Sales Management Digest

Expert Communication Tips to Close More Sales
Selling Power Editors
Are you losing sales because you're not communicating with customers in the right way?

Here's one way to find out: Think about the types of customers with whom you find it hard to communicate, and make a list of all the things they do that drive you nuts. Maybe they want to sit and tell you their life story when what you want is just to get down to business. Or maybe it's the opposite – they want just the facts, in a certain format, while you want to spend some time getting to know them. Whatever it is, you'll find that the customer behaviors that irk you "are usually just the opposite of your own selling style," observes Michael Wilkinson, CEO of Leadership Strategies Inc. "When your customer's buying style differs from your natural selling style, the result can be disastrous."

To avoid disaster, you need to understand the four basic buying styles, says Wilkinson, who is also the author of  style=Buying Styles: Simple Lessons in Selling the Way Your Customer Buys. Here's a look at each one:

High-D Style. "D" stands for drive or dominance. High-D's are doers. "They focus their efforts on getting the job done, address problems directly, and make tough decisions quickly," says Wilkinson.

The downside for sales reps whose natural selling style is the opposite of this, is that High-D's usually have little interest in taking the time to build relationships. Their key concern is time – and they have little of it. Your motto when selling to High-D's, says Wilkinson, should be, "Be prepared, be brief, be gone." Come in knowing exactly what you're going to say – and then say it. State your points clearly and briefly, giving only as much detail as necessary. High-D's will ask for more detail if they want it.

High-I Style. "I" stands for influence. These people motivate and inspire others, create a dynamic environment, enjoy building relationships, and are highly creative. Salespeople often fall into this group, so it's no surprise that most reps prefer selling to this group. The downside to selling to High-I's is that they can be so talkative, they don't listen; and they can spend so much time on the vision, or the big picture, that they overlook details or never get around to buying anything. Wilkinson's motto for selling to High-I's: "Let them sell themselves."

If you find you're trying to sell to a High-I customer, "the wrong person is speaking," says Wilkinson. "If you want to sell High-I's, you have to get them talking about your solution." Give them the big picture before the details, give them a chance to share their ideas, and keep the conversation friendly.

High-S Style. "S" stands for steadiness. "S" buyers are dependable, loyal workers who like a stable, secure environment and like to help. They are people-oriented and good listeners. Their challenge: Because they dislike confrontation, they can avoid dealing with issues until they become big problems. With High-S's, "don't assume that silence means consent," warns Wilkinson. "When High-S's agree with you, they nod their heads. When they disagree, they do nothing. Be careful; you may miss it!"

Your motto with High-S's: "Start personal, and don't assume." In other words, start with a personal comment, and don't just dive into business. Present your ideas clearly and deliberately, providing assurances and making sure your High-S's are in agreement before moving on. Finally, keep in mind that High-S's dislike change, so talking about how you can transform their business will get you nowhere.

High-C Style. "C" stands for compliance. "C" buyers make sure things are done by the book, relying on rational logic and evidence to reach conclusions. Typical High-C jobs include accounting, engineering, and finance. These are the people who want to know why things aren't working, and they keep processes efficient. Their challenges: They can be perfectionists; their fact-and-figure focus sometimes comes at the expense of the people side of things; and they can be overly cautious and analytical, taking too long to make decisions. With High-C's, the motto is, "Give them time for the details." You must present ideas logically, stay on topic, and be ready with facts and figures to back your claims.

Armed with this information, pick three opportunities to which you are actively selling, and identify the style of the key buyer. List the signs that led you to that conclusion, and then ask yourself, "What actions could I take to make the buyer more comfortable?" Get out of your comfort zone, and you'll be taking one step closer to the sale.
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