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The Advantage of a Hunter Culture

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet.

I recently attended a conference where a consulting firm shared some of their research about some attending sales organizations. The information that they revealed made some people gasp (literally) in disbelief. It made others ask questions that made their skepticism known. The study was conducted for a group of clients, and the information was private. But here is what I can share.

Faster Growing Sales Organizations Cold Call

The research that was presented showed that faster growing sales organizations used cold calling as one of their primary methods of prospecting. Their performance was almost a standard deviation above the slower growing organizations that did not use cold calling as one of their primary prospecting methods.

If you are a regular here at TSB, then you aren’t surprised by these results. For all of the emphasis on Sales 2.0 and social selling (of which I am a huge proponent), cold calling is still a highly effective form of prospecting.

But wait; there’s more.

Faster Growing Sales Organizations Generate Their Own Leads

The second finding was equally important. The salespeople that worked for faster growing sales organizations were responsible for generating their own leads. In this case, it didn’t mean that other lead generation wasn’t used. It meant that the salespeople were responsible for building their own prospect list regardless of whether or not their lead generation efforts were being supplemented by other departments or outsourced solutions.

The real difference was that in the slower growing sales organizations, the salespeople were not accountable for generating their own leads.

Advantage: Opportunity Creation

It is important to note here that these results fly in the face of conventional wisdom. Cold calling has fallen out of fashion, and with it the accountability for the sales force to generate leads. But these two activities make up what is a hunter culture.

A sales organization that has a hunter culture produces more opportunities. Hunters produce more opportunities within their existing client base, and they produce more opportunities through new client acquisition. And growth is found through opportunity creation.

A Note to Midmarket Sales Organization: Small and medium size businesses benefit from building and maintaining a hunter culture. Growth is found through the continuous creation of opportunities, and the velocity of that growth is determined by the ability to create and capitalize on opportunities. As your company grows, there is a place for new tools and new processes. But that doesn’t require that you replace a hunter culture or the activities that build opportunities.


Does your organization cold call as part of it’s prospecting plan?

Are you responsible for some part of your own lead generation? How much?

Are you part of a hunter culture? A culture that creates and capitalizes on opportunities?

Do you always have enough opportunities to make you number, regardless of whether you lose some of your opportunities?

What would you have to change to have more of a hunter culture?

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  • Dan Collins

    Excellent post Anthony. – It’s always been a source of amusement to me how many people resist a very simple concept – Doing what others can’t or won’t is a critical component of success. Whether it be cold calling, opportunity creation, or anything else. Thanks for a great post my friend.

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      No doubt, Dan. I remember reading about Lance Armstong being thrilled when it rained during the Tour de France because he knew everyone else hated it. The sales people that approach it with that mindset will always outperform those who can’t stand a little rain!

  • Miles Austin

    Music to my ears Anthony. Search “cold call” on Google and you will find page after page of the “Cold Call is Dead” content, usually playing on words to get us to buy a book or service. 

    Social selling executed well enhances the effectiveness of prospecting, it doesn’t eliminate it. Most of the top producers that I know will never wait around for marketing, inside teams or their boss to produce opportunities to follow. It is the very act of working with self-generated leads that yield even more leads down the road.

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Miles. It’s interesting to me that many people suggest 2.0 as a replacement for 1.0, but I think that is malpractice. You have always been required to learn about your client. There hasn’t ever been a time when you weren’t supposed to keep yourself aware of the changes your dream client was dealing with and look for ways to help. The TOOLS are a Hell of a lot better now, but it is still necessary to pick up the phone. I say all that a serious proponent of the 2.0 toolkit . . . but not as a replacement for what works. 

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