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Salesperson communication skills have to include the ability to recognize and adapt to the behavior styles of your customers.

We recently looked at the challenge salespeople face when opportunities initially progress but then lose momentum. It’s not always the big competitor or scrappy new upstart on the block that’s getting in the way. Instead, you’re competing against the customer’s instinct to do nothing at all, to stick with the status quo as the safest option or path of least resistance. As we discussed in that post, the battle against the status quo can be easier to win once you understand why your customers buy.

There’s another side to this dynamic that’s just as valuable for the salesperson to understand, and that’s why your customers don’t buy.

Especially in a volatile market with lots of change and disruption, fear can keep people from making purchase decisions even when they want what you’re selling. This might explain why sales leaders in a recent webinar told us that the top causes of pipeline stagnation are salespeople who haven’t created enough urgency with customers and those who aren’t getting commitments from customers. Fear can be a barrier, but it’s one your salespeople can learn to overcome.

Behavior Styles Provide Clues

Depending on their behavior style, many people are naturally risk averse, resistant to change or reluctant to make decisions. These behaviors may have less to do with their perception of the value/cost equation than with their individual apprehension about making decisions, along with their natural behavior style.

In a recent podcast interview, Integrity Solutions’ Mike Fisher explored the value of understanding behavior styles in selling. When it comes to different behavior styles and the decision-making/buying process, there are a few things salespeople can look out for. Doers love to make decisions, and they’re motivated by benefits that help them achieve results or appear in charge. Talkers, on the other hand, don’t enjoy making decisions and are concerned about what others will think of them, so their indecision may be caused by their reluctance to reject you.

Controllers need facts and logical proof; they’re not driven by emotions but by evidence and proof that what you’re selling will eliminate risks and get the results you claim. And finally, Supporters often avoid risk since their main motivation is to seek security and please other people. They’ll need to see a safe course ahead without risks, and they’ll need some time.

When salespeople are able to recognize a person’s behaviors and emotions as they face decisions, they’ll know exactly how to proceed with them. (Read more about the four different behavior styles here.)

Successful salespeople are always watching out for the telltale signs of concern, fear and reluctance in addition to openness, excitement and other positive reactions. Customers’ comments are often pretty revealing. Are they looking for reasons to buy, or are they focusing too much on risk? Observant salespeople will pick up on these clues to people’s concerns and be prepared to provide the understanding, support or reassurance they need.

Finally, don’t forget about the salesperson’s fears. Asking customers about their concerns is only helpful if you really want to know what they’re thinking. In other words, as W. Clement Stone once said, every salesperson has to “have the courage to face the truth!”

About the Author
headshot for Bruce Wedderburn
Bruce Wedderburn

Chief Sales Officer

Since 2016 Bruce has led the Sales organization with a passion for creating impactful results for clients through the successful...

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