There are literally a million different varieties of sales roles from those that handle inbound calls for information to those that manage existing relationships and those that open new accounts. The most coveted type of sales professional, what we tend to call, ‘Hunters’ pound the pavement (or the phone as the case may be), find their own prospects and generate their own leads, and develop and close new business. And they are very hard to find. A question we are often asked is “why is it so hard to find hunters?”

What Makes Great Sales Hunters?

Being an effective hunter requires a unique blend of personality traits including goal orientation, ambition, confidence, optimism, competitiveness, resilience and perseverance. This combination of traits is what leads a person to pursue opportunity like a bulldog, make numerous calls on cold prospects where rejection and failure is a real possibility and succeed in spite of adversity and poor odds. This combination of traits is also rare. Various studies have shown that perhaps only 10-20% of the population possess these traits and even fewer are in sales.

It is a simple fact that most people are better suited to other pursuits than hunting for new business and furthermore, of those that are actually suited to finding and closing new business, even fewer are suited to do it for your company. But wait, it gets worse. Even fewer still are suited to hunting in your company AND interested in joining you at the moment versus staying where they are or joining one of the many other employers that are also competing for their services.

Furthermore, the traits required to be a great hunter are hard to assess and many employers have trouble determining which candidates have what it takes and which don’t. Taken any sales team and look at the the individuals tasked with hunting. What you are likely to find are a mix of decent hunters and those better suited to farming who have been put in roles where it is folly to expect them to excel.

A Very Small Percentage of the Population
In the end you are looking at a tiny fraction of the population who are hard to spot, which explains why hunters are so hard to find. No wonder sales training and performance improvement is an enormous industry. Skipping the tough work of searching for hunters is the easier path to building a sales team. Except it usually doesn’t work. Proof of this can be found in the level of failure in the sales sector. Nearly 50% of reps are below target in many sectors and in some the stats are worse.

Always be Recruiting
So what’s the antidote? Simple. Never stop recruiting. Look everywhere and look often so that you increase your chances of being exposed to the mix of DNA that makes a great sales hunter and when you spot it, make sure you get it onto your team. Then set them up to succeed so it is a win-win relationship and they never want to leave you to work for another employer.


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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