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Hunter or farmer business types? What kind is yours?

Your agency could be one, the other or both. Philip Bowden asks what kind of business you run and how you should be choosing estate agency staff.

Philip Bowden


In today’s market getting a good number of market appraisals is key to a successful estate and letting agency business.

Agencies that do not generate enough market appraisals will eventually find themselves in trouble further down the line. As we know, there is more than one way to generate enough market appraisals. Some businesses have to go out there and seek these opportunities whilst others find that a good number come to them. One thing is certain that no matter what situation you find your business in, you can always do with a few more. This article focuses upon how agencies can use their people more effectively in marketing activities by looking to use their natural inclinations in the right way. So are your people hunters or farmers? Have you ever thought of them in these terms?

Let’s clarify our terms of reference: ‘hunters and farmers’.

Hunters are associated with going out there and finding food. They bring to the job characteristics such as, foraging, knowing where their prey usually lurks, they are resourceful, quit witted, fleet of foot, take risks and are persistent even to the point of being ruthless. They thrive on new challenges and working with out rules. On the other hand, they also can be quickly run out of steam and get bored if not involved in the hunt, can be seen as mavericks or loose cannons, usually are disorganised, will be drawn to a high octane existence and finally they will at some stage become high maintenance in terms of management time.

‘Hunters live on the edge, pushing the boundaries, they are sharp…’

Farmers on the other hand are associated with nurturing and growing things. They bring to the job characteristics such as organisation, planning, persistence, a trusting approach, demonstrate a slower and surer touch, care for the team and customers, pride themselves on reliability, they are in for the long term.

On the other hand they can be one paced and find it difficult to change gear when the market speeds up, find it more difficult to work using their own initiative; they prefer the status quo and prefer risk avoidance, perhaps lacking the killer touch when needed.

When I visit my clients’ offices I can clearly see that different cultures support and encourage different styles of marketing activity. Hunter organisations were up for marketing activities that involved living on the edge, being in people’s faces and pushing the boundaries using new technology and social media. Their people saw themselves as sharp, not wanting their competitors to steal a march on them. However, the farmer organisations were very reticent to take this approach and preferred to take a longer term approach marketing using a more methodical basis, looking to develop longer lasting relationships with clients.

farmer-chicken-pitchforkIt is not for me to say which of these approaches is right but the view point that I take is that what ever marketing activities you undertake, they have to be carried out skilfully and diligently, otherwise you may as well not under take them at all. Look at the styles of your staff and the type of business values you want to be seen upholding, and then design your marketing activities around these. If staff are not suited to hunting tasks or farming tasks and are made to do them, the chance are that they will be done badly and cause resentment not only among your staff but among potential clients. So if you are going to delegate canvassing that involves the thrill of the chase, give this task to the ‘hunters’, they will thrive on the challenge and relish the hunt. If you are going to use a systematic approach to canvassing, such as a structured campaign of letter dropping, give it to the ‘farmer’ to organise, because they will see it through and will do it diligently. A hunter will not have the stamina to follow it through to the end becoming distracted by other high octane activities.

Classifying your sales people as hunters and farmers can help in other ways. When recruiting what type of character are you looking for to compliment the team and the business profile? Managing the hunters and farmers in your team can also mean dealing with them very differently to get the best from them. Hunters will want praise and lots of it in public whilst the farmer might be more influenced with a less overt approach.

It is rare that one person has the skill sets of both a hunter and a farmer… if you have one look after them; they are as rare as hen’s teeth.

Philip Bowden is a director of Bowden Training & Management Services.

December 10, 2012

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