214. Farmers, Hunters, Challengers, and Killer-Teams for Gazelles

Farmers and Hunters?

Around 1870 someone in the insurance industry realized that: selling new policies (hunting) required a lot of rejection. But, collecting monthly premiums on sold policies was easy maintenance (farming) and eventually took up all of rep’s time. No more hunting!

Solution? Split the functions. Then, hire different types for different pay.

Today: this model is too simplistic for most selling needs. But, many distributors have evolved to having too many farmers (paid like hunters). And, these farmers typically don’t have the wherewithal to “challenge” their existing “relationships” to buy better with a next-level, win-win process.


The book – “The Challenger Sale” (2011) – describes a rep who can invite customers to think about buying something in a more holistic, win-win way. By example, a customer asks for a better price. The Challenger would counter with: “Why stop at price? Why don’t we co-create a better, total-procurement solution and both be heroes? A bit too conceptual and scary for well-fed farmers! Besides, co-creating better buy-sell systems takes a team-to-team effort.

First: Challenge “Gazelles” to Consider Partnering

If you Google – “birch + gazelles + elephants + mice”- you will find that: Gazelles are the 3-4% of all companies that grow faster than the rest due to innovation capability. As innovators, they are also most open to and able to join your better-buying-process challenge. Partner them, and their organic growth will grow their spend with you.

At What Success (Kill!) Rate?

In the wild, cheetahs get their prey 58% of the time; lions 20%+; and dragonflies 95%. How do you get dragonfly results for your Gazelle-partnering quests? Consider the guidelines in my “webinar #10” at: http://merrifieldact2.com/ecommerce-2023/.

The webinar summarizes what I learned before winning 10 out of 15 cold, target accounts within 9 months by:

  1. Using success criteria to identify the 15 which I personally visited and interviewed.
  2. Trimmed the list to 12.
  3. Introduced them to my best hunter/challenger rep.
  4. Scheduled subsequent calls to personally introduce the team: our Service Director; a tiger buyer; a best inside sales rep; and an MBA/intern analyst.

By applying 10 times the smarts and 4 times the hustle and extra investments vs the incumbent, custodial competitors, it was: GAME OVER.


Laser-focus your best, team-talent on Gazelles. Your – farmers, competitors (and Amazon Business) – will not do this. Be different, experiment and win!