Hunting Instinct: Do You Have What It Takes?

In the past a lot of salespeople were not necessarily talented or well-educated, but this situation has changed. Companies have taken a customer-centered approach and place more importance on direct contact with customers. Therefore they need salespeople with excellent analytical, communication and people skills.

This raises the question: what makes a good salesperson, or what distinguishes the good from the great?

For me the answer is simple: hunting instinct

Around 8000 years ago people evolved to permanent human settlements, agriculture and later cities. These cities became the new – symbolic – hunting grounds. Men started chasing contracts and business deals instead of antelopes
(Desmond Morris – The Human Sexes: A Natural History of Man and Woman)

Now if only it were true that salespeople were hunting contracts and business deals, sales managers would have a lot less problems recruiting good salespeople for sure. Unfortunately the reality is different. Who, these days, dares to pick up the challenge of personal selling? Who, in other words, still wants to experience the pleasure,  fun and satisfaction of this – symbolic – hunt? Who still wants to feel the rush when a customer puts his autograph on the contract? Who sincerely enjoys the thrill of the chase?

Fact is that not many jobs today allow people to use and celebrate their hunting instinct. Just think about all those office clerks and factory workers all over the world. Even worse, they often work in environments where initiative and out-of-the-box thinking is disencouraged. The only place where this hunting instinct is still celebrated is the world of sports. Only, few people can make a living from practicing a sport.

With so few people developing their hunting instinct these days it’s no surprise that it’s hard finding good salespeople. Are you one of them?

Your turn now

Do you have a hunting instinct?
What  could you do to develop your hunting instinct?
Is a hunting instinct necessary to become a good salesperson?


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Related posts:

  1. Why Sales Has A Negative Image And I Still Love What I’m Doing
  2. Seven Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Be Afraid To Ask For The Deal
  3. The Story Of The Hunter And The Farmer

13 Responses to “Hunting Instinct: Do You Have What It Takes?”

  • Maria Talacona on August 12, 2011

    Good article, Yes I have hunting skills and find great pleasure in it.
    A problem I ran into, some companies want you to hold the hand of the new customer and nurture the client along. I can do this for a while, but sooner rather than later it’s better use of my time to pass them to an assistant. I once got put on restriction at a company for training my mom to do follow up calls on my current clients. She only asked basic questions to find out if they needed assistance so I could follow up. I was struggling to keep up with new and past accounts. I did tell my manager with no help so I tried to resolve the problem myself. It wasn’t rewarded for thinking outside of the box.

    • Wim on August 15, 2011

      Hunters and farmers are very different sales people. In fact I am writing an article on the differences between them right now! Fact is that hunters are not always great at relationship management and farmers (account managers) are not always good at prospecting. It’s my opinion to let people do what they do best and optimize their time by passing on other tasks to colleagues.

      Thanks for stopping by and dropping a line Maria!

  • Ashvini on August 14, 2011

    Hi Wim,

    I think it is very important to have hunting instinct , to be slightly aggressive( not highly :) ) about your product and to be proud of selling it.

    However more than personal challenge, I think it is the lack of organizational support for sales people. I think many times sales people are under pressure to deliver in the shortest amount of time and thinking out of the box is not rewarded.

    People do need good qualities to sell ( you have listed them ) but in the end organizations have to encourage them :)

    Hope you are having a great day

    • Wim on August 15, 2011

      It’s the company’s duty to provide the tools and environment for their sales force to thrive. I agree that often it’s too rigid and there’s not enough room for creativity when it comes to prospecting. There are fixed calls to be made and numbers to be reached, while there may be better ways to get in touch with highly interested prospects.

      Good to see you again buddy,

  • Tonia on August 15, 2011

    Hunting instinct is a rare thing these days. It’s not encouraged anymore by society and education. Such a shame as it’s a valuable asset to have

    • Wim on August 27, 2011

      I agree Tonia, it can benefit anyone to go “caveman” from time to time :)


  • Jk Allen on August 15, 2011

    Hey Wim,

    Great point in this post. Yes sir, I have a hunters instinct.

    Mine was developed by the hunger I have to take care of my family. That’s my thing. But for another person, their thing may be something else. Everyone’s motivation may be different, which is fine – but I think the important part is identifying the why. Having that answer gives us clarity in why it is worthwhile to put in so much effort.

