Sales Engineer Guide: Hunter or Farmer

Enterprise level sales representatives are a whole other breed of person from their pre-sales engineer. Enterprise sales representatives execute and help formulate corporate sales strategies and programs.  They must be extremely self-confident sometimes carrying entire companies on their backs. Sales representatives performance directly impact the job stability of everyone else in the company. Pre Sales Engineers do best when they understand the personalities and styles of their partner representatives.  Two major personality types are hunters and farmers. Most people are a mix of the two but some are hard core hunter or farmer.

A Note on the Danger of Stereotypes

Hunters and Farmers are descriptive stereotypes.  You rarely run into someone who is completely anything.  Think of this as you would any other personality classifications. It is a useful way of reminding yourself that you may need different approaches with different people in the same jobs.


These folks seek out, track down and kill whatever deal they can find.  They tend to be more aggressive in planning meetings and in sales calls. Hunters have a shorter more aggressive attention span than farmers.  Their sales situations can be very fluid with more aggressive posturing and positioning. 

Sales Engineers may struggle when working with their first Hunter sales reps.  Sales Engineers tend to be more cautious wanting to provide right answers.  Hunters can truly partner with their sales engineers but often use them as accessors to back their stories.  

Startup companies tend to use Hunters when spinning up.  They also tend to appear in tech companies looking for an IPO or acquisition.


These folks tend to cultivate accounts taking the longer view. They build broader relationships and take approaches that can really frustrate their Hunter brethren. Farmers take the long view. Sometimes they end up with huge deals and sometimes they have crop failure and go hungry. I've seen farmers sell nothing for a 9 months and still end up on stage at the sales meeting because they closed their long term projects.

Farmers tend to do better with customer companies that actually want a partner.  Their approach is generally more holistic.  Consultive farming can be wasted on prospects that treat all vendors as adversaries.

Know Your Partner

Sales Representatives are the ones that are held accountable for performance.  They carry the quota, earn the bigger rewards and take the lead on customer interaction.  Sales Engineers act as their adjunct. Both parties are smart and driven.  If you are lucky, this creates a dynamic relationship where the zone between the two parties core competency is dynamic based on need.

The best sales reps know how to leverage their team resources including pre-sales engineers.  They know when and where to coach Sales Engineers in their operating style and the role then want the Engineers to play.  The reps best know when and where to let their pre-sales resources operate independently to increase account coverage and visibility.  

Pre Sales Engineers are engineers at heart and tend to focus on hard skills like product knowledge. The best sales engineers study how their various representatives operate and adjust to their styles. They learn where their boundaries and when to jump in or stay back. 

Wrap Up

Sales Representatives own the deal and the Pre Sales Engineers own making sure the customer has no reason to say no.  There is variation in how this works because both the sales team and customers are people.  I've seen Pre Sales Engineers carry big deals across multiple account realignments. I've seen Sales Representatives do great jobs at answering detailed product discussions.  Sometimes those both work and sometimes they end in smoking craters.  Know your representatives, know your limits an continually improve. Working in a technical sales environment can sometimes be the best job in the world.


Created 9/2017


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