Stop hiring order-takers

Rikka Brandon - talent brand

One of the most common reasons companies decide to invest in a recruiting partner is because they’re not getting the results they want and need from their sales teams. This is especially common with well-established and proven businesses. It’s easy for sales reps and sales managers to become complacent and allow a culture of order-taking.

If you truly want to grow your business, you need salespeople who do more than just make quotas, but who think strategically, execute effectively, problem-solve quickly, and identify and present solutions for customers’ pain points. You need to build a sales team of hunters and farmers—not of mere order-takers. And that process starts at the hiring stage.

The most successful salespeople offer a combination of hunter and farming traits, but it is almost always heavily weighted to one or the other. When hiring, focus on the skills they’ll be using more than half the time.

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Hunters are the reps who are always cold-calling, dropping in on jobsites; they are “hunting” for new customers to develop. They’re great at getting doors open, listening for pain points, and presenting solutions that exceed the status quo (the status quo, of course, being the biggest objection/obstacle in sales!).

Farmers are the consummate relationship builders. They can take a $10K account to a $1 million account if the business is there. They are also great at listening to and identifying pain points their customers have and seeing solutions (and additional revenue).

Well-established businesses often need a farmer, but they think they need a hunter. So, really consider your business needs before you decide what you need.

Recruiting and hiring hunters

  • Look for keywords like “prospecting,” “cold-calling,” “opening accounts,” “business development,” and “open new accounts” (or territories).
  • Look for strong success indicators, such as growing territory from $500K to $5 million in four years, increasing from 22 accounts to 88 accounts, or developing $300K in new product revenue in the first six months.
  • Expect them to be expensive. Hunters are very good at something that is very much in demand.
  • Expect them to have high expectations. They will want to be confident your organization can keep up with them. They don’t want to sell a ton and then have the service be abysmal, damaging their credibility.
  • Expect them to be gainfully employed. These are the people who can move the needle to open new territories, new product lines, new services, and more. Companies work hard to keep successful hunters happy.

Recruiting and hiring farmers

  • Look for keywords like “account manager,” “account representative,” or “client manager.”
  • Look for indicators of success, such as growing an account from $1.5 million to $3 million in 18 months, growing product share from 8% to 72% of an account’s business, or growing an account from servicing at a local to a regional level.
  • Expect them to be expensive. They likely will cost less than hunters, but good salespeople are usually well-compensated.
  • Expect them to be hard to recruit. Farmers are more loyal to their customers and employers and often only become available because of a change in the businesses’ position or in their personal life.
  • Expect them to have a LOT of questions about your customer service and what you think “making it right” means in regards to their customers.
  • Both hunters and farmers CAN be successfully recruited and hired. But they will require more time and effort than simply posting a job ad. You’ll need to network, nurture, and follow up with them.

To get the level of talent you want to hire, it’s very likely you’ll need to be much more intentional and proactive, and dedicated to the work.

Rikka Brandon, a recruiter in the LBM industry since 2001, is a building products recruiter with Building Gurus. Reach her at

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