January 13, 2010

Is a Customer Annoying You? Here’s Why

By Heather Baldwin

Do some customers just drive you nuts? Maybe they want to sit and tell you their life story when you just want to get down to business. Or maybe it’s the opposite – they just want the facts, in a certain format, while you want to spend some time getting to know them. Whatever it is, you’ll find the customer behaviors that irk you “are usually just the opposite of your own selling style,” observes Michael Wilkinson, coauthor of Buying Styles: Simple Lessons in Selling the Way Your Customer Buys.

To avoid letting irritation get the best of you, you need to understand the four basic buying styles, says Wilkinson. In his book, he delves into each of the styles, pointing out how to recognize them and, more importantly, how to sell to them. 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, they address problems directly, and they make tough decisions quickly,” says Wilkinson.

For High-D’s, the 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 tell them – and then tell them. State your points clearly and briefly, giving only as much detail as necessary. They’ll 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 High-I’s.

High-I’s can be so talkative, they don’t listen, and they can spend so much time on the vision or big picture that they overlook details or never get around to buying anything. Wilkinson’s motto for selling to High-I’s is, “Let them sell themselves.” Give them the big picture before the details and 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 they like to help. They are people oriented and good listeners.

Because they dislike confrontation, however, 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.

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.

They can be perfectionists; their fact-and-figure focus sometimes comes at the expense of the “people side” of things. 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?” Sure, those actions might put you out of your comfort zone, but it will be worth it when you close the sale.