Around The Campfire: A Headhunter’s Journal – The Salesperson as Shaman

From anthropology we have borrowed terms that describe a few basic types of sales personalities: the farmer, the hunter, and that exceptional hunter, the warrior. These descriptors provoke an immediate understanding for the corporate recruiter, who after all, has his own anthropologic moniker – headhunter. Let’s imagine our headhunter, whom we will call “H.” sitting around a metaphoric campfire with a client from the “outside” world discussing these types prior to a hunting expedition.

Our wise and experienced headhunter has learned one lesson extremely well – unless the client can accurately picture the type of sales person needed for the particular role he or she will be required to fill, the hunt will fail. Fixing his client with a raised finger, H. motions with his other hand, and from the surrounding bush, three figures appear. They walk from the edge of the camp and stand silently before the client. They are but dimly lit by the campfire light. H. points to the figure closest to the fire and asks “Who are you?”

The figure moves into the full light of the fire. He is carrying a hoe in one hand and leading an icon of an ox with another. “I am Farmer. I work the fields for my tribe. I will raise my family and my livestock here, and I will patiently sow my crops, and reap the harvest. I enjoy the relationships and social life with the other farmers. As long as the sun shines, and the rains fall, I will happily toil in my fields, taking some of the grain for my own needs, and giving much more for the use of our people. Those like me nurture the tribe, and make a place safe from the dangers of the bush.” Finished, the figure walks slowly back into the shadows, while another moves into the light.

“I am Hunter,” this figure says, exuding a coiled energy. He holds a spear in one hand, and with the other, points outside the campfire circle. “I belong to the Clan of the Bear, and together we track and kill the meat that sustains the tribe. Bread is good, but it is meat that gives the greater strength. Family and hearth are comforts for a full belly, and has its place. But give me the thrill of the hunt, and the competition among my clan for a place of honor!” Hunter crouches, and glides off into the bush.

The third figure startles the client with a whoop! “I am Warrior! I stand alone. Do not fence me in. My spirit thrills to the chase and the kill. No man eats before I do, yet I give freely of my spoils. Did I not cut the heart from the bear before the clan could raise a spear? Who would challenge me?” With strong, deliberate strides, warrior walks into the dark.

H. turns to his client, who, from previous campfire meetings, knows how to respond. He removes ten sticks from a basket sitting before him . “There is a need for farming, yet the Farmer is too satisfied with comfort. His patience and regular efforts are necessary, at times. I welcome his desire for stability, but I need something more.” He takes three sticks, and places them in front of H.

The client continues: “I need the heart of a Hunter, too. My tribe has fertile fields, but we are not satisfied with what we have. The Hunter will open new territory in which we can expand, clearing the way, tracking and bringing back fresh meat, and honor to himself and his clan.” He gathered five sticks from the basket and placed them with the first three.

“Yet, we value the Warrior, who risks his life for the kill, and the glory of it, above all others,” and grasping the final two sticks, he tossed them with the others. With his next intake of breath, the client gathered all the sticks up into a fist and proclaimed: “I need them all, within one person!”

The Headhunter is familiar with requests to lead unusual and difficult hunts. After all, his clients do not need his skills for the mundane, for the ordinary. Farmer, Hunter, Warrior, all in one person? Most of the tribe members, in times of necessity, can perform tasks and duties beyond their natural inclinations and training. The Farmer, in a rage, will kill his own kind, and can surely hunt food when bellies are hungry. The Hunter, and Warrior too, cannot spend all their time on the chase; and dependent on the whim of the weather and the seasons, must endure periods of rest and down time. They know how to live peacefully within the tribe; and during the harvest season, all the tribe participate, or risk great loss. So, it is not impossible to find one person who has ability to be farmer, hunter and warrior. What will be difficult is to find it in the correct proportions.

“I understand what you seek,” says H. “You need a hunter who will thrill in the kill, with the pride of a warrior; yet who will capture game, some of which will be penned and cared for by this same hunter. This is very difficult, so I am sure you will reward me most appropriately when I have found this versatile person.” With a smile, the client nodded, and a pact was made. The client was almost about to rise when H., who had remained seated on his haunches, raised his arm, and slowly pointed to a figure that had remained in the shadows, sitting silently through the demonstration and the discussion.

“Who is that?” asked the client. At that moment the fire suddenly brightened, illuminating a figure who quietly worked over a small bowl, sifting some material within it.

