Buying Styles – Simple Lessons in Selling the Way Your Customer Buys

By Michael Wilkinson

Managing Director, Leadership Strategies

Buying Styles Book by Michael WilkinsonWhat are the things that sales people do that turn you off? Do you hate it when they don’t know their product, or when they don’t get to the point or when they bore you with facts and figures, or when they are too pushy and don’t take the time to understand you and your needs?

Why do they do this? In our work on buying styles and selling styles, we have found that most sales people have not learned to read and adapt to the buying styles of their customers. Instead, many sales people sell in just one style – theirs. Unfortunately, only 20-40% of customers will like their selling style, another 30-40% may tolerate it, but at least 20% will be completely turned off! How much more successful could sales people be if they only understood the four basic buying styles and learned to sell the way their customers buy?

What are the Buying Styles?

You can think of customers buying in one of four basic styles. Of course some customers use a combination of buying styles. However, in general, one of these four styles dominates a person’s buying pattern.

  • The High-D (Drive) buying style is direct and decisive. They want you to cut to the chase, tell them what you want them to do and let them know what’s in it for them. They will tune out if you take too long to get to the point.
  • The High-I (Influence) style enjoys engaging in conversation and discussing the big picture. They want the stage: they want you to get them talking about their needs and experiences and to engage them in how they will use your product. They will lose interest if you go into details or don’t keep the conversation interactive.
  • People with a High-S (Steadiness) style want you to get to know them. For a High-S, it is all about the relationship. They will buy from you because they like you and trust you. They will shut down if you become pushy or demanding.
  • High-Cs (Compliance) want to be sure they are making the right decision. They want you to present information in a logical, linear fashion. They want the details and time to go through them. They will tune out if you make claims you can’t back up or try to force a decision before they are ready.

Unfortunately, most sales people sell the way they want to be sold to, instead of changing their style to align with their customer’s buying style. So what happens when a High-D (get to the point) sales person tries to sell to a High-S (get to know me) customer or when a High-I storyteller tries to sell to a High-C (give me the facts) customer? Usually nothing. If the sales person doesn’t adapt to the customer’s buying style, he or she can easily lose the sale – not because the product doesn’t meet the customer’s need – simply because the sales person was selling in the wrong style.

Recognizing Buying Styles

How do you recognize a person’s buying style? It’s actually pretty easy once you are trained to look for it. Most people want you to sell to them in their style and so unconsciously they let you know by the things they say, the things they do, the way they decorate their office, and even their voice mail message.

  • For example, if you call and get someone’s voice mail and you hear, “You know what to do ,” then you know right away, this person’s buying style is a High-D: you should be brief and direct. Get to the point; don’t waste time with idle chatter. And you know this from just four words!
  • Or suppose you hear, “I am sorry that I am not here to answer, but your call is very important to me. Please leave a message and I’ll be sure to get back with you. Have a nice day.” You can tell from the language that this person is screaming “Relate to me” – a very High-S message. This person wants you to get to know them. They want you to take your time, understand their needs, and build trust. The point is people are telling you how to sell to them, if you are paying attention and know what to look for.

Unfortunately, most sales people have had some success selling in their one style – typically the style they themselves prefer to buy in – and don’t realize how much more successful they could be if they recognized and adjusted to the way each customer buys. The message of Buying Styles is simple: adapt or continue to be so much less successful than you could be.

Interested in learning more about Buying Styles? Check out our course, Buying Styles – Selling the Way Your Customer Buys. We also have an upcoming eTraining that previews the course.

About the Author
Michael Wilkinson is a Certified Master Facilitator, a much sought after strategic planning facilitator, speaker and the Managing Director of Leadership Strategies – The Facilitation Company. You can get more tips from Michael’s books, Buying Styles, The Secrets of Facilitation or The Secrets to Masterful Meetings.

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