Are you a hunter or a farmer? Know who you are and understand what works for you, others at the workplace


Why, how and where you work today is a result of something that happened 10,000 years ago. Humans discovered farming. Prior to that, for millenia, our species survived as nomadic hunter gatherers. Agriculture became a new hot career and lifestyle where you needed to think and act long term, work together as a team and also stop commuting so much. Agriculture also meant that humanity could survive and grow to the large numbers of today. Nevertheless, as per the Hunter-Farmer hypothesis, you carry survival behaviours and skills from both categories. But you have a preference or advantage in one set. So, who are you, a hunter or a farmer? How can you put that knowledge to work?

Communication styles

The easiest way for you to recognise your type is to examine your style of communication. When you hear of a brand new idea, opportunity or even technology, what’s your initial reaction? If you find yourself excited at short notice and are willing to buy in, you are more of a hunter. If you are a farmer, you have a need to think through a lot, before you offer a commitment in any form. Thus, you do not get sucked into momentary emotions unlike your hunter friends who are quick to anger and equally quick to cool down . As a hunter, you like to do stuff to learn new things and then give a talk about it unlike your farmer colleagues who prefer long productive meetings where you are supposed to do detailed research and come prepared.

How you work

If you are a hunter, you are characterised by ‘hyperfocus’. There will be intense periods of activity, where you stay focused single-mindedly on a task and may forget to have your meal. Then there will be long periods of low or no activity. You will discover a preference for high risk-reward scenarios, project work, novelty, clear goals, a system of measuring instant progress, and even the excitement of a crisis that requires immediate action and snap judgments. You will be attracted to entrepreneurship and also creative professions where you are not restricted by boundaries and processes. If you are a farmer, you dislike the idea of failure and unplanned events. You prefer tried and trusted processes, peer validated opportunities, long term strategy and purpose even if there is no immediate tangible target. You will be constant and consistent at work and will neither get easily distracted from your steady output nor will you fall for manic effort before unplanned deadlines. Long term planning and execution marks you out in your career, personal finances and current role.

Young and old companies

When you join a young company, a startup or a new division that is being set up, there are few people and fewer rules. You get to think about and chart new processes while you are finding solutions to different first time problems. You end up doing a little bit of everything and learn from your variety of experiences. If you are a hunter, this could be bliss for you. However, if you are a farmer, think about working with older companies, established business divisions or that use existing playbooks. The rules and systems are in place and thus every task is simplified with no sudden failures or crises. Everyone has a role to do and you get to focus and deep dive into yours. Interestingly, a hunter will probably start a new company, and a farmer will help it stay alive to become an old company.

How you sell

As a farmer you are trustworthy and dependable and that’s what you sell to build loyalty and repeat business with your customers. You are sensitive to the customers’ happiness, concerned about failure of service, prefer to tackle one problem at a time, and are great at plugging leaking buckets. However, you are not the best person to generate excitement on a new product. As a hunter, you are great in concept selling and conveying the value of a new product. You can adeptly multi-task, manage multiple crisis and multiple stakeholders and can pivot into new and fleeting opportunities. You then need a farmer to fill in the details and build a system after you have painted the big picture. In either case, don’t forget to to check if your client is a hunter who will take a rapid decision after intense focused discussions or a farmer who will start with an RFP and then take a year to decide.

Building your team

As a hunter, your goal is to get the best performers into your team. You actively seek them out and then attract and retain them by showing the dream, culture and compensation that these stars seek. As a farmer, your focus is on growing people irrespective of the talent and thus you give them opportunities, resources and learnings to succeed while removing those that spoil the environment. A rare balance in the team leadership will do both—communicate a dream and pull in high performers while retaining a space of training and support for them to grow further and excel.

Sales and selling

1 New vs existing

Hunting-farming is just one of many sales models like generalist/specialist, sales/service or inside/fi eld sales. In this model, if you are a hunter, you bring in the fi rst sale from a new customer and then hand over the customer. If you are a farmer, you get repeat and more business from the existing customer by nurturing the relationship.

2 Emotions in and out

As a hunter, you are always chasing and prospecting new potential customers and face more rejections in a month than people do in a lifetime. Emotional resilience or the ability to bounce back is critical. As a farmer, your emotions are directed to sensing and achieving customer satisfaction and thus tuning yourself to his frequency.

3 Chasing and servicing

The hunter’s job is to chase and not let the potential ‘target’ get away. Processes and documentation seem like an afterthought. But if you are a farmer, then key account management or building loyal customers is your deal. Thus, you love to get into the details, and follow processes that your client can learn to trust blindly.

4 Individual vs team

As a hunter, you enjoy the most as an individual contributor. You need and have tremendous self drive to chase leads and figure out a potential customer before bringing in a specialist or an operations person. As a farmer, you are a teammate who works along with service, operations, finance and client to create one solution.

5 Efficiency vs exhaustive

Your most profitable skill as a hunter is your ability to quickly identify which sales lead is a good fi t and worth investing time in. Efficiency is the key driver to meet sales targets. As a farmer, your biggest skill is building deep relationships with every customer. Your role is long term where these relationships will generate repeat sales.

(The author is a career coach, mentor and the author of Yoursortinghat.com.)

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *