Traits of Top Salespeople

"Top salespeople are analytical: they use data to inform their decisions and strategies."

Tag: podcast

Curiosity May Not Kill The Cat, But It Definitely Kills Your Quota

Curiosity May Not Kill The Cat, But It Definitely Kills Your Quota

Salespeople are often told to “pitch” their products and services. This is ineffective because it leaves the prospect feeling like they were manipulated and ignored. Instead, the successful salesperson should use curiosity; curiosity is an emotion that encourages people to find out more about you or your company. 

If you want to increase your success rate at closing deals with prospects, try incorporating curiosity into your conversation by asking open-ended questions.

Podcaster Robert Gillette recently interviewed me for his podcast, Reclaiming Sales. In that podcast (which you can listen to here and read the transcript here), I said that salespeople fail because they are not curious.

Some sales trainers will encourage salespeople to be incredibly knowledgeable about a prospect’s business to show situational awareness. In almost all cases, this is a bad strategy. Why would you know more about how that company runs than the managers of the company do? To suggest that you are more capable of running your prospect’s company than they are leaves you open to appearing overly pompous. It is much better to be humble and ask sincere questions about their operations.

“You make more friends in two months by becoming genuinely interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” – Dale Carnegie

For decades, marketers have known that the best way to keep someone’s attention is by piquing their curiosity. If they’re interested in what you’ve got, they’ll stick around and interact with your message. It seems like such a simple idea, but it’s one of the most powerful tools in marketing today.

The same principle of generating curiosity applies to salespeople, too: if prospects are curious about what we can offer them, they will be more likely to invest time working with us on their request or inquiry than not engaging at all. For this technique to work, though, there has to be something worth being curious about–something that captures people’s imagination.

Recent research suggests that salespeople who are curious about their prospects and customers are more likely to close deals than those who only focus on what they need from them. Curiosity helps us get our prospect’s perspectives to understand better how they think and why they act as they do, which allows us to connect with them on an emotional level and make them want to buy from us.

Salespeople have a unique ability to create curiosity. They can do this by asking insightful, thought-provoking questions that pique the interest of their prospects and customers. To maximize their success in creating curiosity, salespeople must be knowledgeable about what they are selling and how it can benefit the customer or prospect. A salesperson creates curiosity when there is an air of mystery with an underlying promise of satisfaction for those who invest time learning more about the product or service.

The best salespeople create curiosity and capture the attention of their prospects. They do this by creating a dialogue about themselves, their company, or the product they’re selling. You accomplish this through storytelling, humor, and empathy. These are the three legs of your offering that I often discuss on this site.

There are a few ways to use your presentation skills to engage with your audience and generate curiosity. Here are some examples:

  • Quote someone famous, like Warren Buffet or Bill Gates, who has said something about their business
  • Give them a story from just last week or last month where they helped someone solve a problem they were having
  • Ask, “What are your biggest business challenges?”
  • Ask, “How do you measure success in your organization?”
  • Ask, “How did you justify that old purchase to your executives?”
  • Ask, “What’s essential in life for you?”
  • Ask, “How do you feel when this happens?”
  • Ask, “How does that work?”
  • Ask, “How did you decide to do it that way?”

In addition, by asking prospects about their company’s goals, salespeople can better understand how they work and what tools they need to succeed.

If you’re a salesperson, it’s essential to know the business problems your customers are facing. That way, you can make sure that what you offer will be relevant and valuable to them. It also helps if you have some ideas for solutions. At least have a list of questions about what they’re looking to accomplish and their company and personal goals. The more information you have about their needs, the better you’ll identify potential solutions and put together a tailored proposal specifically for them. So next time someone asks, “What do I need?” remember these three key points:

  1. Ask why they need it;
  2. Figure out how this will help solve their problem;
  3. Make sure it fits with other items on their agenda.
Read Every Day To Become An Expert In Sales

Read Every Day To Become An Expert In Sales

In my recent interview with Brian Burns for his podcastThe Brutal Truth, I challenged salespeople to read more. We didn’t explore the content that salespeople should read, though, and this post will dig into that question.

Self-development expert Brian Tracy tells us, “If you read only one book per month, that will put you into the top 1 percent of income earners in our society.” Now, imagine if you read one book a week what will happen.

Earl Nightingale said many years ago:

One hour per day of study in your chosen field is all it takes. One hour per day of study will put you at the top of your field within three years. Within five years you’ll be a national authority. In seven years, you can be one of the best people in the world at what you do.

If you read one hour a day in your chosen field, that translates into one book a week. One book per week translates into roughly 50 books a year. Do that for five years, and you have read 250 books in your field. You will quickly become an expert in your area.

What should you read?

I do not recommend that you focus on one thing and become an expert at it if you are in sales. I think that an expert in sales is an expert at understanding and influencing the motivations of people. To do that, you need to have a very rounded understanding of your world, the people you interact with, and your prospects’ needs and goals.

