What’s Your Selling Style?

Why is it important to know what type of salesperson you are? Simply this. Anytime you have to operate outside your primary selling style, you become uncomfortable and less efficient. If you sell outside your primary selling style on a continuous basis, you are in danger of becoming unsuccessful.

Once you know your style, you’re likely to seek out sales positions that take advantage of your strengths and minimize your weaknesses.

Proactive salespeople tend to fall into one of two categories—Hunters or Farmers (or Finders and Minders)—while reactive (passive) salespeople fall into either the Shopkeeper or Repairman category. 



Hunters thrive on seeking out new opportunities, opening new doors, and looking for the next opportunity. Their eyes and minds are always on the horizon looking for the neat kill. As a result, even in good times, they’ll miss opportunities lying at their feet. They often leave a trail of half-alive opportunities and botched deals in their wake. Having said all that, they’re good people to have when the sales funnel is empty.

Hunters are likely to be self-assured, aggressive, highly focused, driven, and art usually considered as being “heavy-hitters” and sales leaders. They can often become so focused on their own needs or agenda that they become oblivious to their customer’s needs.

When times are tight and sales opportunities are at a low, the hunter will forge into new sales territories and find new opportunities. Unfortunately, many of these opportunities will be of questionable quality because their thrust is quantity, not quality. In poor times, Hunters need the freedom to hunt indiscriminately and to bring in anything they can find.

Hunters work with their sales managers to jointly determine which opportunities should he pursued and which should be given a decent burial. Hunters loathe paperwork, don’t keep detailed records, and generally come across as being poorly organized.  In actual fact, they’re usually on top of their opportunities but their sales managers and others are left in the dark.

In good times, Hunters need to learn how to harness their drive and energy so they farm their accounts and opportunities rather than always seeking out new prey.

When it comes to sales techniques, the Hunter isn’t particularly creative and prefers a planned, proven, and very direct approach to getting the business. Hunters are decisive, bold, and blunt in their efforts to close a sale. 



Farmers thrive on nurturing and maintaining accounts or opportunities. Once given a sales lead, these people spring into action, make contacts, burrow their way into the account, and work it. These people are at their best when times are good and the sales ground is fertile.

Farmers often go out of their way to help customers because they believe in the value of maintaining an ongoing relationship with the customer. They sell intuitively with an emphasis on social interaction and a focus on having a good time.

When times are tough and these people don’t have a real opportunity to work on, they tend to stand around, complaining about the sales drought and wishing for better sales weather.

Unlike the Hunter, Farmers are not galvanized into action by a sales slump. They are more inclined to hunker down and tough it out rather than go out and make something happen. Getting these people out of their barns is a challenge. They’d rather write letters, service marginal accounts, and make plans than start something new.

One way around this is for someone to act as a bush beater for them so the hunting is easier. Once someone opens the door and the sale, the Farmer will take it over and run with it. Smart Farmers realize this and will seek out assistance when their sales fields go barren.

When it comes to sales techniques, Farmers take a very creative approach to speaking, writing, etc., in their attempts to persuade the customer to buy. They make creative, dynamic presentations.



The Shopkeeper has a pleasant personality and delights in helping people. Don’t expect the Shopkeeper to uncover prospects’ needs but, if prospects know what they want, the Shopkeeper can find it for them. These people like to be of service and helping others is their strong suit. They’re more comfortable in inside sales and can often be found in retail, catalogue sales, or inbound tele-marketing.

Others would describe these people as being warm, friendly, and service-oriented. They are considered to be introverts and are very sensitive, sometimes overly so, to what the customer says or does and can be easily hurt. Shopkeepers feel they must be liked and respected by their prospects and may come across as being overly friendly.

Shopkeepers are best suited for inside sales and putting them on the road is usually a mistake. They’re used to being indoors and don’t mentally dress for outside selling. They prefer to respond to others than to initiate first contact, which makes cold calling very difficult for them.

When it comes to sales techniques, the Shopkeeper does not like to be perceived as being pushy or aggressive and would prefer to make friends with customers than jeopardize the relationship by assertively moving the sale along to a conclusion. Shopkeepers don’t make a sale; they wait for the customer to buy. Because of this, closing doesn’t come easy for the Shopkeeper.



The Repairman is technical by nature, and is often an engineer, accountant, computer analyst, or other technical professional. These people won’t sell but they will talk “technical” to anyone who will listen. They’re at their best when talking to someone in the same discipline that has a problem. This gives them an opportunity to display their superior technical abilities and “repair” the other person’s problem.

As long as the Repairman is talking to another like-discipline (technical) person, everything will be okay and a sale may result. But put the Repairman in front of a nontechnical decision maker and problems quickly arise. The two people will end up speaking different languages often resulting in the nontechnical person saying, “No sale.”

Repairmen can be trained to sell but it’s a stretch for them. They feel they shouldn’t have to “sell” and the prospect should recognize the obvious technical superiority of what is being offered and buy. Nice thought, but the sale doesn’t always go to the more technically eloquent solution but to the person who knows how to “sell” it.

When it comes to sales techniques, Repairmen methodically focus on each detail necessary to complete the sale with the intent of proving that their solution is superior to all others under consideration. While this approach can be effective in a technical sales situation, the focus on perfection can reduce the number of resulting sales presentations (and sales).


Which Style is Best? 

The best of the breed is the Hunter/Farmer. These salespeople have a rifle in one hand and a hoe in the other. They’re at their best hunting and farming within an account. Once in the door, the hunter part goes deep, wide, and far within the organization. They leave no stone unturned in their quest for new business within an account. Once these opportunities are uncovered, the farmer part cares for them until they bear fruit.

The Hunters/Fanners are the ones who, when leaving an account, look at what opportunities may lay on each side of the one they just left. If they visit an account in a multi-story building, they check the building directory on the way out to see whom else they might call on, and then do it. They’re always prepared and willing to make one more call.


Other Styles

So what do you do if you’re not a Hunter or a Farmer? Well, if you’re a Shopkeeper or Repairman, be cautious about taking a sales job that requires you to do a lot hunting and farming because that’s not where your talents lie. If you’re a Hunter, develop your farming abilities, and if you’re a Farmer, learn how to hunt.

Whatever your selling style is, understand your weaknesses and learn to capitalize on your strengths. Above all, be the best you can be.


SalesForce Training & Consulting is a professional coaching and training firm that specializes in helping companies navigate their way in a Salesforce.com environment. SalesForce Training is based in Toronto, with trainers in Boston and Chicago, providing sales coaching, sales management consulting, Salesforce.com training and Salesforce.com Admin support, sales training and sales personnel assessments.