You are a salesperson, trained in the sales process. You know all the right questions to ask to uncover buyer needs through open ended questions. You know how to sell the features and benefits of your products or services. You certainly know how to handle objections and close the sale.
… you can’t seem to nail the first meeting. The reason why is that there is more to selling than the above.
The secret to selling to a new prospect is to recognize their social and learning style and adjust your social and learning style accordingly.
Look to identify your prospects social and learning style
As you become more experienced in selling your products or services, you learn to move on from basic sales skills and begin to realize that, while taking a methodical approach to sales is essential, not all prospects are alike. They are individuals just like you. Learning how to identify their individual personality traits and their learning styles will get you closer to the sale more frequently.
Leading, managing and improving communications with prospects is being able to recognize that everyone brings with them their own unique personality and social style. By becoming skilled at recognizing the common behaviors exhibited by certain personalities will enable you to modify your communication style and approach to achieve the outcomes you want.
Relating to a prospect’s social style
To be effective as a salesperson, you must be able to relate to people with different backgrounds and personalities – their social style.
A “social style” is the behavior that prospects exhibit when interacting with others. Everyone approaches their job at work in a different way. Some people act and make decisions more quickly, others like to take their time, examine the facts and be thorough. Some prospects are more friendly whereas others are more task focused, don’t engage in small talk and like to get down to business quickly.
A social style or behavioral style is a model that helps you understand yourself and others better. It’s not the inner workings of your personality, or your beliefs and value system. It is more about how you act on what you say or do and can help improve communication between you, your prospects and others in the workplace.
In some cases, having different styles can work in business as this creates a balance and keeps a business fresh and innovative. However, these same differences lead to misunderstandings, conflict, frustrations, which can affect performance. If you are not in tune with a prospect, it makes it that much more difficult to make the sale.
Our behavioral style reflects the effect we have on each other. By understanding your own social and behavioral style along with the style of your prospects, this will help you establish rapport more quickly, avoid misunderstandings and rubbing them up the wrong way.
How were social and behavioral styles identified?
Different researchers and philosophers have used various terms to describe behavior. What they all agree on, is that there are generally four patterns that represent a person’s behavior. We are either people oriented or task oriented. Let’s compare.
Over 2500 years ago, Hippocrates, the father of medicine, developed a system to help to identify personality traits. Hippocrates’ system classified personality styles into four main categories: introversion (indirect), extroversion (direct), relaxed (people oriented) and anxious (task oriented).
In the early 1920’s, Freud, Jung and Marston started research into what makes people “tick”. Marston’s research said that people’s behaviour can be observed and people generally operate from one or two motivated ways of doing things, Dominance, Influence, Steadiness or Compliant (DISC).
According to Dr. Tony Alessandra (founder of The Platinum Rule) the behavioral preferences of individuals can be classified into four basic styles: Director, Socializer, Relater, and Thinker. Each person has a mix of these styles, but there is always a dominant style with which that person behaves and communicates.
Fundamental to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is that we operate from two pairs of cognitive functions. The rational (judging) functions of thinking and feeling and the irrational (perceiving) function of sensation and intuition.
Merrill and Reid
Developed by two industrial psychologists, John Reid and David Merrill identified two scales of social styles, assertiveness and responsiveness. A person who is highly assertive is likely to tell others what to do or demand what they want. They may see life as dog eat dog and fight for what they want.
Although there are different models, they are all consistent and interchangeable. Behavioral styles are only one part of a person’s personality, it is highly useful as a salesperson to understand how prospects are likely to behave in a work environment.
According to Galen/Hippocrates, there are generally two modes of behavior, those who are people oriented and those who are task oriented. Hippocrates’ classification identified four types, based on two factors; introversion vs extroversion and relaxed vs anxious.
People will focus their attention on either tasks or people in any given situation. When a person is focused almost exclusively on a task, you would say they are “task focused.” If a person is almost exclusively focused on relationships, you would say they are “people focused.”
If you are a task focused salesperson (melancholy or choleric) you will need to adapt your style if faced with a prospect who is people oriented (sanguine or phlegmatic). If you are a people oriented salesperson (sanguine or phlegmatic), you will need to adapt your social style to being more task focused if you discover your prospect has a melancholic or choleric temperament.
