Salespeople are often described as “Hunters” and “Farmers.” The role of a “farmer” in sales is typically to cultivate and grow existing accounts where as “hunters” are charged with finding new customers.

As in life, mindset is all so important in sales. The thoughts we have and the words we use play a big role in driving our behavior and, subsequently, our results.

I’ve always wondered why we use the term “hunter” in sales. Webster’s New World Dictionary describes “hunting” as, “to try to find; search; to chase.”

Are we asking our salespeople or ourselves, consciously or unconsciously, to “try to find” new customers? Are you “trying” to find new customers or are you obtaining new customers? There’s an old saying: “trying” is failing with honor.”

Certainly “searching” for new business plays a role for salespeople, however, do we only want to be “searching” and not “finding” and “obtaining”?

What’s up with “to chase”? The sales world is loaded with salespeople “chasing” prospects who will not buy from them. “Chasing” is so prevalent among salespeople that they should be the best conditioned people on the planet. Salespeople are notorious for having pipelines loaded with prospects that they are chasing where the probability of the prospect buying is very low or zero.

Why do salespeople “chase” so much? There are several reasons, one of which is it’s easier to “chase” someone than it is to go find someone new. It also gives a false sense of security that our pipeline is healthy.

Let’s look at this from the buyer’s perspective and we’re all buyers. Do you want to be “hunted”? “Chased”? Of course not. Anything that’s “hunted” runs away.

What’s another, more empowering way of viewing this need to obtain new customers? Go fish.

The dictionary defines fishing as “the catching of fish for sport or for a living.” I’ll substitute “obtaining” for “catching.” There’s no “trying” or “chasing” in the definition. Words matter.

Years ago I used to go fishing regularly with my brother in law. He’s a master at fishing. We would always get our limit, often when no one else was obtaining anything. This sounds like salespeople who sell when others are not.

How did we do this? We started with the belief that we will obtain fish. We had confidence in our knowledge and capabilities. We were active. “Trying” never applied to the end results, only to approaches. If one approach didn’t work, we tried another. If one fly, lure or bait didn’t work, we used another. We worked the river. We kept moving. We know that active people get lucky. Fish, like prospects, tend to nibble at the bait. They don’t take it all at once. That’s why you don’t yank the line right away, or, relating it to sales, “show up and throw up” like a typical salesperson.

Yes, the difference is subtle between “hunting” and “fishing,” however, subtleties often make a big difference.

So are you going to hunt or fish?