Monday, March 14, 2011

How to Recognize a True Sales Hunter

Recently a number of articles have appeared on the Social Media site Linkedin, regarding the traits of a “True Hunter”.  Several members followed up with me personally asking how to locate, verify and hire authentic sales hunters.  The favorable reaction to my replies caused me to write this article outlining and summarizing the persona of the “True Sales Hunter”.  Enjoy!
1.       The Hunter has an extraordinarily high level of assertiveness.
The “myth” that all sales people are dominant types comes from the Hunter persona.  These individuals are dominant, assertive, competitive, take-charge types, who need to win, need to be in control,and require recognition.  They have a “take no prisoners” attitude when it comes to getting what they want.
2.       The Hunter is a risk taker.
The true Hunter thinks big.  If selling software, they will want to close the biggest deal, they will call on the C-Suite, and they will not hesitate in asking for what they know is denied to others, including their own coworkers.  The hunter is willing to take on Sales Managers and Executives within their own organization.  They think nothing of going straight to the CEO if their own manager denies them something. 
3.       The Hunter is a social animal.
The Hunter is generally outgoing, and needs a great deal of interaction and approval.  This does not mean they are people pleasers, instead that they are very persuasive and empathetic, with excellent communication skills.
The hunter needs continual positive reinforcement from high level managers.  While they are often loved by their customers and managers, others in their organization will see them as pushy or aggressive.  That is often due to the “impatience” mentioned later in this article.  Hunters don’t always take time for the daily niceties that are deemed necessary in other roles. 
4.       The Hunter is a problem solver. 
Hunters like to solve problems on their own and will often go above or around someone who is seen as “part of the problem,” even if this person is their own boss.
A Hunter is never slowed or impeded by obstacles.  They will quickly work to find a solution without waiting for approval from a Manager or Superior.  They know that slowing a deal down introduces uncontrollable risk.  Good hunters are fond of saying “It is easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.”  
5.       The Hunter is a natural leader. 
Many Hunters were leaders in school either on the sports field or as class officers.  They will always want to take the lead on any project or committee where they participate.  They typically want to present first, be promoted first, and come in first in any contest, regardless of how significant the prize is.  The true Hunter hates training classes, but will always win prizes when attending.
Hunters will always challenge their managers, especially if they feel they are under appreciated.  It is important to give them independence and opportunities to interact with Executive team members.  At any company function, they will be found talking with or sitting next to the most prestigious Executives or guests.  If an important client is on site and they are not invited to the meeting, they will find a way to interject or interact.  In a group presentation, they will always be the dominant speaker.
6.       The Hunter is restless and easily bored.
The Hunter likes to be involved in multiple projects and committees.  A true hunter can prioritize and does not miss deadlines or fail commitments.  Hunters like to be viewed as someone of superior intelligence who makes valuable contributions.  If a “hunter” on your team misses deadlines or fails to meet commitments, you have a phony on your hands. 
7.       The Hunter is impatient.
An impatient person is restless and thrives on change.  They have a lot of nervous energy, are deadline-oriented, and multi-tasking.  Hunters are bored by routines and repetition, and need to be provided with new challenges regularly.  They want to contribute at many levels of the organization outside their own sphere of influence.
The hunter is easily bored and will adapt to change readily.  However, as they consider themselves leaders, the Hunter wants to be “in the loop” when decisions are being made that will impact them.  If you are changing territories, comp plans, or allocating office space, it is imperative to make the Hunter feel like he has input and influence on those decisions.
Hunters do not like to sit still for long periods of time and often have a very short attention span. 
8.       The Hunter likes to bend the rules.
That is why they are called Mavericks or Eagles.  They do not consider themselves part of a pack.  The true Hunter will say “it is easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.”  This is due to their sense of urgency in closing deals.  While this often works well in the sales cycle, it can create challenges for their management team.
9.       The Hunter is politically savvy.
Although they like to bend the rules, the Hunter knows whose egos to stroke and they will offer praise and recognition to lower level employees and team members who can help them get things done.  Not surprisingly, they will befriend the people who calculate their commissions, as well as those who approve their contracts or give access to Executives.   
They will quickly uncover the necessary processes for approval and they also know how to work with Executives at a very high level in order to get things done.  They are accustomed to going around management teams, both internally and externally.
Hunters know where their executives hang out and they will join the same club, ski on the same lake or attend the same church in order to be near both Executives.  I’ve known Hunters who put their kids in the same school as their own CEO and become major fundraisers in order to have access and visibility.  
10.    The Hunter will only respond well to a high risk, high rewards culture.
They expect to be well paid well and paid quickly.  If they are not paid well or as promised, they will quickly seek a position elsewhere.
Hunters resist supervision and are driven by incentive and recognition.  As risk takers, if they are given too much negative feedback, they will merely move on to another position or company.  They know their value. 
11.    The Hunter is very independent.
An independent employee is very self reliant, and often sees working with coworkers as introducing risk to their deals.  Although they have a high tolerance for risk, it is risks they can control, such as their own behavior, that will be tolerated.  They do not like rules or procedures and will often go out of their way to prove that the rules are not meant for them. 
12.    The Hunter is results driven.
They have a constant sense of urgency and thrive on deadlines.  Hunters require a fast-paced work environment that constantly offers up challenges and rewards.
13.    The Hunter loves to teach.
The Hunter loves to share and show off their own knowledge to peers, customers, managers, etc.   Hunters seldom like to attend training classes, but when asked to teach they will rise to the challenge and exceed expectations. 
The True Hunter is an assertive, social, impatient, independent person who thrives on change and recognition.  They have a constant sense of urgency, driven by deadlines and results.  They like working through people rather than within processes.  They will often mimic the hours of very high level executives in their own organization in order to give themselves access and visibility.   
The Hunter will pay attention to the details that matter in getting the deal done.  Other “details” like meetings, training classes and rules will be ignored or forgotten.  They will constantly be checking their phone and email and will plead that they are too successful or busy to do what is required of their peers.  In order to encourage them to be compliant, you will need to appeal to their ego and sense of leadership in the organization. 
Most hunters despise the menial tasks that are required of sales managers, but they will ask for every promotion that comes along, even if it is several grades above their current position. The true Hunter will require extensive training and mentoring to become a good Sales Manager. 
A person who is very social, but not pushy or assertive is not a true Hunter.   Hunters have an entrepreneurial persona.  They prefer positions that offer a great deal of Independence and will avoid jobs that have extremely cumbersome rules and processes.  
A Hunter is not necessarily difficult to manage, but they will present unique challenges and require more verbal recognition than the average employee.  A true Hunter will require a better manager, so if you are seeking to employee a Hunter, be sure that you have the right management team in place or you will not even be able to attract, much less hire or retain the “True Hunter”. 


  1. One reason to recognize a hunter is that you may want to hire one. In my experience most salespeople will describe themselves as "hunters" particularly on job interviews.

    To distinguish a true hunter from a prentend hunter I ask the inteviewee to describe the "hunt." The true hunter responds in excruciating detail - they remember what they ate for lunch the day the prospect let them in and they will excitedly share that detail and many others. The pretend hunter will provide theoretical platitudes - I was assertive, took risk, broke the rules, understood the politics... but find it difficult to back this up with specific examples from a variety of opportunities.

    Happy hunting for your "hunter!"

  2. Hello Paul - Good to see you on here! I hope your alliance work is moving forward.

  3. Becky,Paul.

    thought you might look at this tool designed to help "ordinary managers" help look/identify what a true high performing new business sales person looks like. go to