For instance, in my early selling days I was keen and enthusiastic and always on the lookout for that magic key which would lead me to a sale. I had been warned by my boss that the pitch I was about to make was highly important and could lead to long term contracts in the future.
That gave me a buzz and was a motivator for me.
I made sure I covered all the fundamental bases: genned up on the product, researched the client's business and made sure I understood the benefits of the product in terms of his needs.
Luckily I had recently closed a sale which was just the same as this up and coming sale. The pitch went so well with her and the client was so friendly, I knew I could call her up any time to suggest repeat orders in the future. I decided to use the same approach with this new prospective client.
Did I get a shock!
From the very beginning I was failing - I made no impression on the client at all. I was not able to make the same friendly banter I had with the previous client and when I tried to make small conversation it seemed to make her angry. I became confused, tripping over my words, lost confidence and I eventually left the client's office baffled and with nothing but egg on my face.
What on earth had happened?
Simple. I did not take into account the human factor. I expected all prospective clients to react in the same way to my honed pitch. This will not happen because they all have their own experiences and unique personalities which will determine how they respond to your words of wisdom.
"Never expect your client to have to adapt to your style. You need to understand them in an instant and adapt your approach to accommodate their personalities. This latter factor is what will determine approach and pace of sale."
Determining personality traits is an essential sales skill
This is where the real skill lies, because picking up a client's personality has to be done on the fly. You will pick up body language when you first meet them; how they phrase sentences will give you clues; the substance of their questions or whether they ask questions at all will all give you pointers as to how to adapt to the persons needs in front of you. From there, you are not ripping up that perfect pitch in your head - you are adapting it to their specific human needs. Just as you would focus on the benefits of the product in order to meet the client's requirements.
I know what you are saying. Everyone is unique. How can I possibly get a handle on someone's character in so short a time?
Sub-consciously we are picking up the cues mentioned above, all the time. These ancient skills have evolved to help us determine whether we are with a friend or enemy or whether we should fight, hug or run. We need to focus on those cues. How they make us feel in our gut. Also, as much as everyone is different, luckily we can place people in just 4 individual categories. Once you pick up on the factors that determine the 4 categories, with experience you will naturally slip into a more appropriate approach. The 4 categories are:
1. Analytic (Data-driven)
This character is easy to spot because they are likely to be bombarding you with questions. They want to know the facts and would probably also prefer to see the evidence in graph form. They will want to see numbers to reflect what you are saying about your product and, being organised and tidy, they expect you to be too. That includes good time-keeping. These characters tend to be formal and direct.
Adapt and sell: Slow down. Always provide data to back up any claims you make. Abstract claims will be lost on these clients and can cause frustrations. In the same way won't be overly enthusiastic about creating a business relationship through flattery or casual conversation. Provide the evidence and the good relationship will follow.
2. Driver (Assertive)
Assertive people tend to be goal orientated and competitive. Everything revolves around final results and personal relationships are of little concern. Like the analytic type they want clear information - not abstractions. The latter approach is likely to make them impatient and frustrated with the sales rep. They speak loudly in declarative sentences rather than asking questions.
Adapt and sell: Professionalism and efficiency is expected here - so be on your toes. If you cannot answer a question let them know you will get back to them. Focus on how the product is a solution to issues in their business scenario and show them how competitive your product is within the industry. Keep away from personal conversation until they take the lead.
3. Amiable (Friendly)
We all try to get on good terms with the client in order to build a good business relationship. Some are easier than others and these are the individuals who put the business relationship before the facts in order to ferment trust. They are amiable, happy to focus on small conversation, a little indecisive, and look for support from others.
Adapt and sell: Build a sturdy business relationship so they know they can trust you. Once they feel safe they will be more likely to do business. This is the time to be the expert and walk them through the decision making process.
4. Expressive (Humanist)
These individuals have strong personalities. They are more interested in how the product will affect those around them. To a certain extent they may be considered people pleasers but they are creative, spontaneous and intuitive. In a way they are a cross between the assertive and the friendly. They will want to bond with you but will phrase their sentence in declarations rather than questions.
Adapt and sell: Case studies are useful here because it shows quite clearly how your product is helping others. Again, focus on the business relationship and rather than blinding your prospective client with data and details, remember to show them how it will make impacts on both a personal and business level.
Tip - Keep in mind that most prospects and clients will be a mix of these personality types and won't fit neatly into one of the four categories above. However, once you're familiar with these core personalities, you will generally find that there will be dominant personality types and you should be able to tailor your selling strategy to fit any situation you come across.