Managing Multiple Communication Styles

By Heather Baldwin

You walk into your sales presentation feeling great. You’re on top of your game, you’re talking about common interests, you’re emphasizing how easy and fun your product is to use because those traits really sold your previous clients – and yet you walk out with the distinct impression that this client was frustrated and distracted. You never hear from the client again. What went wrong?

Chances are you didn’t adjust your presentation to that client’s communication style, says Anne Warfield, speaker, author and CEO of Minneapolis-based Impression Management Professionals. Warfield says there are four basic communication styles: the Producer, who is bottom-line oriented; the Networker, who is often very gregarious, likes the big pictures and is not too interested in the details; the Connector, who is people-oriented and likes to keep things on an even keel, often acting as a peacekeeper; and the Analyzer, who wants all the details.

In order to give a successful presentation, you need to determine what communication styles you’re dealing with and address your topic from those perspectives. “You have to instantly read what style you’re dealing with because that’s how your prospects are going to buy,” Warfield says.

So how do you know whom you’re dealing with? Warfield says she listens to what people say and the questions they ask. Take her own sales calls, for example. Warfield coaches individuals and groups on communication, presentation and negotiation skills. When she goes on a sales call, she knows her prospects are going to be concerned with how her program differs from others, but in addition each communication style is going to be concerned with other elements of her program. Producers, for example, want to know what results their company will see and what will be the long-term payback. Networkers are more concerned with how fun the program will be, how energetic Warfield is and whether there will be a ceremony at the end to recognize participants. Connectors want to know how easy the program is to use, how it’s going to help people, how easy it is for participants to talk to Warfield. Analyzers want specifics – how will the stated goals be met? What makes you different? Exactly what do you mean when you say you’ll customize a program for us?

Once you know the communication style you’re dealing with, make sure your pitch addresses that person’s needs. For example, Producers couldn’t care less whether your product will boost morale – they want to know if it will boost profits. By knowing that and talking about the Producer’s concerns up front, you’ll both leave the presentation satisfied. And what if you’ve got multiple types in the same audience? Manage them in order of difficulty, says Warfield. Address the Producer, then the Networker (who is likely to interrupt to keep things light and moving), then the Analyzer and then the Connector.

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