We assume that one salesperson who is good at one of these roles will be good at the other. But in reality, the people who are capable of doing these two jobs properly are very different and putting a great salesperson from one side into the other role will give you, and them, a very disappointing outcome. Using Sales Inventory Profile or SIP we can see these differences in capability more clearly but it is often not so obvious observing BDMs and account managers in the wild.
BDMs, otherwise called ‘Hunters’, are people who are capable of working alone, initiating new activity which involves consistent prospecting, improvising and being flexible when they’re dealing with new and unpredictable situations. All of which helps when you’re out talking to people that you don’t know very well.
Account Managers, or ‘Farmers’, are people who deal with clients they (or at least their company) know really, really well and have had a long and established relationship with. There is a history between a Farmer and the client with clear etiquette and methodology that both parties need to continue to fit in with. As a new Account Manager to a long-held client of your company, you need to understand the client and comply with the processes that have come before you. You need to present a clear strategy for change that takes into account the relevant parts of this history.
A Farmer is really a different sort of person than the flexible, and adaptive Hunter. Rather, a Farmer needs to be capable of thinking and planning and performing at a highly detailed level to meet the client’s expectations.
Companies often try to swap BDMs and Account Managers (or Hunters and Farmers) around as a way of promoting the Farmer or satisfying a client. This can be both extremely ineffectual for the client and unsatisfying for the salesperson.
If a Farmer has done a great job with nurturing and growing your largest customers, and you need more customers, you may be tempted to think; “Well, Fred is a fabulous salesman, we’ll send him out to get some new clients.”
Indeed Fred is a fabulous existing customer salesman and his patience, care, attention to detail and thoroughness help him in that environment. But, if he goes out and needs to improvise, deal with the unknown and (heaven forbid) shoot from the hip and be flexible and creative all without his preferred time to think and plan and prepare himself, his results may not be very good. Plus, he is unlikely to be able to stomach the prospecting to get into a sales processes often enough to make as many sales as he did before.
The alternative is also not preferable; i.e. leaving the new clients with Hunters, who have had been doing a great job bringing them in, in order to grow them over a longer period of time. As your Hunters has established the relationship with these clients initially, you may want to keep them with those customers. Given the hunter has established a good relationship, you fear that if you pull the Hunter out too quickly and replace them with a Farmer type, your clients will get upset.
In the short term this maybe a good strategy
But with time your good and effective Hunter has too many customers to do more hunting, and so, ends up becoming an Account executive instead of a BDM. To further the problem, they will not be as effective in growing those accounts as they were in getting them in to start with. This means there is no one effectively bringing in new clients while the existing clients are also not growing at the optimal rate.
You need a strategy that effectively transitions your important new clients from their original sales person – the Hunter – to their long term account manager: the Farmer. A strategy that will keep clients feeling important and wanting to deal with your company over a long period of time as well as keeping your sales staff working in their optimal manner.
One strategy is to partner at a key point your effective Hunter with your effective Farmer. This way the customer knows their account manager from the earliest days possible in the sale cycle. If this is practical, there will be two people in the account (in varying degrees) from early in the process and that when one of them slips out it’s not perceived by the customers as desertion. Rather, they see it as a process of natural transition.
When is the right time to introduce the account manager? The account manager sales person comes in either as soon as the client is on board or preferable, where the logistics of your product allows, they come in during the last few stages of the initial sales cycle to participate in the closing part of the sales process. The account manager should not be just mentioned to the client as only an alternative contact person ‘in times of emergency’ but as having a specific functional part to perform. When the Farmer is first introduced they may appear very selectively but as the sale continues they become a regular participant. Then after the sale is fully completed (sold and implementation starts) it will appear natural that the account manager is the dominant contact for this client and the BDM is attending only 10% of the time now and eventually might not be present at all.
Why go to this extra effort to transition your clients between your original Hunter style sales person and the long term Farmer style? Ultimately, to provide both the maximum support for the client, so they continue to buy from us. This strategy also ensures the welfare and earnings of your differing sales people.
If the Hunter BDM does stay too long purely as an account manager, they may become lazy, lethargic or bored and soon start to make mistakes and alienating clients or just missing opportunities to close more business. Unintentionally, their effectiveness can drop surprisingly quickly even when staying with these clients was their own idea.
Like everybody, hunters, like the idea of having a rest and not being ‘out there’ all the time and will often not complain about having become account managers. Or they might have insisted they keep their new clients because they have a genuine need for offering personal care and living up to their original promises. But good intentions are not enough if they don’t have it in them to be that patient, thorough, detailed or precise to craft an effective long term plan for their customer. So despite the fabulous relationship to start, the customer will soon be unhappy.
Whether you are a Hunter or a Farmer or you manage a large sales team, you have the capacity to be extraordinary and make lots of money for yourself and your companies if you stick to the path and the style that is yours naturally. But if you try to be the other style, you will run the risk of becoming discouraged and demoralized. If you try to be something that is not natural for you, you are just doing yourself a disservice.
Understand your own style. Stay with it. Perfect it. And be Extraordinary.