Are You Hunting or Harvesting?

In working with business owners and entrepreneurs over the years, I’ve noticed that when it comes to acquiring new customers, most of them are hunters. They pounce on new leads, chase the prospects, make themselves readily available to the prospect and then bend over backwards to land the new customer.

On the other hand, I’ve noticed that the most successful business owners and entrepreneurs take a different approach to customer acquisition: they are harvesters. They gather in all their leads, work hard to prevent any from slipping through the cracks, cultivate those leads and then harvest them when the time is right for the customer.

The most interesting thing about these two styles is that the hunter usually gets tired, a bit humiliated and ends up getting small margins. On the other hand, the harvester stays fresh, confident and usually earns higher margins.

What I’ve described here is the difference between a sales mentality (hunter) and a marketing mentality (harvester). Every business owner or entrepreneur who experiences some level of success has hunting skills … and that’s good. But the difference between minor success and major success is the difference between hunting and harvesting.

Oh, and just so we’re clear … I’m not saying that harvesting is an easy, non-aggressive job. When it’s time to harvest, be sure you swing the sickle sharp and fast.

Happy harvesting!

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Clate Mask, CEO of InfusionSoft About the Author: Clate Mask is the President and CEO of Infusionsoft. He loves to turn small businesses into big businesses. In addition to running the day-to-day operations of Infusionsoft, Clate also writes at the Infusion Blog about marketing and entrepreneurship topics.


Clate Mask Clate Mask is Co-Founder and CEO of Infusionsoft, a fast-growth software company that helps small businesses convert more leads, save time and manage more with less with its web-based software. He also is co-author of the New York Times best-seller Conquer the Chaos: How to Grow a Successful Small Business Without Going Crazy.

17 Reactions
  1. Interesting discussion! As an entrepreneur myself AND a long-time salesperson, I would consider myself a far better harvester than a hunter. I know how to build deep client relationships and have been working with some of my clients for 10+ years (wow I’m old…). However, I always valued the Hunter mentality, probably because that’s where I feel most lacking. That’s why it was great to read your perspective on the value of a harvester.

    Of course, I do understand that without some hunting, no business will ever come through the door.

  2. Clate,

    I would also be an advocate of this approach, but a I have a couple of questions for you on how you actually make it successful in practice:
    1 – How would you advise to appropriately motivate your salesforce so that they also buy into this concept? (As your post seems to focus on the business owner doing the selling directly themselves. But this may not always be the case.)

    2 – Which approach would you advise for a company who is working on a limited time line and funding schedule?


  3. Martin Lindeskog

    Suzanne Obermire: I agree with you on building a relationship. I have been working as a purchaser for 8+ years and then continued to keep in contact with the field as a board member of a purchasing and logistics association in Gothenburg, Sweden. I have ordered Covey’s book on trust as an inspirational reading for the summer.

    In the long-run I want to become a more of a harvester and I will continue to plant seeds during my road to success. One of my favorite expression is Pluck the day!

    Clate Mask: What’s your view on the phenomena “law of attraction” and “magnetic marketing”?

  4. Anita Campbell

    What if you’re not that good at either? 🙂

    Sometimes I wish I were better at any kind of sales, hunting or harvesting.


  5. Anita, I have to second you statement. I briefly tried sales once before many, many years ago – and I think I was too nice 🙂

  6. This is the great debate in the world of sales. There are many ads for sales personnel that say “Hunter Wanted no Farmers”, but I’m in agreement with Clate, hunting is effective if you’re trying to ramp up sales, but the wrong method for building long-term business.

    Successful entrepreneurs, who feel weak on the sales side, are not far from becoming sales pros; you just don’t know it. You have sold others your vision, displaying your skills. Learning how to sell is not that different from learning how to write a business plan, less complex, and will pay huge dividends on your investment.

  7. Harvesting a business relationship is more my speed. Don’t get me wrong, they both are difficult but necessary. Hunting however, requires an aggressive personality which I don’t possess.

  8. Great to read all the comments. I was on a 10-day, road-trip vacation with my family and was (almost) completely disconnected from work. It was fabulous!

    Suzanne–you nailed it when you said there must be SOME hunting mentality for the business to thrive. My main point was that most business owners (and sales reps) lean too far toward hunting. The truth is that a good mix of hunting and harvesting is required. But I believe that the emphasis should be on harvesting.

    One point to clarify: harvesting is not a long-term or mid-term approach–it’s a sustainable approach. I doubt that on the first day of fall harvest the farmer feels like the work ahead of him is long-term work. The fun thing about a harvesting approach is that it can feel very short-term. In the law of the harvest, you reap what you sow. The trick is to make sure you’re always sowing.

  9. Patrick–sales reps need to apply the same harvesting mentality. Of course, they definitely need to hunt. But I’ve found there’s a certain mentality among some sales reps that effectively blends the hunting and harvesting that’s required in their roles. What’s that mentality? The mentality to operate as a trusted expert.

    When sales reps develop true expertise and when they advise and consult their prospects, they don’t chase prospects relentlessly, they don’t push so hard they repel the prospect. Instead, they provide helpful infomation, they become an ally for prospects and they nurture (i.e., sow and harvest) the prospects who aren’t ready to buy right now.

    If you’re working on a limited time line and financing schedule, you’ll be tempted to exclusively hunt. My advice is that you gradually make the shift to include more harvesting in your customer acquisition strategies.

  10. Martin–I’m a big believer in magnetic marketing. That concept is integral to harvesting and is similar to my last comment about effective sales reps who operate as trusted experts to their prospects.

    As for the law of attraction, I believe the power of a positive mental attitude is incomprehensible to most of us. But I also believe in hard work. I think “The Secret” book and video brought out a great point: that what we think–>believe–>act–>habitualize can bring about incredible results. But my opinion is that our thinking and believing had better result in some serious action and habit… or the incredible “gifts from the universe” will never come our way.

  11. Nice observation, I agree on the approach of the two mentality, the sales and the marketing.

    In my personal observation, the sales mentality people are very aggressive on the first phase of the business, they are doing good on the first segment of the business time frame, but their activity slows down as time goes by. The chain reaction starts from there, many entrepreneurs do not really make a good profit on these type of practice.

    On the other hand, marketing people are doing their work one job at a time, slowly going up as they learn things from day to day experiences and adopting new tactics from one business partner to another. Marketing people are always there as long as business is up and running, they keep on educating people around them about the business they are into. As time goes by, people will bit by bit learn about their products and services and unknowingly, customers will keep patronizing what they have to offer with their business. Here applies the values “patience is virtue”. As marketers are acquiring new customers in a matter of long period of time.

  12. I really enjoyed this article that separates two distinct styles of the sales process. I have shared it with my readers on the Northstar Thinktank site:

    Thanks, and keep up the good work!

  13. This gets to the difference between the sales and marketing mindsets, but I would go further…
    Sales is usually focused on selling existing products to prospects, making the pitch, overcoming objections, and closing the deal. Whereas the marketing mindset is to maximize the value of transactions (and the business as a whole) by targeting the right prospects, understanding their needs, and delivering a solution that offers overwhelming value for the customer and profit for the firm.

    Or to put it another way, marketing is seeking to maximize value delivered while sales is maximizing deals closed.

  14. Great article. I thought many of your readers might also find this one of interest also: