Most of us have a mental picture of our B2B sales people. We think of our sales persons as hunters or farmers. And, I heard this analogy from many of my sales team members. The hunter vs. farmer sales model (hunter farmer hypothesis in ADD, 1995, Thom Hartmann) implies that hunters are better in a context of aggressive competition, and farmers do better in a context of planning and organizing. My intent is not to get in the middle of this debate. A good B2B salesperson needs to have both the aggression, and the planning & organizing skills. If a B2B salesperson is predisposed to being a hunter or a farmer, or if he/she needs to have the hybrid-skills, then we must find ways to categorize the opportunities, and match them to salespeople with appropriate skill. Your improved WIN rate will overcome any organizational objections about key account management.Types of B2B opportunities Let’s take a good look at the types of opportunities that the sales team addresses. We categorize based on solutions and customers, as illustrated below. The key is to think of opportunities as ‘problem-solution’ pairs, a future discussion topic. The opportunity for ‘current solution’ in this context means the opportunity to make improvements. The opportunity for new solution in this context means the opportunity to solve a new problem. All opportunities fit one of the boxes. And, it is a good idea to have a clear picture of where all your opportunities fit. Intuitively, the Pareto principle will apply i.e., a large percent of the opportunities are with current customers. Analysis and mapping In most B2B solution selling, the aggressive intensity of the competition and need for innovation (i.e. problem solving) are two major factors for success. The skills of a B2B salesperson must map to these needs of an opportunity. When faced with hyper aggressive competition in an opportunity the B2B salesperson needs to fire up the team and engage in rapid decision making. And, when faced with high need for innovation or problem-solving, the B2B salesperson needs to plan and organize the team to engage the customer. The table below illustrates the skills mapping.
Recommendations for successful skill mapping
- Be selective with opportunity assignment to B2B salespersons who have ‘hybrid’ skill-set. Team them with appropriate subject matter experts, highly knowledgeable of new solutions and who are problem solvers.
- The ‘hunters’ are best at land-grab scenarios. Team them with market segmentation experts; ‘bluebirds’ are rare.
- Retaining ‘farmers’ should also be a priority, they have detailed knowledge of the current customer base