If you've been selling for the same company or in the same industry for a number of years, you've probably 'advanced' from being a hunter to being a farmer. You're probably quite comfortable with hoe in hand, turning the fertile soil of your client database, getting the occasional referral, mining the network you've built over the years. Life is good. Maybe you're not a top producer, but you've reached a point of security and comfort with a predictable income.
Likely, your days of trudging the open plains with shotgun in hand, seeking any viable prospect that wanders within sight are over. You leave hunting to the youngsters. Those days of leaving the comfort of your office in the morning wondering where your next meal will come from are long gone.
If this is you, you may be in for a shock this year. You may well find that the fertile fields you've been plowing aren't quite so fertile this year. You may discover that no matter how hard you hoe, you can't keep up with the weeds that grow like-well, weeds-in what used to be well groomed fields. This year the soil may be rocky, the irrigation insufficient, the sunlight too scarce to generate the crop you have become comfortable with.
You might have to put on your hunting boots, take up your gun, and hit the trail once more.
And it might be the best thing that could happen to you.
Many of us take great pride in having developed our business to the point we no longer have to be hunters, constantly prospecting for new business, turning over ever rock, looking behind every tree, spending countless hours cold calling and roaming the halls of networking events hoping to corner a live prospect. That, we believe, is for new salespeople, those who don't have a 'real' sales business, who must scratch and scrape for a commission check. We are beyond that.
Sure, we get new business-not a great deal, and certainly not by hunting. Our business is found by existing clients coming back for new products or services, or a client sending a friend or colleague our way.
New salespeople are faced with the challenge of creating business. If they want to eat, they have to go out and find their food. To this end they must spend the vast majority of their time hunting their next commission check. They hit the phones. They haunt the networking events. They stick their business card on bulletin boards in cafes. They desperately email spam, fax fliers all over creation, and do anything else they can think of that might produce a prospect. They are hunters by necessity, not by choice. They'll take business wherever and whenever they can find it. They'll take good business or bad-and often it's mostly bad.
Farmers, on the other hand, have made a choice-a choice of comfort and ease. Farmers are comfortable Farmers have reached the point where they work with those they want to work with and pass on those they don't. They knowingly, willingly, pass on business because they don't want to engage in the activities they would have to engage in to generate new business.
But in economic environments such as we face this year, farmers run a very real risk of discovering their fertile soil has been blown away by the current economic dust bowl, leaving their fields insufficient to generate a full crop.
Farmers have three choices in today's economy:
Move On: Like the proverbial Okies of the 30,s, a few will choose to move on, looking for the Nirvana of California, in this instance, another industry or another career.
Dig In: Others will try to dig in, work the soil harder, tighten their belt, and determine to just survive. If the recession is short enough, they just may succeed.
Return to Hunting: Others, hopefully you and I, will relearn to become aggressive hunters once again. We must reacquire those once well honed prospecting and hunting skills that originally got us where we are today. We must step off the comfortable farm and get back into the hunt to grow our business.
Although the idea of becoming a hunter once more may at first be unappealing, there are a number of benefits we can realize by hitting the hunting trail once again:
- Expand our business. For most of us, no matter how large or well tended our farm, we could always do with more business. Our business hasn't grown as quickly as in the past because we've moved from a growth oriented salesperson to maintenance oriented account manager. It isn't that the business hasn't been there, it's that we've chosen not to pursue it. And new business is there in today's marketplace also-we just have to go get it. And when our clients recover as the economy recovers, our original farm of business will still be there, ready once again to buy, only the farm will have been expanded, giving us more income and greater security for the future.
- Sharpen Our Sales Skills: Many of us have lost some of our selling skill as we've shifted from hunter to farmer. During this time when we must once again become hunters, we must sharpen our selling skills also. Not only must we polish those skills we've allowed to rust, we must learn new skills. Many of us will have to catch up to a new world of social media, more sophisticated and critical prospects, and new opportunities to find and connect with potential prospects. These newly acquired and polished skills will go with us as the economy improves-and if we'll continue to use these skills as the economy improves, we'll be able to grow our farm much quicker than we have in the past.
- Serve Our Clients Better: Whether we like to admit it or not, many of us farmers have become far too comfortable with our level of product knowledge-comfortable to the point that we are now lagging well behind many of our competitors. In today's environment as we hit the trail hunting for new business, we'll have no choice but to sharpen our product knowledge. We will be forced to become experts once again. And that will allow us to serve our existing clients even better than we have in the past.
This year will be tough. It will challenge even the most well established salespeople. If we want to thrive instead of just survive, we'll have to get our butts out of the office; we'll have to become salespeople once again. But if we do it, we'll find that our business-and our clients-will be thankful for the changes it brings about.
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