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Opinion: Know customers’ personality types to increase sales

Book Excerpt

Posted online

Editor’s note: Business consultant and speaker Mark Holmes’ recently published book explores four personality styles – which he dubs ELON, the energetic driver, likable communicator, obliging helper and numbers thinker – and shares how to adapt successfully to their preferences for communication and relationships. Below are excerpts from four chapters focused on increasing sales based on the personality types.

Energetic Driver
“Start at the end of what you want to say” is an old saying that definitely applies. You can mesh more easily with (energetic drivers) if you speak concisely and emphasize outcomes rather than data or details. The key to selling to energetic driver customers is to communicate in a way that makes them respect your competence and feel comfortable that you truly understand their needs.

The first step you should take is to focus early and often on needs discovery. You must be organized and prepared. Ask intelligent questions. Move through the discussion at their pace and match their assertive, commanding nature with a confident tone of your own.

After a thorough needs discovery, tailor a value proposition to satisfy their unique goals and get the desired results they want. Definitely, this is the best way to win their support.

An energetic driver will have a no-nonsense approach to the decision and an emphasis on results. Their frank and fast-paced style might make you uncomfortable if you’re not prepared.

Likeable Communicator
They’re called expressive for a reason. They love to talk, and sometimes it’s too much.

To rein in their words, use redirect questions that stimulate dialogue while keeping them focused on the meeting’s objectives. You can achieve positive results using this technique, and it’s easy to master.

Here’s an exercise I use with my coaching clients. I give them a template of redirect questions, like, “That’s interesting, how did that affect your operations?” or “I didn’t realize that. What do you think will be needed most when it comes to quality on this project?” Or, you can say, “That’s helpful for me to know. So, let me ask you, what are the most important benefits you need to gain from this purchase?”

Next, modify these questions to fit your style, and then get yourself comfortable using them through practice or role-playing. Seamlessly integrating them into your dialogue will encourage buyers to provide you more information about their decision drivers, giving you vital information for making your case.

Obliging Helper
I participated in several joint sales calls with coaching client Larry in Houston. One situation made Larry realize he didn’t take the time to notice the customer’s style and adjust his approach. After discussing it, he said, “I didn’t ask the right questions and missed the signs of skepticism and indifference toward my value message.”

Larry’s mistake is common when selling to obliging helpers, who, if they desire, can hide their genuine emotions and feelings.

You can get obliging helpers to talk and be more revealing about specific concerns or doubts by gently questioning them until they open up. There are three kinds of questions that work. First, clarify their meaning: “That’s a great point. What do you mean by a prolonged process?”

Second, ask questions to expand on pertinent information, such as, “What does your conclusion depend on?” or “What are your typical parameters?” and “How do you feel about the current level of safety?”

Lastly, ask questions to learn about the motivation behind their beliefs, actions, or concerns: “Why’s that a critical outcome for this project?” and “How’d you come to that conclusion?”

The obliging helper will appreciate such questions because they want to help, not hinder your efforts, and aren’t opposed to being influenced if it leads to the best decision.

Numbers Thinker
I have a small business owner-client who’s a numbers thinker, and he’s super easy to read. He greets you formally, gets straight to the point, and regularly asks about the data and specifics behind any claims. His office is orderly and neat, and he’s typically expressionless when talking or listening.

Salespeople rarely notice or adjust to his style needs, he tells me. Most of them rely on well-rehearsed lines like talking about the weather and the pictures on his wall. Or they’ll ask pretentious questions like, “What keeps you up at night?” or this century’s come-on line, “Tell me about your company.”

Of course, they do all this meandering to warm him up for their one-size-fits-all sales pitch.

The business owner turns the table on them with challenging questions. “Where’s your chart or backup proof of that?” … “Do you even understand our business and its problems?”

Assuming you know what a numbers thinker wants or needs isn’t good. Instead, ask thoughtful discovery questions, and use their answers to build your follow-up dialogue and questions.


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