    I don’t think it’s any coincidence that the most successful sales people have hunter-like qualities. Creativity, drive and a thick skin to keep trying and trying.

    Great read Wim!

    • Wim on August 27, 2011

      Hi JK, that’s it, right? The why! Crucial element you mention here. It could be an entire article on its own but basically it’s so simple it doesn’t ask for any explanation. Find something that motivates you on a continuous basis, not just at this point in your life. It all comes down to being in touch with yourself. Know who you are and take time to sort out your values and priorities.


  • Hector Avellaneda on August 18, 2011

    Hi Wim!

    Great post man. I definitely get where you are coming from here.

    For the sake of discussion though, I will (kindly) disagree with you, how about that!? :)

    Here’s why…

    Hunter’s normally do what? Chase things, right!?

    In the case of prehistoric man, among many other things, was the mammoth.

    But during the hunt what normally happens? The hunted runs away right!?

    In other words, anything you hunt is going to “naturally” and instinctively run away from you.

    Many things have changed over the course of human evolution (if that’s what you believe in) but the one thing that remains engrained in our DNA, even from prehistoric times, are basic human survival instincts.

    We live in very different times today.

    There was once a time when a disappointed customer could tell 50 of their friends about your level of service and that was bad enough. Today, because of social media and other communication platforms a disappointed customer has the capability to tell about 6,000 of their friends, on average – the sales industry has completely changed and of course the Internet has a lot to do with it.

    To make my point clear, I would say “Don’t HUNT anything when it comes to sales because naturally whatever you chase will run away from you. Instead, you should learn how to FISH! By fishing, you attract and if you have what the fish is looking for (the right product or service) the fish bites (you make the sale).

    Wat do you think about this approach instead?

    • Wim on August 27, 2011

      Nice point of view Hector and I agree with you. Partially :)

      I think every company should have hunters and fishermen.

      The fishermen are the marketing guys who know how to attract customers and make them find you instead of the other way around. They use inbound marketing to the max and know how to convert customers through copy, video, newsletters etc.

      Then there’s the hunters. The salespeople. Their task is to go out and spread the message. Because as much as you would like everyone to know your company and what you do best, that’s not going to happen. How else could you explain all big SEO firms have lots of prospecting sales people on the road? Especially when you’re selling to big companies and working on big/complex projects you need to put yourself out there. Many customers are simply not aware of what your product or service could mean to them and their bottom line. Hell, they might not even know it exists.

      So for me it’s having both people, not limiting yourself to one approach.

      Let me know what you think.


      • Hector Avellaneda on September 10, 2011

        Hi Wim

        I think I can definitely agree with this logic, given the right circumstances.

        Good discussion!

  • Bill Dorman on August 19, 2011

    Hey Wim, I think a lot of people ‘think’ they want to be in sales because from the outside looking in it can certainly look easy. However, in reality most just want to be order takers because they don’t have that hunter, bring home the kill mentality.

    The easy part is that I do have total freedom of time; I come and go as I please, I don’t check in or check out, I don’t punch a clock, etc. HOWEVER, we are the only employees in the organization that has their results posted on the board every single month; like a batting average. I wonder how many rank and file employees would be comfortable having their numbers put on the board based on some established set of guidelines?

    At the end of the day the sale has to be made for anything to happen. I have to identify my prospect and formulate the best strategy to just get an audience and even then it might not be a good fit. In my type of sales, somebody has to get fired if they are going to do business with me. If they’ve been w/ ‘Joe’ for 10 years and ‘Joe’ is a nice guy, it might be kind of hard to pick up the phone and tell him ‘sorry, we are going in another direction’. I clarify that up front, I ask the decision maker ‘can you make that call’?

    Sometimes it does feel like you are on an island, but fortunately I have a great team to supplement and support what I do.

    • Wim on August 27, 2011

      In fact I believe that often the best customers for your business are the ones who are already using your product or service (but from other supplier/vendor). They know how to use it, they know what they’re looking for, they know what they’re missing in their current solution, they know how they measure effectiveness/results etc.

      The firing becomes easier when you get far superior service and/or save a good couple of bucks every month :)


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