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Hunting vs. Harvesting: Which Method Describes Your Customer Acquisition Strategy?

Hunting vs. HarvestingI’ve written about this idea of hunting vs harvesting [1] before for this site, but in conversations I have with small business owners, over and over this question of “what’s the difference?” comes up.  So let’s dive deeper, because it’s a growing issue to tackle for companies trying to break out and get to that next level.

Imagine you are out on a camping trip. You didn’t pack any food with you and you’re hungry.  You’ve got two choices:

Now, remember: you’re hungry. You’re tired. You’re not looking for adventure or sport. You just want to eat!

Most of us would choose the meal dangling from the fruit tree in a heartbeat. But that’s not the choice most small business owners make every day.

When it comes to acquiring new customers, most business owners go hunting instead of harvesting. And that’s a shame. Because hunting for new customers is tough work that causes most small businesses to go hungry. And many, many of those businesses end up starving to death.

Not only that, but hunting for business is tough stuff, even for those who manage to make a living at it.  When you’re in “hunting” mode, you’re dialing for dollars; you feel resistance at every turn; rejection is common; you get “price shopped” against competitors so margins are thin; and you waste tons of time working with prospects who simply aren’t ready to buy.

Sounds about as much fun as a major root canal without the anesthetic, doesn’t it?

On the other hand, when you’re in “harvesting” mode, you’re working smart and scooping up sales left and right. You’re like the fisherman with the irresistible bait, drawing your prospects to you. You can spend your time closing deals on the phone with hot leads or go out on the golf course because you know your prospects will call you when they’re ready to move forward.

So, the big question is How can you spend more time working with hot leads and less time-even no time-with the cold leads? How can you actually make the shift from hunting to harvesting?

To understand how to do this, you need to know about a fundamental business problem at the heart of nearly every company on the planet. Here’s the problem:

To make the shift from outbound hunting to inbound harvesting, you need a lead warming function in your business. Simple as that.

Lead warming is about communicating with your prospects from the moment they express interest and then if they don’t buy right away, that’s OK because you then don’t let them slip away and instead breadcrumb them with information they’ll find valuable about your product, service or company. You time that campaign that sends them messages over email, voicemail or direct mail — whatever your combo choice — and you do that in an automated way that doesn’t require an employee to have to remember.  This way, none of those warm leads slip through the cracks.

When that prospect is ready to buy, whether it’s one week, one month or one year later, they want to buy from you, and not your competitor.

Another way of looking at it is you have people that have filled out a form on your website, whether it’s a newsletter, or downloaded an ebook, or attended a demo they’re saying, “hey I’m mildly interested in what you have to offer.” Your job now is to stay in front of them with relevant information so that when they are ready to buy, they buy from you. Most companies fail to do anything with those warm leads that expressed interest but didn’t instantly buy from you. They forget about those prospects and move on to the ones that are hot at that moment.

So, let me give you five tips to help you make the shift from hunting to harvesting:

  1. Arm yourself with an arsenal of “information magnets” that will attract prospects to you.
  2. Send relevant, valuable information to every prospect regularly.
  3. Communicate with prospects efficiently, not in the normal, time-consuming, one-on-one methods.
  4. Log all communications between you and the prospect in an organized, accessible fashion.
  5. Track the progress of each lead through the sales pipeline so you always know where every lead stands.

The good news is that it’s actually very easy to do all of this and you can have it done for you effortlessly with an automated system.

When you make this shift, you’ll enjoy your work more, you won’t dread pounding the phones, and you’ll have more freedom because your prospects will call YOU when they’re ready to buy.  In short, you’ll be plucking ripe fruit from a tree instead of trudging through the wilderness, hunting for your next meal.