John O' Gorman

Buyer Types – Just how much can you tell from a limp handshake?

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Sellers have long been advised to adopt their sales approach to reflect the personality type of the buyer.  But just how much can you tell from a limp handshake?  Well if you put a lot of  store in buyer personality types perhaps a lot!

We are going to examine the four basic personality types in a moment, but before we do here is a word of caution.  When it comes to the complex sale, the personality of the buyer, or seller is of considerably less importance than the business case.  No matter how many sales books and training courses highlight this issue, that won’t change one bit.

There are some that take a more extreme view – one we heard expressed recently – ‘You wouldn’t base your sales approach on the star sign of the prospect would you?  Well putting too much store in personality types is similarly naive.’  We do believe however that there is a value in taking cognisance of the personality of the buyer.  So, lets look at some buyer types.

1 The Assertive Buyer Type

If there is no chit-chat then either the buyer is under a lot of pressure, or perhaps he / she falls in to the assertive buyer category.  That means they will be no walk-over and will want to be in control.  Here is how you spot them and the implications for how you sell.

How to spot them:

  • Authoritative
  • Dominant body language
  • Handshake is firm & out-stretched
  • Plain speaking, can be abrupt
  • No social chitchat
  • Assertive, perhaps even aggressive
  • Can be defensive
  • Out you on the spot
  • Impulsive – quick decision makers
  • Can be slow to go back on a decision
  • Motivated by status & status symbols
How to sell to them:

  • Play to their ego
  • Avoid appearing to criticise
  • Put them in control
  • Questions – business like & to the point
  • Focus on the headlines – spare the detail
  • Talk about deliverables & results
  • Appeal to their self interest
  • Be clear and specific
  • Be well prepared
  • Get to the point (don’t waste time)
  • Keep up

2 The Social Buyer Type

If you get offered a coffee and there is a lot of social chit chat, then you may be selling to a buyer that falls into the social category.  They tend to be adaptable, flexible and participative in style.  So here is how you sell to and spot them.

How to spot them:

  • Less dominant body language
  • Offers you coffee
  • Social chit-chat
  • Asks about the journey
  • Putting you at ease
  • Pictures of their families in the office
  • Motivated by ideals and visions
  • Team player
  • May dither if there is not a consensus
How to sell to them:

  • Leave time for socialising
  • Take things slowly
  • Focus on the people/cultural dimension
  • Adopt a team based approach
  • Leave on a friendly note
  • Reinforce group identity
  • Involve them fully
  • Hold off on the technical details
  • Make them and their team look good

3 The Analytical Type Buyer

If you buyer reminds you of your accountant then chances are he, or she falls into the ‘analytical buyer’ category.  They are logical, analytical and won’t be rushed, and can be slow to engage.  However once they decide they are slow to go back on it.  Here is how you spot the measured buyer.

How to spot them:

  • Slowly and quietly spoken
  • Silences during conversation
  • Often understated
  • No dominant body language
  • May be sceptical
  • Slow to commit
  • May appear disengaged (e.g. sit well back in chair with arms folded
  • Will Reserve judgement
  • May procrastinate
  • Often highly knowledgeable
How to sell to them:

  • Take time to break the ice
  • Use open-ended questions
  • Be sincere and show genuine interest
  • Take time to find areas of common ground
  • Be honest and open
  • Draw out the prospect’s goals
    Slow down
  • Provide assurances and guarantees
  • Provide lots of information & detail
  • Don’t rush or pressurise them.

4 Compliant:

They need to comply with rules and regulations, are systematic, precise, super efficient and bureaucratic, shy, self-effacing, will need lots of assurance, easily agree making it difficult to assess their true objections, very punctual. Analysts, researchers and scientists tend to be of this type.

How to spot them:

  • Lowered eye contact
  • Fidgeting mannerisms
  • No dominant body language
  • Submissive
  • Soft handshake
  • Speak quietly
  • Can be vague.
How to sell to them:

  • Give great deal of detail
  • Full explanation
  • Give lots of time to make up their minds Direct them towards the solution
  • Be straightforward
    List the pros and cons
  • Re-assure that there will not be any surprises
  • Be realistic, give testimonials.

Click there to read another article about the cult of personality in selling.

Insipired by “Successful Selling”, Pauline Rowson

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