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Are you a hunter or a farmer?

Every sales person is born a hunter or farmer. They are more naturally inclined to the discipline of finding new business, or the particular skill set of looking after and nurturing existing accounts. In order to be fully successful however, they need to develop the opposite skill.

So hunters become farmers, otherwise they’ll never build a client list they can ‘cash in’ on, and farmers have to learn to hunt, else they’ll never get to the point of having regular and sustainable target achievement. Where it gets interesting though, at least in my experience, is no matter where they start, sales people always end up farming an established list.

For some reason they all seem to lose the hunger. They achieve a level of  billings that flicks some sort of internal switch, and they end up walking the path of least resistance. They specialise in hanging onto business that they have had, in some cases, for years and years.

A relentless obsession

I’ve never understood why this might be the case. The title of this blog is taken directly from something my own sales guru, David Gifford, use to drum into me all the time. Hit target through your established list, control your billings by ‘farming’ your clients. Nurturing your clients through the supply of constant creative ideas and top levels of service, and your targets will look after themselves. Then drive past those targets, and if your lucky enough to be paid an overage on target, into higher commission percentages, through the ruthless pursuit of new business.

In fact, a relentless obsession was how it was described to me. And it was a lesson I learned early on. The first time an existing client ‘let me down’ by not booking the planned campaign, leaving me short of my target, I learned a number of things in fact.

1. All buyers are liars! (at the very least, they are understandably more concerned with their own agenda, and do not have nearly as much interest in yours as you do!)

2. An order isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. It’s not a sale until its paid for.

3. I needed at least three times (x3) my target ‘out there’ to guarantee hitting it.

I mean guarantee hitting it. Not hitting ‘with a fair wind’, or hitting ‘maybe’, or hitting ‘with any luck’ – I mean guarantee hitting it. I never liked taking chances with my earnings, I like to guarantee how much money I’ll be making. And that means a relentless obsession with new business.

Ever decreasing circles?

Every day I see sales people becoming more adept at keeping existing business on the books. I see them fishing in the same pond over and over. I see them going back to the same clients time and time again. I see them having to make more and more of an effort for less and less of a return. Its doesn’t make any sense.

Worried about that £5K order booked on for next month? Well sitting back with your fingers crossed that it doesn’t cancel is a good way to age yourself prematurely! Going out into the market and finding three new clients completely removes the ‘power’ your incumbant client has over you and your business. Need £10K for target? pitching £10K is one way of doing it, going out and pitching three new clients £10K each is much more likely to pay off isn’t it? So why don’t more sales people work this way?

The heat is on!

You know that feeling when you are in the zone? When you can’t say the wrong thing? Everyone loves you, and you can convert the most oblique lead into a great sale? That comes from having little or no pressure on you. (Maybe enough pressure to focus the mind!) On the other hand, when every sale is life and death, when every cancellation means you might miss target or every pound you lose in the negotiation puts you further back off the plan, the job is no fun at all. It becomes very serious.

They say clients can smell the fear! I don’t know about that, but they can certainly tell that you are nervous. That can translate as not being fully committed to the product or service you are trying to sell them. Buyers only buy when buyers believe, and they only believe, when you believe.

Give me any indication you doubt what you are telling me, about your product or services superiority, or the fairness of the price, and you are dead in the water. Take the pressure off! Have the back up plan of two or three more pieces of business out here and you’ll spend far more time in the zone.

Nothing worthwhile is ever easy

Now comes the bit I really don’t understand. The reasons most often giving for not undertaking new business to the levels I am taking about are, well, complicated. There are loads of different reasons I’ve heard put forward over the years actually, but they all boil down to the fact that it’s hard to do. Here’s the thing: You’re right. It’s hard to do. So take it on the chin and deal with it.

If it was easy, then everyone would be a success. But remember, you HAVE done it before. Not only that, but time and time again. You always do it in extremis. Every sales person worth their salt has had periods where their business has almost totally deserted them. Good sales people are ten a penny. Great sales people have re built their client lists any number of times, as economies ebb and flow and fashions come and go. You’ve built a list before, why wait till you have to do it again, to do it again?

Here is the most amazing thing. Every time I employ a new sales person, they manage to find new business out there, no matter what the sales staff are telling me about current market conditions. Time and time again I’ve seen it. The existing staff sits on their lists farming the same old names (that were new at one time!) yet the new guys come in and make a name, and a fortune for themselves.

How come? well, it must be about motivation surely? When you HAVE to do it, you do it. When a new starter comes in, they do it. So why can’t you find new business right now? It has to be about attitude? Or motivation, surely?

And the secret to success is….

There is no secret. There are no short cuts. It just needs hard work. Consistent hard work. A relentless obsession with new business to be sure.

No person employed today has more control over their future than a sales person. No person employed today has more control over their earnings than a sales person. The question is, what do you want? Can you see it? Do you know what your success looks like?

What are you willing to do to achieve that? Surely a bit of attention paid to the development of new business is a small price to pay? Churning through those appointment calls, taking those client briefs, making those presentations. That’s what your paid to do isn’t it?

Are you earning enough? I can guess what the answer to that is! No! You’re worth far more than you’re paid right now, right?

Unless you have a relentless obsession with new business, unless you are willing to put in the hard yards, unless you are willing to take you finger out of … well, where ever it is currently residing, and go out there and find new clients to buy from you, the truth is, I simply don’t believe you.

It’s out there, go and get it.