Will Your Dogs Hunt? (What the data says about sales “hunters”)


How’s your new business development going during this crazy “new normal?” Are your people getting out there and hunting for new opportunities so your business can continue to thrive?

However you feel about using the phrase “hunter” in sales (wouldn’t that make clients a target to be tracked, followed and killed?), it’s generally used to describe a salesperson’s skill level in finding new clients or new logos.

According to research data from my colleagues at Objective Management Group, who maintain a database of over 1.9 million sales professionals, in 200 industries and 130 countries, only 41% of salespeople are strong in the hunting competency.  So if you’re feeling as though your salespeople are waiting for some incredibly rare planetary realignment to make an unsolicited prospect call, the data backs up your feelings.

What’s holding back your salespeople? The research looks at the following contributing factors in determining whether a salesperson will hunt: perfectionism, rejection fatigue, excuse-making, need for approval, volume of company-generated leads and referrals.

What role do your managers play in finding and developing hunters?  What are the consequences in your firm for a salesperson not hitting their metric of new clients, not maintaining a strong pipeline of opportunities, not sourcing their own referrals or leads, and not being able to convert a network of contacts into new opportunities?

If your business needs more new clients to reach your goals, you might consider pursuing these six best practices to gain better outcomes:

  1. Get good data: Your biz dev people have value, after all your firm decided to hire and keep them all these years. What’s less clear is their ability to hunt for new business.  Gaining objective, accurate and predictive data on their hunting skills will make it clear which dogs will hunt and how to support this part of their work.
  2. Skill them up: It may be years, if ever, since your salespeople were trained in how to prospect.  Today, digital tools have changed the landscape – both for prospects and for your sales team.  Where needed, get them re-grounded and current in the principles of effective prospecting.
  3. Challenge them: There’s a reason mamma birds push their babies out of the nest! Hunting for new business is always going to be tougher than servicing current clients and fielding internal leads and referrals.  Pushing them out of the nest involves aligned and consistent messaging across your leadership team, so they understand there’s no place to hide from this important sales responsibility.
  4. Track them: If you don’t already, use your CRM as the source for tracking new business metrics, such as the number of pure prospect calls, the number of new opportunities created, and their efficiency ratio in converting calls into opportunities. If you are tracking these stats already, volumes and trends should be consistently discussed in meetings between leaders and managers, and between managers and salespeople.
  5. Support them: Be empathetic that changing behaviors and doing things that feel uncomfortable is tough and takes time.  That means managers committing time to observe prospecting calls, and to coach development of prospecting skills.  Equally important, this also means that leaders should coach managers on their coaching effectiveness.
  6. Compensate them: One skill shared by all salespeople is how to max their payout.  Be sure that your comp plan is not only competitive with peer organizations; it should offer salespeople and their managers greater incentives for tougher work like winning new revenue from new clients.

Hunters play an invaluable role in growing your business.  Using the six best practices above will ensure that your sales organization is driving new business development; and allowing its salespeople to engage their inner hunters.  And will tell you which of your dogs will hunt.

Score a free road-test of the sales talent assessment I use to assess a salesperson’s hunting competency (in addition to 20 others), by clicking here.  Let me know what you think!