The sales hunter and sales farmer metaphors have been around for many years. The sales trapper is a relatively new phrase.
Being a Sales Trapper has many benefits in the new sales world, as I’ve outlined below.
I’ve also included 10 tips to develop a portfolio and manage a sales portfolio that includes hunter, farmer and trapper elements.
But first, the adversarial image of a hunter may be at odds with modern solution selling and helping buyers to buy.
So, let’s consider instead the photographer and the desire for pictures of animals.
Sales Hunter finds the trophy new business accounts and big projects
Armed with a telephoto lens the photo hunter sets off on safari to follow the tracks of the big game, backed up by guides, drivers, and support crew. The trophy animals do not wish to be interrupted in what they are doing, and can turn nasty if approached. After much patience and skill there is glory to be had from some splendid images, or perhaps the disappointment of returning empty-handed.
Pursuing and winning large sales deals is very satisfying when they come off. This could equally apply to launching a new product, sales channel, geography or similar. However there are many hurdles to overcome and campaigns can be costly and resource intensive, for sales, sales support and management. As part of a portfolio of activities this sales hunting may well be a good strategy, to move the company up a level, say from a local to a regional to a national player, if resources and skills are available and can be committed.
Sales Trapper focuses on a greater number of smaller sized deals
With a knowledge of the behavior of the photogenic target, the trapper identifies places where the animals will visit. This location could be a watering-hole, a place where food is abundant, a migration route such as a ravine or a river crossing. The photographer sets up the camera and accessories in preparation for the arrival of the subjects. There may in fact be a range of animals which visit the watering hole, some for the water, and some attracted by those very animals. There may be some surprises, particularly if a trophy animal shows up.
Within most industries there are some destinations or gathering places that are known to industry insiders, and can be researched by outsiders. Trade associations, industry publications, trade exhibitions, and more recently online forums, and virtual exhibitions are some examples.
Researching the behavior of current customers and prospects, relevant business leaders and influencers can provide solid clues about where the good places to go are. In this sales context it is often the trophy animals, or celebrities, industry leaders, figure-heads etc. that attract the followers.
Sales Farmers are the account directors and managers for existing clients
Animals that are at a wildlife park or at a zoo can also be a good source of photographs. They also present the opportunity to gain many photographs is a short space of time with relatively low cost in terms of financial expense and time. The behavior of the animals can also be studied, in preparation for a visit either to a place where they congregate in the wild, or to find them in open country.
In a similar way, existing customers can and should be a source of ongoing sales, and revenue in many forms, through good farming activity. Turning an initial sale into a repeat sale should be a priority for any business. Support and maintenance, upgrades, membership, training, renewals, accessories, are just some areas that can be evaluated. A good understanding of their individual and collective needs can lead to identification of new product or service opportunities.
And these don’t just need to be ones that you can provide. There may be other organisations that are complementary to you, where introducing them to your customers could be financially beneficial to you, or there may be a reciprocal introduction of you to their customers, for mutual benefit.
A portfolio approach to sales
In a tighter economy with increased competition it pays to review where business has come from, and more importantly to look at where business will hopefully come from in future. There may be a need to diversify, or to consolidate. There may be a need to focus on short-term revenue opportunities, or invest for growth in new areas or for longer-term gains.
Larger companies do this as part of their business review and planning, typically annually at a strategic level and quarterly at an operational level. Sales pipeline, territory progress and marketing campaigns may be reviewed monthly, or sometimes even more frequently.
Balancing sales opportunity, sales resource and timescales
The photographer has options, and could make a trip to the zoo next weekend, or take a year to plan a safari in order to get the right weather and animal migration and breeding cycles for the desired photos. Business owners also have options, to balance quick wins and relatively predictable revenue from existing customers and contacts with the higher rewards but greater costs, risk and extended timescales of going after the trophy new business accounts or projects.
The sales trapper role has the advantages of being relatively low risk by going after a cluster of opportunity, still focusing on winning new business customers, and potentially steady sales and revenue, and smooth demands on the delivery team.
The reality is that we are often required to be sales hunter, trapper and farmer all at the same time, in order to manage and progress multiple opportunities in parallel.
Ten tips for managing your sales portfolio
- For a start-up, identify ways to be a trapper to win several small deals to keep risks and cash-flow in perspective. Anyway, initially there is nothing to farm, and trophy accounts are a challenge to win and deliver.
- For a start-up or significant new project there should be clear goals and checkpoints, and external guidance and advice can save time and deviation while holding you accountable for the plan and results.
- For an established business there are various growth strategies, with four in particular being; sell more of the same to people similar to your customers, sell different things to your customers, sell what you’ve sold but to new customers, sell different things to new customers. Look for quick wins and undertake a risk assessment as running multiple strategies at any one time can create a management challenge, especially for smaller businesses.
- It’s easier to sell more to existing customers than to win new customers, and the cost of sale is far less. Focus on serving and delivering value to existing customers until there is little additional revenue to be gained. However, also see if existing customers can help you ‘trap’ new customer through their contacts and behavior.
- The time to money or sales cycle with existing customers is often much quicker than with new customers, for a given value proposition, because they already know, and hopefully like and trust you, so again focus on existing customers until there is limited scope for extra revenue. However, see if they can lend their name to provide introductions and referrals to their contacts.
- A joint venture, sales channel partner or reciprocal marketing deal can be a quick way to win new customers or enter a new market, trading on the reputation and access provided by the other party. Who could you partner with?
- Delegating responsibility to someone for different sales areas enables them and you to focus on specifics. If you’re on your own this might mean dedicating a day or half day to one sales activity, and then to another later on.
- Explore ways to automate some of the customer nurture activities, to maintain a background level of contact, and identify customers who are more active, or ones you are losing contact with.
- Keep an eye and ear out for new trapping opportunities, because if you’re not there your competitors might be. This includes online forums and virtual trade exhibitions which are creating new markets.
- As you meet new contacts and customers, check who they are connected with via LinkedIn as this could provide you with valuable market intelligence and potential stepping-stones towards trophy clients.
An independent sales trapping perspective
Sometimes we are so close to our business, and to the passion that led to us start and pursue a particular course, that we risk losing objectivity. Reviewing marketing and sales strategy with an independent party can be very beneficial.
Right now, should you choose an approach for expansion or consolidation, for longer-term results or near-term revenue? Looking out for sales trapping opportunities provides a middle route worth exploring.
Have you reviewed strategies and opportunities to identify and go after clusters of opportunity, as a trapper would?
If this article has triggered any ideas or points you’d like to discuss, please comment below or get in touch.