Business Practices: Warriors, Hunters, Farmers or Shepherds

How understanding employee types can improve your business

By Steve Rausch

When it comes to market share, it’s only natural to want a bigger piece. Previously, I’ve discussed methods to increase your growth goals, as well as improve your systems and sales team. I’ve also frequently suggested there are different types of Marker Points or Strategies for you to investigate, as well as encouraged you to stop winging it and move into conscious decisions about growing your business.

To begin making conscious decisions about business growth, you need to follow specific steps. Modelled after psychologist Abraham Maslow’s “Four Stages of Competence,” these stages include: Unconscious Incompetence; Conscious Incompetence; Conscious Competence; and Unconscious Competence. I’d rather structure these highbrow terms into: Shepherds, Farmers, Hunters, and Warriors.

Business Practices: Warriors, Hunters, Farmers or Shepherds
Business Practices: Warriors, Hunters, Farmers or Shepherds

Shepherds and Farmers are typically attentive, cautious, reserved, and always non-threatening. They also display genuine interest and concern for their client’s needs, sometimes even over your own company’s needs. They usually don’t want to be, or be seen as, a salesperson. Hunters and Warriors are typically out somewhere in the field hunting game to feed the village. These four are mostly exact opposites. Let’s examine each group to understand how to create your perfect team.

The Shepherd

The Shepherd is probably the most precious of all salespeople. They are usually found working with existing customers using prevailing capabilities. They are comfortable with their current client relationships, and may even display some confidence in their abilities to solve client problems given their past experiences. Their strength is in continuing strong relationships with customers.

However, they are uncomfortable discussing new opportunities or pushing newly expanded purchases. The shepherd likes keeping clients loyal and spends most of their time and effort in maintenance mode. They are good at it and enjoy “watching the flocks.” The biggest challenge of management is to move those unconscious shepherds into conscious farmers.

The Farmer

The Farmer is usually further along Maslow’s chart to Conscious Incompetence, as these folks have usually learned that what they were doing isn’t effective or efficient, and struggle to produce the required results. The farmer approaches each day with opportunities already in place. Usually content to harvest existing customer business, they stay attuned to opportunities to sell additional products again to existing customers. They are likeable, caring, usually good team members, enjoy fixed routines, good listeners, detail-oriented, and usually recognize the needs of others. Their strength is developing strong relationships.

One large weakness with farmers is they often have difficulty in dealing with assertive customers. Farmers really enjoy maintaining the crops and keeping the status quo.

The second challenge for management is to find and select volunteers (critical) within this group and to provide appropriate education and professional development that will allow them to move into the conscious section of Maslow’s chart, or into the Hunter/Warrior roles.

Business Practices: Warriors, Hunters, Farmers or Shepherds
Abraham Maslow’s Four Stages of Learning

Many organizations gain their best Hunters and Warriors through by providing advanced education and study curriculum to individuals who can consciously understand what to do, how to do it, when to do it, and why it needs to be done. These four points become critical, as you’ll see below.

The Hunter

A Hunter is usually the preferred type of sales individual when a large, complex, and pricey ticket item must be sold. They’re your go-getters, out in the field uncovering opportunities in which they can visualize sales. They provide new blood (customers) to the organization and always seem to have multiple leads for more business.

If you want to focus on growing your business, then focus on developing or hiring a roster of hunters. They enjoy selling (wearing the badge of salesperson proudly), are innovative, stimulating, motivating, usually excellent students with learning new communication and selling skills, and sometimes flexible with rules and regulations to acquire new business.

Generally, hunters like to pursue new business, but not overly large accounts. They prefer hunting out and securing potential new customers to expand the existing footprint of your company.

One negative trait about hunters is that they can be impulsive, which causes them to make mistakes by not paying attention to the details of the deal! With the hunter, you have a great salesperson, so what does management need to do to move them to the absolute “top of the game” into being a Warrior?

The Warrior

These are your true Business Development team members. They either already possess the right type of education or are openly willing to learn a new business-development process that involves crucial thinking skills and discipline. They consciously understand what to do, how to do it, when to utilize it, and why they need it in customer interactions. They also possess (difficult to train or learn) the skill of passion. This salesperson is passionate and extremely competitive about everything they do. It doesn’t matter what the goal or prize is — the warrior is all about winning.

These are your team members who discover not only new customers, but the most challenging and innovative customers that require you to develop new capabilities and vision within your organization to stay ahead of them. In other words, they are the absolute drivers of your success. They will reluctantly admit to being salespersons, but truly view themselves as consultants for both the customer’s company as well as their own company (yes, Warriors feel they are part owners of your company). They will only accept win-win outcomes for everyone.

Further, warriors are the deal closers that get the mission accomplished. They spend time studying their prey with research and observation. They realize this detailed work must happen because their target is desirable, agile, and sophisticated, and may only have one opportunity to bring home that trophy account.

Warriors go into any customer meeting fully prepared to deliver a winning business case that illustrates the value of signing a contract with your company. They are personally offended when targets don’t end up as customers. Common traits include a high sense of urgency, self-motivation, concerned with results, decisive, and direct. One slight negative with a warrior is their lack of tact and empathy because they’ve heard every objection before and sometimes develop a take-it-or-leave-it attitude towards smaller deals rather than working things through. You probably couldn’t handle a whole group of warriors, but success comes when you have one to several to lead the pack.

Here’s the bottom line: if you want to accelerate existing sales, as well as new sales, and new add-on services, then you need a complete team that has all of four personality groups. While the Warriors and Hunters are focusing on pursuing fresh game, your Farmers and Shepherds will be doing a fantastic job with account management, thanks to their highly tuned capabilities.

Most importantly, team members must be able and ready to clearly articulate your business value, what you do and why you do it, as well as being able to express the importance of a strong, loyal and trusting relationship with your customers. Don’t ask a Warrior to be a Farmer, or a Hunter to be a Shepherd. If you do, then the entire village goes hungry!

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