Advisory Teams: Hunters or Farmers?

More and more advisory firms are delineating roles and responsibilities among their staff and even hiring outside professionals to focus on one specific function. One of the most important roles advisory firms are hiring for is business development and sales. Like all jobs, it is best to assign a role or hire someone who is well suited for the job, and not as they say “push a rock uphill” when asking someone to do a job. This concept is incredibly important when speaking about someone who is representing your firm in the effort to bring on new clients and grow. I have hired and supervised a number of sales professionals over the years and have studied the topic of sales management so have learned a few things.

There are two broad types of business development or sales professionals. A term often used is a “hunter” verus a “farmer”. A hunter gets true pleasure from landing a brand-new client, and less pleasure from cultivating an existing client. A farmer is just the opposite, they derive more pleasure from working with existing clients than from pursuing a prospect from start to finish until they become a client. It is vital that when hiring or assigning jobs to ensure you do not ask a hunter to be a farmer and vice versa.

But how do you know who among your team, or from a pool of potential candidates is which? The answer is “simple”, there are many personality tests that can tell you quite directly what the personality type is of your team member. One I have used over the years is the McQuaig word survey, I first used it in the late 1990’s when I first became a sales manager then I required its use extensively in successive companies when I hired sales managers to build out sales teams.

Like many people I suspect, I was a little dubious at first about how accurate such a tool could be. So when I first used it, I took the exam myself along with my four salespeople that reported to me. When I got the results back, the five of us read the reports of the others to see just how accurate they were. The McQuaig test for sales people not only tells you if you if you are a hunter or a farmer, but it also gives great detail about the personality of the person, and even shares if that person is having some stress at that point of time in the their life. It not only helps in the hiring process, but in the ongoing management and leadership process of that person, i.e. how to motivate and how not to motivate this person based on their specific personality traits.

When the five of us privately read each other’s reports, we after met as a group to compare how well it pegged each of us. The reports were so accurate, so spot on, it was downright hysterically funny. So funny that we all were literally crying from laughter-one guy on the sales team was having issues with his girlfriend-the McQuaig actually wrote that “Dave seems to be having some stress related to a personal relationship right now”! The reports told me where each sales exec was on the hunter and farmer scale and made it much easier to help them improve in their jobs.

The lesson I learned from this is that personality tests work extremely well and can take a lot of error out of the hiring or job function process. For an organization of any size-especially smaller ones-reducing risk in the hiring or role assignment process can be an incredibly important action, especially one as important as bringing on new clients or cultivating existing ones.