“I am Shaman,” stated the figure. “I am unnoticeable in the tribe when all goes well. I am neighbor, farmer, hunter, warrior, all and none of these things. I follow my own inclinations, until disease appears. Through me healing comes, or comes not. I perform my ceremony, and then Spirit decides. I do nothing, but something is done. I have no concern for any result. I am empty. It is always full!” The figure stood up, and looking around as if no one else was there, casually walked away.

The client was slightly stunned. “What is this, H.? He says he is all these people, but none of them. This Shaman, is he, or someone like him, the one person I need?” H. smiled, but only shook his head. “No, I cannot find one like him. He has to be raised within your own tribe, and has to become so empty of whatever he is, whether Farmer, Hunter, or Warrior, that his only role is to offer the chance of healing to one who is sick. He himself does not care one way or another.”

“Wait, H. This is confusing. Can you help me to understand?”

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H. stood a long moment, then explained: “Your business is trading goods with other tribes in your territory. This is how you provide for your own family and your tribe, and can afford the services of men like me (this was said with a wink). Since you are “civilized,” you no longer need very many Farmers, or Hunters, and truly, you have no business with Warriors! Yet, you need merchants and traders with those characteristics, since the nature of man was formed long ago, and still beats within him.”

“The Shaman in my society has a human nature like any other man, but when he is asked to heal, he steps outside that nature and into the Spirit behind all Nature. This Spirit is only available to us when three things are present at the same time: someone who is in pain, something that takes that pain away, and the Shaman, with the power to offer that “something.” Ceremony is the means of presenting the healing, and the Shaman is the Master of Ceremony.” Having said this, H. rested while the client looked more puzzled than ever.

“I know you seek an effective trader who can increase your treasury, while providing goods to your customers,” H. said, sure in his understanding of the civilized world and of the effect this would have on the client’s growing respect for him. “An individual with five parts Hunter, three parts Farmer, and two of the Warrior would be a very fine trader! He would be full of drive and energy for finding new prospects, willing enough to spend some time nurturing the new relationships, and fierce enough to drive a hard bargain to its close. But a Shaman? In our society they are in it, but not of it. They do only what they please, and sometimes make for very disagreeable neighbors. The only time they are dependable is when someone in the tribe is sick, and a request for healing is made. Their connection to Spirit does the healing. Besides, you have enough resources that you would not need a full time Shaman. You could trade well for the temporary services of a genuine Shaman from among your more “primitive” neighbors (another wink from H.).

The client seemed finally satisfied with H.’s explanation. He was going to turn away when he said suddenly: “H. You never do anything without some meaning behind it. Why did this Shaman appear in your presentation?” “Ah,” said H. “I wondered if you would ask. There are some tribes that you do business with, and some individuals within those tribes, who will resist doing business with you, or who may drive all your traders to distraction by the fickleness of their decisions, or rather their lack of decision-making. In the right circumstances, a Shaman is your last resort.” The look of renewed confusion on the client’s face made H. smile.

“With some people, the only way they will ever trade is if they can be made to think they are in some kind of pain! Perhaps they are in pain and don’t know it! The trader who can uncover that ‘pain,’ and can make the client see it and feel it, and then has the means to relieve that pain through something he can trade or sell, has tremendous power! But this power has to be used correctly.” H. is studying the client, and sees he has his utmost attention.

“Any one of your traders, those who are Farmers, or Hunters, and all in between, can be trained to become a Shaman. Thereafter, when the right moment, with the right customer, appears – in that moment the client is shown his pain, and the solution is offered. It is not merely offered, but revealed, in a totally dispassionate way. This involves ceremony! It is done once and forever, and the trader, in his role as Shaman, is absolutely free of any desire for the client to accept or reject the removal of his pain. If the trade is accepted, the client becomes a grateful source of future trades, as loyal as a close friend. If rejected, no more time and effort is wasted on something that will never be.”

“Wait now, wait,” the client muttered. “Tell me more about this ‘ceremony!’ And how do you teach a Farmer, or a Hunter, to be a ‘Shaman?'”

“I will be happy to help you, my friend. But first, let’s find your Hunter-Farmer-Warrior, a very valuable type of trader. Later, we can negotiate the terms for my time when I will elucidate for you the role a Shaman might play in your business.”

With that, H. dismissed the client, who stumbled away, looking rather like he was in some kind of pain.


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