The Lurker–Every Sales Force Has One!

Waiting For The Fax Machine

Enterprise sales personalities are typically broken down into “hunters” or “farmers.” These wildly inaccurate depictions can be broken into far more descriptive terms—those that give real meaning to the category.

A hunter is usually someone who finds new business and the farmer works accounts where a product is already installed. VMware people are farmers, startup people are hunters. Are these descriptors really correct?

When you have been in enterprise sales long enough, you see the terrain quite differently. When you have to hire, manage and live with a sales force, you learn there are quite distinct sales personalities that bubble up to farmers and hunters. Let’s look at some of them:

The Undertaker:

Every company has one. He or she is the person who never really does much but always makes their number. They wait around for a top rep to quit and they take over his or her pipeline. They wait for someone to get fired, with one deal in the pipeline and they take it. They are identifiable because they never leave—often there for years.

These people portray themselves as “hunters.” They are really vultures and do you want to hire them? How do you determine, without inside knowledge, if they are hunters or just vultures?

The Pallie:

When you are a bartender, you have people, without friends, who come into the bar every night and hang out. They nurse one or two drinks all night. They know everyone’s name. They have nowhere else to go.

It is no different in enterprise sales. There are sales reps, often making 6 figures, who just hang around, come to every event, often play great golf, always have something positive to say, but never make anything happen. They just live in a territory waiting for something to happen and being so nice that the VP of Sales gives them deals in open territories.

While usually farmers, in a hot territory they can be perceived as hunters. Are you hiring them?

The Lurker:

The lurker is the person who sits next to the fax machine waiting for an RFP to come in, then jumps on it. Or they hear about a deal in someone else’s territory, and find some convoluted way to steal it.

When I was at a cost transparency firm, a company where prospecting was considered poison, we had a guy in Boston who had not closed a single deal. Then after 2 years, an RFP came in from a Japanese finance company (clearly not in Boston) and he jumped on it. When it closed, he was the “hunter of the quarter.” Do you want this guy on your team?

The Politico:

No sales force, particularly in enterprise software, is complete without the politico. He or she is the rep who laughs at the VPs jokes, attends all meetings, speaks in gratuitous language, never prospects and wins deals by just “being there” and being nice to everyone.

They never make anything happen but they never make a wave. They never get fired because they make just enough to always make a cut while never sticking out.

These personality types exist because in enterprise sales there is no institutional memory.

I recall once seeing a total incompetent we fired in a logistics software company because he could not even get an appointment, later become the VP of sales at another company because he found a comfortable berth at a hot firm and his deals just came in.

If you are running a startup, you need to delve deeply into how a person made his or her numbers. After all, your life depends on it.