Tips for Selling to Difficult Types of Customers

By Malcolm Fleschner

Rather than labeling all uncooperative customers “idiots” and writing them off, consider the individual customer’s personality type and then readjust your efforts to best sell to that character type. Following are tips for selling to some of the more challenging customer types.

Type: Excitable
Characteristics: Energetic, talkative, gregarious
Frustrations: Bounces from topic to topic, won’t focus
How to sell: Answer many questions, focus on big-picture issues, and find creative solutions together.

Type: Deliberative
Characteristics: Methodical, practical, hardworking
Frustrations: Takes forever to make decisions
How to sell: Provide more documentation than usual, emphasize practicality and don’t rush.

Type: Judgmental
Characteristics: Informed, confident
Frustrations: Critical, arrogant, condescending
How to sell: Know your stuff, ask a lot of questions, listen to the opinions he or she will share freely, and focus on results.

Type: Sensitive
Characteristics: Thoughtful, caring, empathetic
Frustrations: Ignores hard data, likes to chat
How to sell: Make the personal connection, focus on the process, and emphasize how solutions will help all the people involved.

Type: Hostile
Characteristics: Angry, yelling, extremely critical
Frustrations: Humiliating, insulting, won’t listen to reason
How to sell: Remain calm, speak in an even tone, let the customer blow off steam, restate the customer’s concerns; then propose a solution.

Type: Pessimistic
Characteristics: Negative, gloomy, self-effacing
Frustrations: View downside of everything, denigrate their own role and opinions
How to sell: Listen actively; bring up negatives first, then dismiss them with facts; focus on all the positive aspects of a solution.

Type: Unresponsive
Characteristics: Quiet, uncommunicative, reserved
Frustrations: Won’t reveal true feelings, skirts questions
How to sell: Ask lots of open-ended questions, endure silences, build on even little advances to progress the sale forward.