Selling Skills: Are You An Order Taker, a Farmer, a Hunter, or a Sniper?

June 9, 2015
Selling Skills: Are You An Order Taker, a Farmer, a Hunter, or a Sniper?

When was the last time you thought about selling skills? Do you know what kind of salespeople are on your team or the type of salesperson that fits best for your team? Have you ever hired a salesperson that was successful at their previous company, but is failing at yours?

Selling style and selling skills are essential parts of success. The world of sales is certainly a broad spectrum. From retail to telemarketing, e-commerce to stocks; there are countless industries that all utilize some aspect of the sales process. So what type of salesperson is best for your industry or company?

For nearly 20 years I have worked in sales and I find it interesting to see what other people classify as a sales position, or better yet, what I view as a sales position. Let me give you a quick snapshot of my background in sales:

I am a commercial real estate broker in New York City. Most people would think that I buy and sell the Empire State Building every day – but 80% of all commercial transactions that take place in New York are actually commercial leases (my specialty/focus is as an office leasing broker). The way I build my client base is derived from 3 resources: cold calling, canvassing (physically knocking on doors), and networking.

Throughout my years in sales I’ve discovered that there are 4 categories of salespeople, all of which have varying selling skills. Which selling type do you or your salespeople resonate with most?

1. Order Taker

The Order Taker is the most basic on the salesperson chain. Just as the subject describes, these individuals take orders. Now that can range from working the counter at a fast food restaurant to working retail as a sales representative at Verizon. The common theme(s) here are:

• The salesperson is traditionally compensated highly by their salary (sometimes entirely).
• The customer searches the sales person out and the product is very standardized (the customer chooses package A, B, or C).

Unfortunately, the monetary structure for this type of sales position does not allow for much growth, which limits the salesperson’s potential to develop. This category has the lowest risk and the lowest rewards, making it simple and “safe.”

2. Farmer

The Farmer salesperson can be viewed as the individual who “plants” potential opportunities in his/her customer field and waits for the crops to grow.

• The salesperson in this category usually has a solid base salary with a potential to earn an additional 10-30% in commissions or bonuses.
• They are given a specific product to work with.
• They work on company accounts or referrals from manufacturers.

Unlike the Order Taker, the Farmer will have some flexibility and input as to the product and its benefits, providing an opportunity to educate and guide the customer to help meet his needs.

Yet, the Farmer will be limited to his level of monetary success as the base salary often offsets the “hard work” compensation side of the equation. Farmers very much prefer to run ads or “let the phone ring” rather than actively look for new business on their own (cold calling, canvassing, networking).

3. Hunter

The Hunter salesperson is the individual you see on TV. They have a phone in their ear, a fast-paced walk, and drive all over the place for sales meetings.

The reality is the Hunter is actually an individual who treats sales very much like running their own business.

The Hunter has a very low base salary or even no base salary. The motivation for this individual is a strong desire to succeed and be equally rewarded for her hard work and determination. Much like hunting, the variables are competitors and other salespeople that make the trophy that much more difficult to catch.

A territory may be given for this type of salesperson, but the Hunter must then go walk the walk in search of her game. Cold calling, foot canvassing, or attending networking events are ways in which the Hunter finds business.

The theme for the Hunter is simple: what you put in is what you will get out.

The reality, however, is that the lows are very low, but the highs have no ceiling. The Hunter is a career path choice, not a job. In my experience, this category has a very high turnover rate, with a failure rate of 85%.

4. The Sniper

The Sniper is the highest level of sales and is a direct descendant of the Hunter. I like to think of this position as similar to becoming a general in the army. Let’s explore this:

The salesperson has spent many years fine-tuning his selling skill as an active Hunter, perfecting cold calling, canvassing, and networking—all of which are done with individuals of equal or greater caliber. The mindset of this salesperson is to use their time as efficiently as possible.

Here a few examples:
• They have inside information and know just the right time to call a client to close a deal.
• They have a very strong networking or business group with devoted members who actively seek to grow their businesses together.
• The Sniper has the ability to walk away from a bad fit or bad deal and focus on the next opportunity.

In all, the Sniper is known as a true expert in their field and controls their destiny both monetarily and mentally.

The sales process is tricky, and understanding selling skills is essential to figuring out your path as a sales manager or salesperson. For salespeople, there is always room for growth if the desire to improve is present. For sales managers, it is important to focus on the type of selling skills most important to your company, industry, and prospects.

Are you a fast-paced company struggling with Order Takers? We’d love to hear your feedback!

We’d like to thank our friend Michael Kaufman for sharing this post! Michael is a Partner & Commercial Real Estate Broker at Kaufman Organization.

If you’re interested in motivating your team to hone their selling skills, you may also enjoy our ebook on motivation.
Motivating Your Sales Team


  • Jack Schuss - Reply

    Brand New Hunter. Let me know if you want to talk about how I could possibly help you get more visibility on 🙂

    • Rebecca Smith - Reply

      Thanks for the comment, Jack! We hope you enjoyed the article! Happy Hunting 🙂

  • Craig LePage - Reply

    Great insight on a topic so many struggle with. Very well put… We will post this in our private firm page for our team to read. Thanks for sharing.

    • Rebecca Smith - Reply

      Thank you for the comment and for sharing, Craig! We’re glad you enjoyed the article!

  • Tajhizyar - Reply

    interesting ! Thanks for the information !

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