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Are You a Farmer or a Hunter?

There has always been a debate in Sales circles about which sales persona works best, the Hunter or the Farmer. The old-school successful salesperson stereotype continues to be the Hunter who is most often thought of as ‘the doer’ because hunters aim to close as many deals as fast as possible. They often focus on deal quantity; always looking for the next opportunity. The Farmer, on the other hand, focuses on developing long-term customer relationships and working with others. Sales people with this attitude are happy working with a few customers to create a lasting impact. The Hunter is independent and solution driven focussing on quick acquisitions and big deals while the Farmer works from a collaboration mindset. He nurtures leads and client relationships and cultivates strong customer loyalty.

It’s clear from the description above that most fast-paced, volume-focussed dealerships still put a high value on the Hunter sales type. And, where the vehicle replacement cycle is several years, it’s hard to argue that someone who can “move the metal” the quickest will have the most value. Traditionally, these “hunters” are the types of people and kind of skill sets that sales managers look for when recruiting new salespeople. What they overlook is the costs associated with this model. A small portion of candidates can truly thrive in this environment where the pressure is constant, the rewards are sporadic, and rejection is a daily reality. It’s, therefore, no surprise that the staff turnover for this model in a dealership setting is often well over 50%. Having a sales team of 50% newbies has all kinds of costs that are hard to quantify but are real nonetheless.

A key reason that the hunter model can look attractive in the short run but turns out to be problematic in the long term is its focus. Hunter populated dealerships are focussed on sales activity rather than on building customer relationships. Focussing on the customer helps bring all the things important to building a self-sustaining business with positive and consistent results over the long term. If we want more loyal and engaged customers, we are also going to be developing more referrals. Who would not want your own customers to be your major source of leads? And, this is the kind of dealership with low sales team turnover and more fulfilled salespeople.

If you look at the 10 to 20 year car sales veterans in your dealership who have built up a large following of past customers, the ones who come back to buy cars over their lifetime and refer friends, you know that these are the result of relationships that have been cultivated and nurtured over time. Even if the initial sale was a “conquest”, the follow up business is all relationship-based. Every dealership has one or a couple of these people on the sales floor who deliver consistent and profitable sales every month. Shouldn’t this be the model that dominates at car dealerships, especially in an increasingly interconnected world?

As the recognition grows that the current dealership sales model needs a major re-think in light of the more educated and informed car buying consumer, it is becoming clear that both types of sales team members are needed. Some dealerships have moved to different organization structures such as “product advisors” to help customers with their information and analysis needs and “closers” to complete the transaction portion of the sale. Others have re-structured pay plans to recognize the value of referrals, online reviews left my happy customers, and the importance of building loyalty beyond the sale.  

If you are building your career in car sales, it’s important to know that there truly is a place for both personas at the dealership more than at any time in the past. In fact, the skills associated with building relationships with prospects and customers are rising steadily in value. And, your ability to make real connections on both a personal level as well as on a digital level will keep you employed in this industry longer than any other set of skills.

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