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Why Some Companies Buy From You... And Some Don't

Posted by Fred at 11:26 AM on May 31, 2017

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Eons ago, I had a job as head of purchasing for a large plumbing wholesale, an industry that is largely seen as commoditized. I enjoyed most aspects of my job, except for one. “Farmers” or “Goodwill Ambassadors” as they called them in the industry, posing as salespeople, doing sales calls.

Don’t get me wrong. I really like salespeople. In fact, I’ve done sales most of my life, so I know a good salesperson when I see them. A Farmer is different. They’re not a salesperson. They’re coming to see a customer, just to make sure that they’re still on board and still placing their order.

So, when Gary, the “Farmer” would come into my office for my quarterly sales visit (I can’t really call it a meeting), the conversation would go something like this:

Gary: How are things going, Fred?

Me: Good, Gary. How are you?

Gary: Doing well. Do you have time for lunch?

Me: Not today, unfortunately. But tell me, what’s new?

Gary: Same old, same old. Hey, did you hear that Tom moved from company ABC to XYZ?

We wouldn’t talk about new products or business. The conversation revolved around industry gossip and Gary’s kids. Now, Gary was a nice, friendly guy and I really didn’t mind that he came to see me to chit chat. Sometimes, I’d even take him up on his lunch offer. But, asking him about products or services was a total waste of time. When I wanted the latest in the industry in terms of new products or technical info, I didn’t call Gary.

Instead, I called Pete.

You see, Pete was the inside sales guy and I knew that if I wanted any information, I had to talk to Pete. He was the true salesperson in that company, not Gary. Pete would let me know about new products before I even asked him. He took the time to know my business. He’d ask questions about what I was looking for.

He was the one that spent time sourcing the parts I needed and negotiated with me for the best price. Pete was the real reason I bought from this company.

The Gary’s of the world do have a place in some companies, but growth won’t come to companies that are heavy in Farmers. For instance, in companies that have a very long sales cycle they might be appropriate to handle the account to keep the relationship going, but in businesses that have a short sell cycle , Farmers simply don’t have what it takes.

The growth drivers of the world are those sales people we call “Hunters”. They drive growth through:

  • Prospecting,
  • Qualifying, and
  • Selling consultatively.
  • Among other things (shown below)

    This chart, taken from the “Sales Candidate Assessment” we distribute, shows the other behaviors that are common to successful “Hunters”.

    Competencies of successful sales people.

    When I look back on Pete and our relationship, he exhibited most of these behaviors. In his position, he might not have had the opportunity to show what he could do. Gary? He wasn’t the reason that I dealt with his company. It was all Pete.

  • Do you have too many Gary’s?
  • Which of your Pete’s can be developed into full fledged Hunters?
  • How can you avoid hiring more Gary’s?
  • We can help you identify which of your salespeople are the Gary’s, which are the Pete’s, how to train them to be more effective, and identify if it’s even worth spending the time and money on training or coaching.

    Either with new hires, or for immediate impact, through our comprehensive Sales Force Evaluation and Improvement Analysis.