What do Richard Branson, Donald Trump, the Queen and confidence tricksters have in common? No it isn’t their fantastic taste in hats (or in the case of Mr Trump, other wildly obvious and terrifyingly hideous head coverings). Nor is it their spectacular use of the English language. It’s their sales prowess. Their ability to sell a product (Branson), real estate (Trump), the idea of the monarchy (Liz), and even their ability to steal your faith (as in the case of Debo my persistent Nigerian determined to cadge R500 from me to secure the Toyota I won in a competition I didn’t enter). But doing all this requires the ability to read people and respond accordingly and in a way that they can relate and respond to.
In a previous article we discussed the various personality types one is likely to encounter in your everyday work life. We also discussed the fact that although humans are complex beings and no one can be categorised in their entirety, there are certain common dynamics which are at play in every interaction. This essentially means that whether you are walking into a salary negotiation with a superior, negotiating resources with a project manager or even selling to a customer, you are likely to be at the mercy of their personality somewhere along the line. Now, although all of these are fascinating to examine in their own right - I mean who wouldn’t want to know how to play their boss? - we will be discussing the last one, selling to a customer.
One quick thing before we begin. It is awfully important to already have an understanding of where you fit in with regards to the four major personality areas. This will give you a clearer indication of where you will need to modify your natural tendencies during negotiations. We tend to relate to people that are similar to ourselves, and in order to be appealing to a customer, sometimes we have to think like them. Only with an awareness of your own communication methods and frame of reference can you hope to modify your approach so that you appeal to the customer.
If your customer is a Driver, Controller or Dominant personality they can be pretty intense to deal with in a sales cycle. Their natural way tends to be brusque, often appearing dictatorial or arrogant, and they tend to have little time for the social niceties of the situation, or the coffee chat. Their need to succeed and be right can also make negotiations tricky!
Your approach should be direct. These people are fact collectors, so that they can make a quick decision and move on. You need to be prepared with concrete information regarding pricing, specifications or other relevant items like market research findings in case you are asked, but they want the hits and highlights upfront. If you can make them look good, they will engage with you, but don’t expect the gentle touch or you’ll be disappointed. Expect clear focus and direction. Also realise that they relish a negotiation with the right person. If you are engaging with this type of customer, make sure you have the mandate to handle the negotiation. Don’t waste their time by not being the one who can make decisions, or who has to revert to a higher power. They want to only deal with the one who has the power to begin with! Just like a boy scout your watchword is to be prepared, know your upper and lower bounds and be ready to make decisions and display confidence and authority. Great mantra for sales meetings with Driver types is ‘Be brief. Be bright. Be gone.”
Depending on your own personality style the Communicator, Promoter, Influencer group can be either manna from heaven or a hard day at the office. This group epitomise the connection economy and all it stands for. They need to enjoy you as a human being. They need to feel connected in order to trust you and be willing to work with you. Their communication style can be chaotic and choppy as they flit from topic to topic.
Your approach is one of building trust, and having the chat. Common ground and a genuine interest in their issues as well as a genuine caring for the problems they are trying to solve, will allow them to feel comfortable with you. You will need to pay attention to their communication flow as it can be all over the place, and you will need to gently manoeuvre them back on track at times. But the watchword here is gentle. They have high energy and an inherent dislike of details, but if you can build the rapport that they need, they will engage with you, trusting that you have their best interests at heart.
Our third customer is the analytical, compliant, perfectionist type of personality. Often thought to be one of the most frustrating clients to deal with, they search for all the information before they make decisions. We are pretty sure that the term ‘analysis paralysis’ was actually invented to describe this type of client. Also remember that none of their interaction is personal. They resist change because it brings uncertainty, which makes them uncomfortable.
Your approach with this buyer is one of methodical explanations. Just like the Sound of Music advised, start at the very beginning, it’s a very good place to start, especially with this customer. They want to understand everything in a linear fashion. You need to be prepared with every little detail of the proposal from technical specifications to the finest detail on the contract. They are willing to wait until you find the answers to any and all questions. To ensure that you limit what can be an agonisingly long sales process, try and bring in any specialists who may hold unique, relevant knowledge as early as possible. This client will hold up the process until they have checked and rechecked everything, so try to plan for that in your timeline.
This of course brings us to our final personality group. The amiable, planner, steady group.
Very much the steady Sally’s of the world, this group are easy to get along with, they like stability and routine and need a serious reason to make changes.
Your approach is one of matching. Get to know them personally as they will appreciate it, but don’t crowd them, it’s a process and there is no rushing this group into anything. They will get onto your train, but you have to go at their pace. They are amiable in personality so are often easy to get along with, which can sometimes be confused as being easy to manipulate, or push around. So you will need to ensure that they are actually on board every step of the way by checking in with them before progressing to the next milestone. Due to their need for harmony, having any major changes lurking on the horizon can be a little threatening for them, and they will need time to get their heads around the change and have confidence in you and your company’s ability not to create havoc. Your best option, during a sales cycle, is to make your support clear without getting pushy.
When in a sales cycle it can be easy to put your own needs (to make target and commission) above those of your customers, so it’s important to check in with yourself frequently to ensure that you are handling a sale in an appropriate fashion. Learning how you -and your customer- thinks, not only prevents you alienating potential clients, but will also assist you to close that sale and finally buy that over-priced convertible you’ve had your eye on!