next practice logoAccording to Wikipedia, “A hunter-gatherer or forager society is a nomadic society in which most or all food is obtained from wild plants and animals, in contrast to agricultural societies, which rely mainly on domesticated species.”

In the field of professional sales, the common thought was that there were two types of people – hunters or gatherers. Perhaps it was because, as many have said, “It’s a jungle out there.”

Hunters were those who took their bow and arrow and would stalk and kill wild animals to provide a food source for their family. Outwitting their prey was an achievement, and bringing home the spoils of the excursion was satisfying.  In sales, hunters were considered to be the aggressive, sometimes pushy, “A”-type salespeople (you define what the “A” stands for) that one might typically encounter in an automotive or time share sales environment in days gone by. Their motto could have been “kill or be killed,” seeing each sale as a new feather in their cap, and an additional commission in their paycheck. Customer service, after all, wasn’t their responsibility.

Gatherers were those who went through the forest and found fruits, nuts and berries as their sustenance. If a dead animal was found, it may have provided a food source. Then again, while it may have brought satisfaction, it may not have been the most healthy alternative for the gatherer.

In professional sales, gatherers were more of the “transactional” sales types that you would find in a customer service atmosphere. They ring up the sale at the cash register, ask if you’re interested in being helped at the local home improvement store, and suggest a hot apple pie for dessert if you’re picking up a burger and fries at the drive-thru.  These were the folks that the customers loved, but management would love to make them a little more “hungry” for additional sales.

Today, the landscape has changed. While some may still consider the sales environment as a jungle, the most prevalent type of surroundings we experience are agricultural in nature, where domesticated animals are raised, and field of grains, fruits and vegetables provide our food sources. Again, according to Wikipedia, “Following the invention of agriculture, hunter-gatherers have been displaced by farming or pastoralist groups in most parts of the world.”

For the farmer, it’s all about knowing the environment, the potential yield of the fields, the potential weather conditions, and the right amounts amount of nutrients, water and manure necessary to foster an abundant harvest. For those that raise animals, it’s providing an environment conducive to producing a numerous and healthy herd so that their marketable products will be of the highest quality.

In sales, let’s call those professionals, “Cultivators.” For a cultivator, it’s knowing the market, having keen insights relative to the customer’s needs, wants and desires, and developing a relationship with that customer before, during and after the sale. The cultivator needs to supply the right amount of information for the customer to consider, the right amount of emotional excitement for the customer to be engaged, and the right level of expectation to set so that the customer experience will be an outstanding one.

So what does all this agribusiness have to do with your school? Both your enrollment and development success depends on your ability to be a cultivator.

No parent nor donor wants to be pushed into anything, so the “Hunter” mindset has never been a successful way to attract either to your school. Unfortunately, schools have historically taken the other road, as that of the “Gatherer,” and have hoped that families will enroll their children in their school. While schools continue to hope, they see their enrollments continue to decline, and then hope donors will rush to rescue the schools from closure. Such rescue attempts, however, are short-lived, as pleas for continued large gifts or an abundance of renewed smaller gifts may go unheeded if other aspects of the school, such as enrollment or community involvement and support, do not demonstrate growth. Parents today want the assurance that the school will be there for their child’s educational experience, and “taking it year-by-year” does not inspire confidence in today’s parents of school-age children. Similarly, donors want the assurance that their investment in your school will be used prudently to bring about success for the school, and that those successes are communicated to them, as well as the surrounding community to inspire additional engagement with the school.

Your faith or founder’s identity, excellent academics and safe and caring community are important, but if there’s no one in charge of cultivation, the vineyard will become overgrown, the field will dry up, and the pasture will not be able to sustain life.