart   

And then the Gatherer seems like it’s two different archetypes. Like two different sides of the same archetype. Where there’s like the light side and the dark side. And on the light side, it’s the Gatherer that has all of the benefits of being a Farmer, but you’re just ratcheting it up. You’re being more proactive about getting into your accounts, whereas the Farmer seems slightly less proactive.

Sean O’Shaughnessey   

And that’s the keyword on both sides. That is being proactive. Even on the Hunter-Trapper side, it is that proactivity capability. That ability to think ahead. To figure out what I have to do for my customer for the long term or even short term, but what am I going to have to do? And how am I going to position myself? As opposed to a Farmer, I’m just going to pick up things off the field. I’m just going to take deals as they come to me. That’s great if you can. But if you can be a Gatherer, and actually going out there looking for stuff and making things happen, it becomes a little bit better.

Colin Stewart  

Gotcha, gotcha, gotcha. If we look at the difference between Hunter and Trapper, when you were describing Hunter, it really sounded like you are sort of a lone wolf sales rep that’s solely focused on closing the deal and not associated with any follow-through.

Sean O’Shaughnessey   

Not actually. It’s more than the decision process of the deal itself. In a typical decision-making process, you’re never going to make the pitch where the customer goes, “Oh, I gotta buy that.” That just doesn’t happen in my world. I’m sure it happens in other products that are out there. But it doesn’t happen in the complicated products that I tend to sell, and we sell at Agile Stacks. We have to think ahead longer. 

The customer may actually be trying to figure out how to solve a problem before they’re ever willing to talk to a salesperson. And in reality, we see this in a wide variety of industries. Depending on the metric or study you believe, the decision-making process is 50%, 60%, or 70% done before the salesperson is contacted.  

I think we can all agree that when I was a young man, and I’m not anymore, the decision-making cycle was when I showed up at the door, and that’s also when I started the sales cycle.  That was when you couldn’t get information from the internet. Now the reality is, most decisions have already been figured out and decided upon before any salesperson gets involved. If you’re a Hunter, you may be so late that all you’re doing is reacting to what is going on as opposed to positioning yourself to be ahead of the process. So ‘proactivity’ is a big word.

Colin Stewart  

Gotcha. And so in this model, is the Trapper, more of an account executive? Like an AE in a full-time closing role? Is that what you’re suggesting?

Sean O’Shaughnessey   

Yes. My salespeople that I try to get to be Trappers are pure salespeople. They’re account executives that have a territory. They have a bunch of accounts that they’re going after. On the accounts that matter to them, I’m asking them questions like, “Are you positioning yourself so that when the prospect actually starts the process, are we going to be in a driving position and getting the deal?” As opposed to being  Hunters. 

I am probably compartmentalizing it a little bit too much, but a lot of times, Hunters are being driven. We’ve all heard this problem. You received an RFP, or RFP, or RFQ (whatever your RFx happens to be), and you didn’t have anything to do with affecting how that was written. Just about everybody will tell you, “Don’t respond to it.” There are various philosophies on that, but my philosophy is you probably shouldn’t respond to that. You’re probably column fodder. That was a very popular term in another book that was written 25 years ago. The ability to influence that RFx, as opposed to reacting to the RFx, is a big deal. Hunters tend to react to the RFx. Trappers tend to influence the RFx. Gatherers tend to take the RFx off the market.

Colin Stewart   

Gotcha. It seems like Gatherers are in the best position if they don’t even have to do the RFx.

Sean O’Shaughnessey   

Yeah, Gatherer is a great position to get in. But remember you have two criteria for Gatherers: you have to work for a fantastic company, and you have to be calling on a company that loves your employer. 

I mean, you have to work for a company that people buy without even knowing why they are buying from that company. There’s not a lot of companies out there that are in that space and have that much influence in their marketplace. So you have to work for that kind of company. You have to work for a company that literally you can live in one account. Maybe you have five or six accounts, but that’s it. 

Colin Stewart   

Yeah, I’m feeling like these are the big companies, like the SAPs, the Oracles. I hesitate to say Salesforce because I know they have some competition, but I know people that are reps over at Salesforce, and the sales culture there is crazy. They work super hard. So it’s not like anybody sitting back and just relaxing and throwing their feet up.

Sean O’Shaughnessey   

And that’s the other thing that I frequently say. There really is no bad thing about Farmers, Gatherers, or Hunters if you’re going to work your ass off. If you work your ass off, you’re probably doing enough of the good things of those other quadrants on this chart that you actually can be successful and get your deals. 

I know Farmers that make their number all the time. I know Hunters that make their number all the time. I know Gatherers that make their number all the time. And I know Trappers that make the number. So you can be one of them, or primarily one of them. But if you work your ass off, you can probably be successful too. It is just easier if you adopt Trapper tactics.

Colin Stewart   

Gotcha. I’m curious how you see this. So one of the things that our company stands behind is the idea of specialization in sales roles. Sort of separating the sales roles. Pulling out the handling of inbound and outbound appointment setting. Having dedicated account execs. Having a dedicated account manager and customer success people. How does that fit into this model?

Sean O’Shaughnessey  

This is primarily for the account execs, the people that are selling and closing the deal. For SDRs or BDRs trying to get appointments (and I love that model as well), that model can actually relate to this a little bit. But typically they’re going to be Hunters, or they’re going to be Trappers. I mean, let’s be perfectly honest, they’re not just farming the account. They’re not, because that’s just not what that role does,

Colin Stewart   

So unlikely or a model I got, yeah,

Sean O’Shaughnessey   

It’s just unlikely. And in that role, they just can’t do that. However, if you’re just a person who picks up the phone and makes a phone call to a name, that you got off of some lead list, especially if it was a cold lead list like you went to discover.org, and you found a name. Good luck to you. Have fun with that. So that’s extreme Hunter. You’re not gonna have a lot of success doing that. 

However, if you took that name and you really analyzed this title as to what makes sense. This is what this title needs. And you have some ideas on what to say to that title. This company is in this industry, and these things are affecting this industry right now. This title in that industry is affected this way. Now, you’re starting to think a little bit more like a Trapper. 

When a BDR does this, you’re starting to plan ahead. Maybe you’ve done some research on that company. Maybe they bought other things like this. Perhaps they bought other competitors’ products or maybe they bought complimentary products. You did a little bit more research, you’ve got ahead of it a little bit. 

Once again, you were proactive before talking to the customer. You’re proactive about understanding what the problems are, and what the company’s needs and goals are.  Maybe you just open up the annual report and read it, which, I really wish more salespeople would do.

Colin Stewart   

Let’s get into it. Let’s see if I understand you. This quadrant really applies to people specifically focused on that account executive role. If we’re thinking through the lens of specialized sales roles, we’re probably looking at the Hunter-Trapper as the light and the shadow archetype. Help me understand what a good Trapper does? I think I get the model here, but what are some of the best practices? What are some of the things we can learn from good Trappers?

Predictable Revenue interviews me on their podcast

Predictable Revenue interviews me on their podcast

I was recently interviewed on the 151st edition of The Predictable Revenue Podcast, by co-host Collin Stewart.

Throughout the pod, Collin and I discuss how to update the traditional Hunter-Farmer sales model to better reflect the responsibilities of today’s sales professional. Highlights include:

  • the problem with the Hunter-Farmer sales model ([3:18]),
  • specializing sales roles ([20:11]),
  • what does a good Trapper do that too many salespeople do not? ([22:32]),
  • the makings of a great salesperson ([35:15]),
  • my unique celebrations after closing a big deal ([42:55]),
  • and cold call with Collin for my current company, Agile Stacks, Inc. ([48:46]).

The conversation was enjoyable to do, and hopefully, you will get a taste of my advice and read more in my book, Eliminate Your Competition. You should also subscribe to my blog feed on my company’s website, where I help salespeople and sales leaders at startups. The blog is called “Skinned-knees: What an MBA Didn’t Teach You for Rebel Sales in a Software Startup.”

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.

You can listen to the podcast wherever you get your podcasts.

And you can stream it right here from Stitcher:

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