Traits of Top Salespeople

"Top salespeople are coachable: they are willing to listen and learn from their superiors and peers."

Day: May 15, 2020

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?