Experienced salespeople know how to adapt their selling approach to cater for a difference in social style and temperament. Here’s an example.
A salesperson met with a new prospect and being a people person, began to make small talk to put the prospect at ease. The prospect very abruptly turned to the salesperson and responded with, “I don’t have time for all that, what have you got for me?” Taken aback, the salesperson very quickly realized the prospect had a choleric temperament. Being experienced, he immediately adjusted his approach, asked a few questions and made a quick presentation focusing on how his product would allow the prospect to win in the market place.
|What they need||What they fear|
|Sanguine||Attention, Praise, Recognition||Being ignored, Unrecognized|
|Choleric||Achievement, Results, Winning||Failure, Procrastination, Losing|
|Phlegmatic||Relationships, Friendships, Accord||Conflict, Rejection, Criticism|
|Melancholic||Information, Accuracy, Proof||Incomplete Information, Lack of Proof|
The two dimensions of human behavior
When trying to understand human behavior, we look at two dimensions, how assertive someone is and responsive someone is.
Everyone responds to any given situation with a different level of assertiveness. For example, when someone is under stress they are more likely to either become more passive or more assertive, perhaps even aggressive. When assessing human behavior, look for how assertive a person is.
Depending on a person’s range of focus on assertiveness or relationships, human behavior can go quickly from one extreme to another. When under stress, people will either focus either the task at hand or the people around them. When someone doesn’t get what they want, or something is happening around them they don’t like, their behavior will become more extreme.
Prospects also have a preference in terms of how they learn and absorb information. They will be either visual, auditory or kinesthetic. As a salesperson, if you can learn to identify a prospect’s learning style, then talk in their language, you will enjoy a greater level of success.
Visual learners have a need to see things.
When presenting to a visual prospect be sure to use visual aids like pictures, graphs and diagrams as they relate easily to spatial concepts. They are happy to learn and absorb information by watching which is why highly visual presentations appeal to them.
You can identify a visual learner by the words they use. For example, they are likely to say, “That looks good” or “I see what you mean.” The key words being look and see which indicate a visual preference.
Auditory learners love to listen.
They have a very good grasp of language and are good with words. They love to read and hear what others tell them. You can tell an auditory learner for they are likely to say “That sounds good to me” or “I hear what you are saying”. The key words of course are sounds and hear.
When meeting with auditory prospects, weaving stories into your presentation will intrigue and interest them. They respond well to verbal presentations. If you can match the tone of their voice and the pace at which they speak, this will definitely help you stay in rapport.
Kinesthetic learners like to be involved.
They hate just being an observer and will ‘tune’ out if you launch into a verbal presentation. They want to try things for themselves, ideally touch and feel the products you have to sell.
You can tell a kinesthetic learner for they will say things like, “I grasp the meaning of your presentation” or “That feels good to me.” The key words being grasp and feels which are touchy feely words. If you are selling to a kinesthetic learner, if you have samples they can touch and explore you are more likely to be successful with them.
The more alike – the more you will sell
People like doing business with “like minded” people.
We naturally gravitate towards people who are just like us. The reality is, we are all different and when you fail to connect with a new prospect on their level, chances are you won’t make the sale. By learning to identify and understand the various social and behavioral styles of your prospects as well as their learning style, you will able to form lasting relationships and convert them into customers.
On a final note
When meeting a prospect for the first time, adapt your presentation to accommodate the prospects social style and learning preferences and you are far more likely to conclude a successful sale.
In a nutshell
- Not all prospects are alike
- look to identify their social and learning style and adjust it to your prospect
- Galen Hippocrates identified two modes of behavior; task focused or people focused
- Sanguines need praise and attention and fear being ignored
- Cholerics focus on results and achievement and don’t like losing
- Phlegmatics focus on relationships and friendships and fear conflict
- Melancholics focus on information and accuracy and fear a lack of proof
- The two dimensions of human behavior are how assertive or aggressive someone is
- Visual learners have a need to see things
- Auditory learners love to lsiten
- Kinesthetic learners like to be involved