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The Differential Effects of Hunting and Farming Momentum on Lead Pursuit and Conversion

Sales momentum – which occurs when repeated past success leads to an increased sense of probable future success – has been shown to have a positive effect on salesperson performance. However, this research is the first to investigate how the effect of momentum differs based on the type of success a person experiences. We build on attribution theory to unpack this relationship by exploring how recent salesperson success converting non-customers (“hunting momentum”) and existing customers (“farming momentum”) impact both lead pursuit and conversion. Drawing on a combination of field and experimental data, we find that each momentum type leads to success attributions that differ in their motivating potential and, ultimately, their performance consequences. Specifically, we find that hunting momentum increases lead pursuit but decreases conversion likelihood, whereas farming momentum does not alter pursuit likelihood but significantly enhances lead conversion. Taken together, these effects imply that, in the case of our Fortune 500 research partner, a 10-percentage point increase in farming (relative to hunting) momentum can lead to an incremental $16 million per year in sales revenue during the study window. These findings offer a nuanced perspective on the influence of momentum on sales performance, suggest the possibility of a momentum dark side, and provide valuable insights for salesforce management.