Sales Organisation

Magicians, Marines and Medics - Understanding Sales Roles

A long time ago, when working on oil rigs, I was told there are two types of welder; the type that can weld all day on a pipeline and the type that can perform intricate repairs.

“Don’t ever mix ‘em up!” I was admonished.

We’ve been told forever, there are two types of sales people, hunters and farmers. The problem with this classification is there are two types of hunter and you had better not mix them up!

So, allow us to introduce three sales personas that will help you think more effectively about managing and developing sales teams.


These are the new business developers who can open up a new geography, crack the first market with a new product or bring in unexpected mega deals. Every sales person likes to think they are one but true sales magicians are rare, exceedingly rare.

Also called rainmakers, magicians work without a sales process because they have to create one for each new sales problem.

Magicians may carry a business card titled “Business Development” but it could also say Founder, General Manager, Business Manager, Principal Consultant, Product Specialist or Market Strategist.

Magicians are extraordinarily curious and creative in the process of moulding and sculpting their own organisation and a future client organisation into two shapes that match each other.

The Magician’s work may sometimes look like good fortune but if you make the mistake of thinking that and of allowing others to take credit for their success, then be ready to find another magician.

After Magicians weave their magic, sales and business managers can create a sales process and send in Marines to systematically expand from the beachhead.


Marines work a territory and follow a well-understood sales process. Through training or by character, Marines are well suited to a type of dirty work that most do not enjoy; such as contacting people they don’t know, being rejected on occasion and handling the pressure of meeting financial targets each quarter. Great Marines are also rare but not as rare as Magicians.

We need not concern ourselves about whether they are ‘inside’ or ‘outside’ Marines, there are plenty of drone pilot Marines these days but they all follow a process and they all count their wins.

Marines are disciplined, focused and appreciate that the harder they work the more business they write, so they play the numbers game. Magicians do not work this way, indeed, casual observation of a magician may lead you to describe them as lazy.

Which leaves …


Medics care about the long term health of their client patients. These are the account managers and customer care specialists that ensure a healthy outcome for the company’s customers.

Software as a Service companies, call this role Customer Success Manager, and these have become the most important sales people in that industry. Medics carefully grow a nascent customer from zero and quickly patch up any haemorrhages.

Medics are concerned about  maintaining a long term healthy customer relationship. They are highly qualified in their technology area and held in high regard by the customers they support.

Let’s use this terminology and thinking to shed light on some otherwise difficult to understand sales situations.

Start Up and Fast Growing Companies

We are often asked about the best type of sales people for start-up and fast growing young companies. Hiring the wrong type of sales person at an early stage can be catastrophic for a new company.

Early stage business development usually requires Magicians, if the company founders don’t have that skill, they need to find one and pay well. After the market entry has been cracked, start-ups need a sales consultant (or sales manager) to design a process for the Marines. As a rule, neither Magicians nor Marines are well suited to designing a sales process.

The typical sales role sequence as a business grows look like this

And another way to visualise this is by considering the market adoption cycle


ales roles required as a market develops

Mixed Roles

What if you need one person to be a combination of Magician, Marine and Medic?

That question just about answers itself doesn’t it?

Of course people are somewhat adaptable. You could get medic work from a magician but that would be a waste of talent. A Marine can be more customer focused but neither the Medic nor the Marine is likely to succeed at the Magician’s role.

For each of your sales positions you should be clear about whether the role is primarily Magician, Marine or Medic and look for candidates that fit those skill sets.

Personality or Skill?

It might seem that we are describing personality types but these are skill sets that exhibit certain behaviours and that is an important distinction. A recurring error in sales recruitment is to recruit based on personality type. Research shows only a weak causal relationship between personality type and sales success, so we strongly recommend that you test for relevant skills.

Almost every sales candidate will try to present themselves as a Magician. If you need a Magician you better have a process for testing whether they have those skills. If you need a Marine or a Medic, don’t hire a Magician and similarly, test for Marine and Medic skills.


The next time you read or hear


advice ask yourself; 

      "What type of sales role is this advice relevant for?

Few sales 'tip' articles will make the distinction but generic sales advice is generally useless unless it distinguishes between the Magician, Marine and Medic roles.

Next Article

In my last article I posed the question "How do you keep good sales people?". Next article I will answer that question using the insight of Magicians, Marines and Medics.


Picture Credits - images adapted from