Hunting Sales, Farming Leads and Making it Rain
I was talking to a buddy of mine recently about a conversation he had with a business owner looking for a new sales person.
This was a smaller company, around 15 people, and they were looking to hire a rainmaker.
“They’re looking for hunters. Someone that can go out and bring back clients,” he explained.
Lines like this usually make me grimace, and this morning was no exception.
Why? First off, I can be kind of crabby in the morning.
And secondly—I have been down that road, and have seen others go down that road, with little success—especially in professional service businesses.
Now don’t get me wrong. There are some excellent sales people out there, so I’m sure that they exist. But hiring a rainmaker is a long shot. Especially at a smaller organization with limited resources.
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I know from experience. Years ago, we thought we hired a rainmaker. He was older. He came from a reputable competitor. He was active in trade associations. He had contacts, and years of experience selling.
And it didn’t really work. Not because he didn’t try. He worked very hard trying to getting us meetings with prospects, calling old contacts and hanging out on LinkedIn all day.
He hunted all day long.
He is a great guy, a hard worker, and I think very highly of him. But it didn’t work.
Why? Because hunting is tough.
Myself—I prefer farming.
Harvesting Leads with Content Marketing
“Listen,” I explained to my friend. “A new business development person in professional services typically doesn’t get a sale within the first six months. It is just much easier for a salesperson to nurture and close leads that come from marketing.”
“Well where do you get these leads?” he asked.
Then I proceeded to tell him that the Atomicdust website generates new sales leads almost every day (knock on wood).
“No way,” he said. “How do you do that?”
“Farming. Not hunting.”
Most businesses, especially smaller ones, put all the emphasis on sales and not enough on constant marketing. Why? Because marketing takes a while. It’s more exciting to grab a spear (stack of business cards) and head off into the woods (trade association luncheons) than to stay back and water crops (write quality content in your spare time).
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Hunters spend their days going door to door, cold calling businesses that couldn’t care less. Farmers pay special attention to their websites, sprinkling them with SEO fertilizer (blog posts and gated content).
Hunters send mass LinkedIn messages that aren’t personalized or relevant. Farmers send segmented emails with stories and ideas their prospects want to read.
Hunting is cooler and more heroic. But farming is something everyone can do.
A More Effective (and Easy) Marketing Strategy
I am not saying that marketing is more important than sales, or that we don’t spend time selling our services. We all have to do a little hunting.
What I am saying is that it’s easier for your salespeople to nurture and close deals with the bulk of their time, than it is to drag one deal back kicking and screaming.
But also—this is my perspective based on my own experience.
I don’t cold call. I don’t really network, at least not well. I don’t have any kind of personal relationships with wealthy affluent friends (yet). I have never learned to hunt.
I’m a farmer because it suits me (and my business) better. Maybe it’ll suit yours better too.