Last October, Symantec’s stock took a beating after its new CEO, Steve Bennett, gave financial guidance that fell short of analyst expectations. As often happens, sales execution was proffered as the primary reason for the gloomy guidance.
Bennett explained in a Bloomberg article that he was going to fix the sales organization by training employees to be “hunters rather than farmers” – a paradigm as old as sales itself.
Once upon a time, hunters were highly prized. “Just win the deal” was the mantra for most sales organizations when it was all about signing the deal and locking customers in as quickly and completely as possible. Eventually, as customers gained more power, farmers came into vogue, with their methodical tilling of customer fields using the best and brightest array of sophisticated farmer gear, from social media to Web analytics.
This placed customers on a more equal footing and gave them a powerful voice in the transactional process.
Increased customer power has spawned a new kind of sales professional who now lives somewhere between hunter and farmer – the “builder.” Builders are aggressive in the hunter mold, yet they till the fields with farmer-like precision. Marrying aggressiveness with diligence and tenacity enables this new breed of business partner to stand shoulder to shoulder with their customers to help them craft a uniquely holistic success.
Building is a long-term proposition, one that goes beyond the immediate gratification of a hunter’s wins or a farmer’s numbers. Hunters may eat well now, farmers likewise for the time they actively tend their soil, but builders eat well for a lifetime because the kind of relationships they forge deepen and renew themselves regardless of time or circumstance.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that Symantec will not solve its problems by laying the blame on sales execution. Bennett’s statement that he would attempt to fix what was wrong by training employees to be hunters rather than farmers shows a fundamental lack of understanding about the environment itself.
Cultivating holistic customer partnerships is the key to creating and maintaining a successful business. Customers want vendors who go beyond simply listening by truly empathizing with the needs of their business and the individuals within it. When a company’s focus is on that kind of building, there’s no need to fix anything.
Mike Coney has served as president and CEO of Unitrends since 2009.