The hunter vs. farmer categorization for sales roles is a crude way to segment the sales function, but it is often a useful distinction, particularly when it comes to comp plan strategy.

While new business development roles and existing account management roles both share the goal of generating sales, the roles are fundamentally different and such should is the strategy behind compensation (see Improve your Hiring Record by Learning to Spot Real Hunters and Farmers).

The Profiles

Just as the roles are different, so too are the characteristics of the different individuals that usually excel at hunter and farmer roles. Hunters enjoy the the novelty of pursuing new accounts and the excitement of the chase, and while they are likely to be impervious to rejection and it may be this trait that tends to make them a bit more mercenary than professionals in other sales roles. With a more risk oriented personality and appetite for excitement they also tend to like larger more leveraged comp plans and is fairly common to see a total packages which pays 50% or more in in commissions when target sales are achieved. At a high level, the account manager works at a different pace, is more nurturing and relationship oriented and drives customer loyalty. They typically have a longer attention span, are less money motivated and more security oriented. They will often trade-off total compensation for a higher base and 60/40 or 70/30 plans are more typical for account manager roles.

Outcomes by Design

What specific outcomes you want depend on your sales strategy and goals. To this end, the compensation plan is a very powerful tool for driving the behavior of your sales team. While everyone enjoys commission cheques, sales rewards and spiffs, the rewards need to be tied to the actions you want to see in your team. For instance, comp’ing your business development team on trailing business and business from existing accounts will diminish their focus on acquiring new accounts. If the strategy is to enter new markets, the commissions will need to be sufficiently high to justify the additional effort required to break new ground – otherwise reps will stick to what they know will put commission in their pockets. By the same token, if you want your account managers to truly service existing accounts, look for ways to compensate them not only for sales, but account growth. The variable compensation options are endless, but must all be tied to the sales plan.

The Total Compensation

Opening new accounts or sectors is tough work. It is not the kind of work that everyone enjoys or is even suited to performing well. For this simple reason, there are fewer great hunters than farmers and the laws of supply and demand dictate that hunters get paid more across the sales profession. Keep this in mind if you are trying to attract reps from other companies.

To your success!

Sales Contracts – Critical Elements


Eliot Burdett

CEO at Peak Sales Recruiting
Before Peak, Eliot spent more than 20 years building and leading companies, where he took the lead in recruiting and managing high performance sales teams. He co-founded Ventrada Systems (mobile applications) and GlobalX (e-commerce software). He was also Vice President of Sales for PointShot Wireless.

Eliot received his B. Comm. from Carleton University and has been honored as a Top 40 Under 40 Award winner.

He co-authored Sales Recruiting 2.0, How to Find Top Performing Sales People, Fast and provides regular insights on sales team management and hiring on the Peak Sales Recruiting Blog.

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