Mark Robert Halper Photography

Farming lends itself to seasonal cycles and most of the activity takes place in familiar surroundings under controlled circumstances. By contrast, hunting is more random, and stalking prey often leads to uncharted territory. Farming is focused on efficient, unchanging systems; hunting requires vigilance and adaptation to changing circumstances.

These differences may be brought about by cycles of scarcity and abundance, or they may be a natural product of our thirst to find a better way. Whatever the cause, it’s clear that farming and hunting are different with respect to specific knowledge, skill sets, attitude, environmental conditions, and tools.

Over the last five years, we have seen a major shift in the remodeling business from a farming mentality to a hunting skill set. This dynamic has caused a dramatic drop in sales in many remodeling organizations, and many owners and salespeople who were breathing easy five years ago are gasping through a straw today. On the flip side, a much smaller number of companies — perhaps only about 10% to 20% — are having a record sales year, not just because they worked hard but because they stopped being “farmers” and became “hunters.” Here are some ways to tell the difference.

Making Exceptions

“Farmer” remodelers are methodical, even dogmatic, about sales and marketing. They believe that 1,000 direct-mail pieces should generate about 15 leads and five sales. But this mindset is problematic today. Homeowners are not responding to direct mail the way they used to, and it now takes multiple visits to close the sale. By contrast, “hunter” remodelers are light-footed and will deviate from the beaten path to make the sale. Hunters understand numbers, but they will focus on a single prospect if they perceive a sense of urgency and all the right buying signs.

Taking Action

Farmers are reactive. They send out their marketing pieces, then sit and wait for the phone to ring. And when the phone doesn’t ring, farmers point their fingers and blame the marketing department or the economy for the lack of opportunities.

Hunters, on the other hand, wake up every day and create a proactive plan. They know that they will not eat if they don’t bring in the clients. Hunters have good radar, and they actively pursue opportunities rather than sit and wait for them to come their way. Hunters believe that they, not others, are accountable for generating opportunities, and they truly enjoy this challenge.

Staying Flexible

Farmers tend to plant the same crops, year after year. They have become masterful at the processes required to yield predictable results. Farmers rarely make a radical change in what they do and instead try to get better at what they have been doing.

Hunters, however, believe their skills are transferable to other “game” and, while they may prefer or be particularly competent in one type of undertaking, they remain flexible. Hunter remodelers may depart from larger projects to take on a smaller one; they may mix a commercial project into their primarily residential focus; or they may consider using a cost-plus arrangement rather than a fixed-price contract. They realize that a different sale is better than no sale.

While neither of these approaches is infallible, I believe that the current business environment calls for remodelers to start thinking less like farmers and more like hunters. This shift in mindset could be temporary or permanent; it could require only minor tweaks or could lead to a complete transformation of how you do business. Either way, the important point is to use these concepts to examine your company, determine which aspects of the status quo are responsible for business being off, and make the adjustments you need to turn things around.

The important question to ask is how your clients are changing, and how you are responding with new sales and marketing strategies.

—Mark Richardson is co-chairman of Case Design/Remodeling and is author of the book How Fit Is Your Business?; 301.229.9580.