I suggest you break up your reading to cover these three topics.

  1. Selling – you are a salesperson, so you should read about improving your skills.
  2. The World – you should be knowledgeable about the world around you to relate to your prospects and customers.
  3. Your Industry – you should know more about your industry and the technology driving your industry than anyone you meet.

Read about selling

Your world is different from mine. I don’t know what you sell, but if you are reading this blog, you must be in sales or desire to be in sales. So let’s start there: spend every day reading five blog posts. It is a good start being here at this post, but I do not put out five articles a day.

There are two great ways to find five sales articles per day. You can subscribe to Feedly (or a similar RSS aggregator) and subscribe to the RSS feeds to some of the best sales blogs. If you don’t like RSS feeds, create a list on Twitter that gets feeds from the best sales blogs.

In my opinion, the best sales blogs today are:

Read about the world.

It is crucial that you understand what is going on in the world. It is especially important to understand what is happening in the business world since you are in business.

There are only two choices for reading what is happening in the business world. Pick one of the two newspapers and read five articles in it every day. I subscribe to the Wall Street Journal (and have for decades). It is the larger of the two in the US and has a wide readership among US business leaders.

Read about your industry.

It isn’t easy to give you great suggestions for your industry. The easiest way to provide you with assistance is to explain how I pay attention to the sectors I watch.

The method below uses Flipboard, but it would also work with other content aggregators such as Google News and Apple News.

Every day, I spend time on Flipboard and read at least five articles (and usually 15-20 articles) on the interesting industries and technologies. I will save the best of these articles in my bookmarks file and occasionally forward them to prospects and customers.

I do this by going to the Flipboard Topic listing and adding necessary technologies to this list. Once you have an account, you can go to However, adding topics is easier using their app, which you can download to your Android phone or your iPhone (or their tablets). Once you have your app setup, follow these steps:

  • Open the app and tap the Following tab.
  • Swipe across to Topics and choose Find More Topics to Follow, and you’ll see the topic picker. Select topics that interest you, or use the search feature for diving even deeper.
  • Select Done when you’re finished.

Return to the topic picker from time to time to keep personalizing your Flipboard with new and exciting content.

Don’t stop learning.

I will be giving more tips on getting more content to make you a better salesperson. Subscribe to my newsletter so that you never miss my content.

Brian Tracy and Earl Nightingale talked about reading books, and I spent most of this article talking about reading articles. Reading books is essential as well, and I must recommend my book, Eliminate Your Competition.

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 AmazonBarnes & Noble, and Books A Million.

Brian G. Burns Interviews Sean O’Shaughnessey On How To Win Large Enterprise Deals

Brian G. Burns Interviews Sean O’Shaughnessey On How To Win Large Enterprise Deals

Brian Burns interviewed me for his podcast, The Brutal Truth, which can be found at

This version of the video doesn’t have the automatic transcription of the original podcast. I have created a better transcription below. I encourage you to read it here.

Brian’s podcast was titled The Top 3 Things You Need To Do To Close Large Enterprise Deals. We summarize those three things in the final moments of our conversation:

  1. Practice at being a well-rounded person. 
  2. Practice at being a business person. 
  3. Be able to relate to your customer in a way that makes them successful.

I would also add a 4th attribute that we discuss in the podcast, but Brian doesn’t emphasize in this podcast (but he does in his other episodes):

ABL – Always Be Learning

I hope you enjoy the podcast. The transcript is below the video.

Brian G. Burns  

Sean, welcome to the show. As a way of getting started, tell us about yourself.

Sean O’Shaughnessey  

Thanks, Brian, I enjoy being here. I am Sean O’Shaughnessey. I’m currently the Chief Revenue Officer for Agile Stacks, a startup company based in California. I’m in the Midwest, though, because I cover the entire world. I can be anywhere.

I have a long history of selling enterprise IT solutions. I have worked for many large companies that are names everybody’s heard of on your program.

Brian G. Burns  

It was kind of weird that before I looked at your profile, I was expecting an Irish accent.

Sean O’Shaughnessey  

A lot of people say that, but I’m a seventh-generation Irish. I have a lot of German blood in me as well. But I’m the seventh generation. The first generation O’Shaughnessey that came over on the boat was back in about 1820 or 1830. Something like that. So we have been in America for a long time. I didn’t look like an Irish man. I’ve got gray hair, of course, but blonde hair originally.

Brian G. Burns  

You can pass as an Irishman. But yeah, you spell your name the same way my brother does. And yes, so he grew up with everyone calling him “seen.” Yeah. Have you experienced that?

Sean O’Shaughnessey  

Absolutely. Thank goodness for Sean Connery. I think I’m actually named after Sean Connery. I think my mother, God rest her soul, had a crush on Sean Connery. 

