Improve Your Sales Strategy with the Secrets of Personality Type
Is there anything more frustrating to a sales rep than a customer who leaves your business to purchase the same product or service from a competitor? Despite your best efforts, the sale evaporates, and you rarely know why. However, businesses who have the resources often conduct “lost customers surveys” to find out what happened.The top reason cited for leaving a business to make a purchase elsewhere?
“I didn’t like the sales rep.”
If you’re in sales, you’ve probably felt this tension too. You and a customer seem to be speaking different languages. He seems bored or zoned out as you explain the benefits of your product; she moves away from you as you try to build rapport with her; he seems reluctant to answer questions about his wants and needs. It doesn’t take a sales genius to sell to those customers you “click” with. But how do you become a truly great salesperson—that is, how do you learn to adapt your sales strategy to sell effectively to each and every customer?
Every customer has a way he or she wants to be sold to. Unfortunately, no customer will ever tell you what this is! She may want to know the facts and figures about a product, see concrete evidence of its effectiveness, and stick to a strict budget. Or, he may want to explore with you how your service could represent a unique opportunity for him, and get excited about the possibilities for enriching his life with it. Although no customer will tell you directly how they want to be approached, they will give you important clues. The trick is to recognize these clues and put them to use.
Each customer you encounter has a distinctive personality type, and thus a unique style of buying. You may have heard about Myers Briggs personality type; this is the system that describes personality types in four-letter acronyms, such as ESTJ or INFP. What you may not know is that Myers Briggs personality type strongly predicts how customers like to be sold. If you are familiar with Myers Briggs type, you will be better able to understand and respond to your customers—and better able to make the sale.
The Myers Briggs theory describes personality type in terms of four dimensions:
- Extroversion/Introversion: Do you turn your focus outward, to the world around you, or inward, to your own thoughts?
- Sensing/Intuition: Do you take in information through facts and details, or by looking at the big picture?
- Thinking/Feeling: Do you make decisions based on objective logic, or values and relationships?
- Judging/Perceiving: Do you prefer to have your life organized and planned, or to be spontaneous and flexible?
It’s not necessary for you to figure out the personality type of each and every customer—nor is it even possible! Although knowing your own type can be extremely useful (and can be done easily by taking the Myers Briggs Type Indicator® assessment) you need only recognize certain patterns of behavior in your customers to begin using Myers Briggs personality type in your sales strategy. To further simplify things, you’ll only have to focus on one or two dimensions during each phase of the sales process.
- Building rapport. In this phase, you’ll focus on the Extroversion/Introversion dimension. Most salespeople are Extroverts, but your customers are just as likely to be Introverts. You’ll notice that Introverts often have quieter voices, stand further away, and are less talkative. To build rapport with an Introvert, allow them more time and space to think. Don’t assume that a customer is disinterested just because they are more reserved. If your customer is an Extrovert, on the other hand, you’ll notice they speak more loudly and quickly, and want to talk things out with you. Engaging at their energy level can help build a relationship.
- Understanding needs, conveying information, and exploring options. In this phase, you’ll focus on the Sensing/Intuition and Thinking/Feeling dimensions. Since there are two dimensions with two preferences each, there are four distinct styles of customer in this phase:
- Sensing Thinkers (ST): These customers want the logical facts in a straightforward manner. They will ask concrete questions about costs, specifications, and timing. They are specific about facts like delivery dates and prices and want you to be too.
- Sensing Feelers (SF): These customers want the facts in a personalized manner. They tend to focus on brand or product loyalty and practical benefits to themselves and people they care about. They want you to understand their needs and care about their practical concerns.
- Intuitive Thinkers (NT): These customers want an innovative solution that feels individual to them. They want to know the long-range implications of their decision to buy. They may ask complex “what-if” questions and want a knowlegeable salesperson to help them address their needs uniquely.
- Intuitive Feelers (NF): These customers want a solution that fits with their ideals. They like to explore the options to find one that feels right. They may speak in a stream-of-consciousness style and talk about their dreams for a product or service. They want a salesperson who understands their vision.
Now you can see how much your customers vary in the way they like to be approached. If you haven’t been conscious of personality differences, you probably approach every customer with one sales style (most likely the sales style that feels best to you!). Your style works with some customers, but not others—depending on their own preferred sales approach.
As you become more familiar with the Myers Briggs, you’ll discover new sales approaches that more easily connect with each type of customer. Although you can’t change your own personality, you’ll see that you can choose your behavior and personal style based on your knowledge of your customer. The more you work with this system, the less you’ll run into barriers with your customers. You’ll find you can speak their language, whatever language that might be.
For more information, see Using Type in Selling, by Susan A. Brock.