Applauding the Different Types of Sales Styles

No two sales reps sell quite the same way. Here's everything you need to know about popular sales styles and how to use them in your organization to succeed.

9 min read

At Xactly, we’re all about celebrating – from employee birthdays, to individual and team achievements, to our customers’ success. That’s why we’re so excited to celebrate National Salesperson Day tomorrow, March 3.

The salesperson is at the heart of your business performance. National Salesperson Day is an opportunity to acknowledge their unique contributions. From hunter to farmer to specialist to closer, each rep role has its own sales style and plays a vital role in your sales process. 

The Hunter


You need hunters to track down the right prospects for your solution or service. Hunters have a solid understanding about your target audience; they know how to research leads and engage with prospects and quickly determine if they’re good candidates for your business. With a sales style that’s resourceful and tenacious, hunters don’t leave any stone unturned when it comes to finding your best buyers.

Hunters are critical to your company growth. They pick up the scent of new leads to chase, are masters of cold calling, and experts at the elevator pitch – able to explain your value in the flash of an instant.

Here are a few things to consider when it comes to compensating your hunters:

  • Separate the Wolves from the Sheep: When incented right, hunters can do wonders in helping the company increase profit and penetrate the market. Constantly be asking yourself, are your hunters hungry? And, are you giving them a strong team for support?
  • Establish the Hunting Grounds: Tenaciousness breeds competitiveness, so it’s important that each rep knows where they can hunt. Make sure territories are ripe with opportunity, and be strategic about how you’re splitting areas. Make sure you’re optimizing the relationship between hunters and the reps to which they’re passing leads.
  • Dangle the Carrot: Dedicate your hunters’ incentive pay to their performance in passing leads to closers, of course, but also set up rewards for deals that actually close. Generally, think about the message your compensation is sending: are hunters delivering the right leads? How many qualified leads does it take to close an opportunity? How long does that process take?

The Farmer


A farmer tends to the crops – making sure that you care for and don’t neglect the needs of your customer base. With a keen eye on your existing holdings, the farmer knows when it’s time to renew contracts – and when it’s appropriate to reach out regarding add-ons and solutions for upsells and cross-sells. The farmer’s sales style focuses on keeping customers happy and looking for new ways to bring them value. Farmers engage with customers frequently and understand their particular pain points. In doing so, they harvest new opportunities for your business.

Farmers are vital to strengthen your buyer relationship. They create a win-win for both company and customer, and cultivate a trusted partnership. Without farmers, you can run the risk of a slash and burn mentality. Farmers maintain a focus on the home ranch.

Some things to consider in terms of farmer compensation:

  • Weed Out Ill-Fitting Personalities: With constant customer interaction, do your farmers have the right personality for the job? And, it’s not just relationship building—are they skilled in up-selling (and can they balance the two agendas)?
  • Plant the Right Quota Seeds: Meaning, be sure you’re having farmers chase renewal and up-sell revenue. But again, you don’t want to set up a scenario where farmers are jeopardizing relationships by being pushy for the upsell.
  • Ensure Challenges are on the Horizon: With renewals, you’re inherently going to have customers returning regardless of farmer effort. So, perhaps farmers don’t start earning until a minimum level of performance is achieved, first?

The Specialist


The team counts on the specialist to support your most complex customer sales. The specialist has fast answers to industry specific questions and buyer challenges. They’re experts at outlining detailed product plans and putting together killer demos that win customers over, time and time again. With immense knowledge and insight into your product or service portfolio, the specialist uses that expertise to help buyers understand how you uniquely solve their problems.

Specialists know how to respond effectively to competitive claims and are informed backups for more complex deals.

What to consider with compensation:

  • Ensure “Specialist” Isn’t Just a Title: When complexities and challenges arise, you want to be confident you’ve sent the right person for the job. Do your sales specialists have the right technical skills? Can they handle competitive claims while giving demos? Are they master presenters?
  • Set Quota Ground Rules: Importantly, are specialists accepting of the fact that their variable pay program could be dependent on the actions of others? If so, should different types of revenue credit be included or excluded? What does “great performance” for a specialist look like? If everyone on the sales team hits quota, how is the specialist compensated?

The Closer


The closer brings it all home for the team. Charged with sealing the deal, a closer has magical powers of persuasion and the biggest impact on the outcome of a deal than anyone else on the team. They understand the business roles within a customer organization and can effectively communicate at the executive level.

Closers pick up where hunters leave off and are essential to drive revenue and profit for your business. They can articulate powerful business cases that push your revenue higher every quarter.

Things to consider in terms of compensation:

  • Reward for Impact: Of the different sales styles and roles, the closer has the most control over the ultimate result. Thus, their pay mix should be aggressive enough to drive the desired performance – closing deals – and should be 50/50, or closer to it than any other role.
  • Upside is the Bright Side: And within reason, you should be doing all you can to encourage closers to complete as many deals as possible. Thus, their plans should have significant upside; we routinely see those performing at the top earning 3x more than those target performance levels.

Incentive Compensation for Every Sales Style

Xactly is committed to providing businesses with the sales performance management (SPM) solutions that incentivize and drive higher sales performance. Each sales rep role has its own sales style and objectives.

Compensation plans must be personalized to what you are asking from each. To learn more about the most common sales roles and how to appropriately compensate them through variable and base pay mix, download Xactly’s Complete Guide To Sales Team Compensation.