Brian G. Burns  

How did you get into sales? 

Sean O’Shaughnessey  

My father was a salesperson. My brother was a salesperson. I was originally trained as a mechanical engineer. I realized that I didn’t want to be a mechanical engineer. My last day of being a mechanical engineer is when I walked across the stage to get that diploma. I immediately went into sales.

I went to a really great program put out by Allen-Bradley, which was a whole year of sales training. It was almost like getting a Master’s in Sales. And I never looked back. I never wanted to be a mechanical engineer. I was more on the business side. I’m technically adept, but I just enjoy selling. I enjoyed being with people. I definitely don’t like being stuck in the office, like I am now with this stupid COVID thing where I can’t go to see customers. 

Brian G. Burns  

You miss the traveling? 

Sean O’Shaughnessey  

I do. When you’re traveling, you hate it. When you don’t travel, after doing this so long, it just feels wrong. I think my suitcase is dusty.

Brian G. Burns  

That’s it. You get used to looking at bad TVs and bad hotel food and not waking up not knowing where you are.

Sean O’Shaughnessey  

Exactly. I think the biggest thing is my wife is saying, “Get out of the house!”

There is more to read. Go to the following pages to read:
Why does Sean like the sales profession?
The transition from salesperson to sales manager
Growth milestones
Rep radar and Always Be Learning

Give Yourself A Trophy For Big Wins

Give Yourself A Trophy For Big Wins

I was recently interviewed by Colin Stewart on his podcast “Predictable Revenue.” It was an enjoyable experience for me as Colin is a great interviewer with a lot of experience in B2B Sales.

In that podcast, Colin asked me about intermediate rewards during the course of the business year. I gave some examples of how I used to reward myself when I was a direct salesperson. In this post, I would like to expand on that topic more than I did with Colin.

Winning the deal is important. You will receive more financial security in the form of loyalty from your employer as well as increased commissions. However, you need to put an internal incentive into your mind to help you through the tough times of the next sale.

We all know that there are times in the selling process that are just plain frustrating for the sales team. The prospect may be asking questions that are very basic. Or the prospect may be making it difficult to create a positive relationship. Whatever the frustration, it is helpful to have a little extra incentive to motivate you through the tough times.

Think of a sprinter in a track and field event. The sprinter wants to win so that her team will get more points and win the event, but that is not the sprinter’s only motivation. The sprinter is also motivated to beat her personal best time. The sprinter is also motivated to beat her arch-rival in the lane beside her. The sprinter is motivated to hear the cheers of the crowd and the accolades of her teammates, friends, and family. 

This personal motivation is used by the sprinter to fight through challenging practices. She visualizes winning the race when she is trying to do that last painful lift in the weight room. She visualizes the first place award when she practices her first three steps over and over for hours. She doesn’t visualize the team winning; she visualizes her personal win. It is the personal win that inspires the extra effort and sacrifice.

The sprinter’s job is to score more points for the team. That is why she is on the team. While she wants the team to do well, she also wants to do well and needs her own motivation. You are like the sprinter, and it is your job to sell your product. Selling the product keeps your company afloat and helps to employ all of the people in the company. Just selling the product and having your company do well may not be enough to fight through those challenging sales calls.

You should develop your personal win award. You may think that your manager should do this for you, but you cannot depend on others for your success. You need to create a personal win that will motivate you to push through those tough sales calls.

I suggest that the personal win is something that you greatly enjoy, but you can live without it on a daily basis. Set aside one activity that you will only do when you have won a deal of 5% or 10% of your annual quota. Once you have identified that win, never do it without closing a deal. It is your trophy activity.

Celebrate Any Win Over 5% Of Your Annual Quota

It is not possible for me to select your trophy activity. I can give you suggestions based on what others have selected. None of the following list may be personally motivating for you, but hopefully, it will give you some ideas.

  • Massage (or if you get massages frequently, a stone massage)
  • Dinner at a specific restaurant that you only go to when you win a big deal
  • A trip to the casino
  • Tickets to the local sporting event (or maybe better tickets than normal if you regularly attend)
  • A specific bottle of wine (or other favorite beverage – in the podcast, I discussed tequila)
  • A round of golf at a specific course (make sure it is not your regular course – you want this to be a special treat)
  • A new handbag or pair of shoes
  • Tickets to a show

It is worth repeating the one rule regarding deal trophies. Whatever activity you select as your trophy, make it an activity or purchase that you never do unless you win a deal. So if you chose to purchase a pair of shoes, a handbag, or attend a show, perhaps it is a certain style of shoes or handbag, or it is shows that are only at a specific venue.

After a couple of wins and the resulting reward, you will be able to visualize yourself doing this activity again when the sales process is challenging. You will be able to fight through the tough times because you know that there is a trophy at the end.

Photo by mohamed_hassan (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 my 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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

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, 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: