A great sales person can sell just about anything to just about anyone. You can tell the difference between the truly great and the ordinary by the way they handle failure. A great seller will accept all the responsibility for failing to close a deal. A less accomplished individual will blame the customer.
"That guy was too wishy-washy," the mediocre seller will say. "And his wife kept interrupting all the time!"
The best sellers know how to overcome those challenges. They don’t let the personality of the customer get in the way of a sale!
If you do a search for this topic online, you will find hundreds of copy-cats insisting there are four personality types, and giving you robotic formulas to follow so you can sell to each one. They pitch this to you with jargon and buzz-words, so you’ll hear about "directors", "analyzers", and so on.
I don’t know how you feel about that, but it’s the kind of thing I get mad about. You see, another hallmark of the great sales person is that they don’t try to bamboozle you with jargon, and they don’t follow a robotic formula to convince you to buy.
They don’t need to do that because they know you are going to buy whatever they are selling, because once you know how great it is, you’d have to be crazy not to buy it. All they really have to do is tell you about it.
Where psychology comes into play is how they tell you about it. The basic message is still the same, because it comes from a solid belief in the quality of whatever it is that is being sold. No great seller ever sells a product or service that they don’t personally have the utmost faith in.
Now I’m going to tell you about the real personality types (not the ones they talk about in Psych 101), and the real strategies for selling to each of them.
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1. Arrogant "Know-It-All" Customers
When my mentor first explained the secret to me more than 20 years ago that this type of customer is the easiest to sell to, I found it really difficult to believe. Surely a customer who won’t listen must be difficult to convince? What I learned is that, like most teenagers, I was being too arrogant myself in making assumptions like that.
In fact what makes this kind of customer a delight to work with for any knowledgeable seller, is that most of the time the arrogant customer will talk himself right into a sale. All you really have to do is agree with him (or her) and patiently wait.
When the customer insists that model XY is vastly superior to model XZ and rattles off a string of information to prove it, you can simply respond with: "Really, sir? I never knew all that. Brilliant stuff! Now, how many XY units will you be purchasing today?"
Just make sure you resist the temptation to put them in their place or expose them as the shallow fools that they are. You’ve just got to grit your teeth, smile, and get on with selling. You’ve got nothing to lose by remaining calm and friendly, but you could lose a lot more than just a sale if you do not.
2. The Expert Customer
Unlike the know-it-all, an expert actually does know something about the product. This person is also good to sell to because whatever they may know about the flaws in your product, they also must be impressed enough by the virtues of it to be there in a buying capacity.
The "expert" does not necessarily know everything about the product. They may still have some questions. A slick sales pitch is a waste of time with a customer like this. It is far better to just answer those questions to the best of your ability.
The expert customer is easy to sell to as long as you remain completely honest, focus on providing quality information and respect their point-of-view. It is usually not a problem to correct the customer if they are misinformed about some detail, but do not argue the point.
3. The Defensive Customer
Many potential customers enter into a sales environment with a defensive attitude. It can be even worse if you are invading their territory, such as if you are selling door-to-door, B2B, or telesales. This is because the customer has been conditioned to expect that you are going to try to sell something to do them, and they see that as adversarial behavior.
They expect a battle of wills to take place between the two of you, where you will try to wear down their resistance. Consequently, their guard is firmly up right from the start.
What you need to do here is avoid meeting their expectations. Don’t get into a battle of wills, because that is going to take valuable time and diminishes your chance of success.
When you have discerned that the customer is defensive, back off from an overt sales pitch. Redirect into something else. Find whatever opening you can to establish a rapport with the customer and focus on that.
When the customer relaxes a bit more, you have the opportunity to find out about what they really need, and then you can present your sales as a means of helping with their particular need.
4. The Pessimist (or Skeptic)
This customer has no trust in you or your products. He or she has only come into the store out of pure necessity. Their negative attitude is partly caused by being disappointed many times by products and sales pitches that failed to meet the high expectations that they created. When advertisements and sellers lie about the quality of a product or service, it inevitably creates problems in the form of skeptical and pessimistic customers.
If your customer has nothing but complaints, or constantly expresses doubt about what you are selling, force yourself to be patient. Provide reassurance in whatever form you can. This could be by using anecdotes, customer testimonials, a written guarantee, or a product warranty.
Whatever you can do to give the customer confidence in yourself and what you are selling will help them to temporarily forget their past negative experiences. You can give them hope that this time it will be different.
5. Shy, Timid Customers
It is possible to mistake shy customers as defensive ones, but a completely different approach is needed. Whereas in many selling situations you need to focus on building confidence in yourself and your products, with a shy customer you’ll first need to focus on building the customer’s confidence in himself.
Shyness is, in fact, a really widespread problem, and many psychology experts believe that it is becoming more prevalent in western societies. For example in this blog post from Psychology Today, they actually refer to a publication that defines shyness as a "social disease".
The article by Psychology Today informs us that beneath that calm outer appearance, there is a storm of emotions going on inside the person. They are overly self-conscious, and this is inhibiting them from experiencing life to the full.
Now, how do you deal with a situation like that? Distraction is a good tactic. You need to get the customer away from thinking about themselves. Get them thinking about you and your products if you possibly can. Sometimes that can be impossible, depending on the reason for the shyness, but in the majority of cases there is a solution.
For example, one strategy you can try is asking the customer for help. Don’t laugh – this can really work! The important thing is to be sincere and not obviously just trying to trick the customer into buying from you. Your approach should be focused on helping the customer to overcome shyness and be more confident, whether they buy from you or not.
If the customer gains confidence from you, he will nearly always gain confidence in you as well. And then you’ll be able to sell.
What kind of things could you get help from the customer with? Well, don’t ask for help with manual labor, that is just setting things up to get sued (assuming the customer can pluck up the confidence to sue) if they somehow manage to injure themselves.
Instead, you might ask the customer to help you figure out how to sell more of some item that you know is a really great product, but people are not trying it. You can then list all the benefits of the product, and you’ll have an attentive audience.
This does not necessarily have to be the product that you want the customer to buy, or that the customer has come to buy. The important part is inviting them to participate and then listening to them and showing genuine respect.
You can’t really sell anything if you don’t love your customers. And why wouldn’t you? They are providing you with an income!
6. Tag-Team Customers
Oh boy! This is what you get when two or more customers arrive as a team and you have to deal with both to close the sale. They may fit different customer archetypes, so that can make it difficult to form an appropriate pitch.
For example, if one customer is an "expert" and the other is a "pessimist", then you will get a really awkward situation developing unless you are really good at navigating the mental footwork involved in the situation.
What you need to do is give attention and respect to both customers, but work out which one is the influencer in the relationship. Then focus more of your selling efforts on that person, because once you have won their confidence, they will usually assist you in persuading the other party.
It is quite difficult to anticipate every possible personality type that you may encounter in a selling environment. But in every single case your goal has to be to help the customer discover the benefits of the great product you are selling.
You can only do that by building rapport, giving honest advice, and maintaining your professionalism even when the customer loses theirs.
If you follow this advice, you should see your sales figures increasing, as customers recognize you as someone who wants to help them solve problems and not just as somebody who wants to make a sale.
Do you utilize any of these methods when you are selling? Your thoughts and comments below please...