Sales Success: Focus on How a Prospect Communicates

Learning about how prospects prefer to communicate will help you know the best way to connect most effectively with them.

By Mike Fisher
Originally published on SellingPower.com

Do you ever ask yourself, “How is it that one sales call is a huge success, yet another goes sideways – often due to miscommunication and miscues?”

We’ve all been there. Yet there’s good news: It’s possible to aim for more of the former and less of the latter if you take some time to learn the simple art of matching the prospect’s or customer’s communication style.   

This is key: Learning about how your prospect prefers to communicate will help you know the best way to connect most effectively with him or her.

Which Type of Communicator Are You Dealing With?

We all know that people communicate differently. Some are chatty, others more analytical, still others are brief and to the point. But how can you know what type of person you’re dealing with in any particular sales opportunity?

There are clues all around if we know what to look for. Tone, pace, the environment, and other verbal and nonverbal cues will help you recognize and frame how you communicate with them.

The Four Types of Communication Behaviors and Styles

The idea of behavior styles has been around since ancient times. But how can you apply it to achieve sales success? The most practical way is to view it through the lens of a simple framework that describes four categories of behaviors, along with the communications styles that work most effectively for each.

Those four types are:

  1. Talkers: very social, chatty, optimistic
  2. Doers: focused primarily on getting things done
  3. Controllers: mostly analytical and methodical
  4. Supporters: friendly, focused on team and group harmony

Let’s briefly unpack each of the four and explore how to communicate most effectively with customers or prospects of each style.

Talkers: These outgoing and friendly people aren’t so interested in all the details. They value relationships, and they want you to like them – and they’re prepared to like you. They make decisions emotionally.

Connecting with Talkers: Your biggest challenge to success with Talkers is getting them to focus. They like to talk about a lot of different topics, and you could spend too much time talking and building rapport. Look for the opportunity to bring up the purpose of your meeting by finding a key transition point. Then outline the reason you’re there and what you’d like to discuss/learn about.

Doers: Unlike Talkers, Doers are very direct, forceful, and results oriented. They’re not overly emotional. They make fast, focused decisions, and they prefer concise information – like bullet points and checklists. They’ll cut to the chase quickly: “Tell me what you have, and I’ll tell you if I’m interested.”

Connecting with Doers: The amount of time you get with a Doer is directly related to who’s doing the talking. If they’re talking to you, they have time. If you’re doing all the talking, they’ll typically shut down quickly and look to wrap it up. Rapport with Doers usually happens at the end of the call, so make sure you are prepared to get them talking to you from the start with a good question.

Controllers: Much different from both Talkers and Doers, Controllers are very detail oriented and deliberate. They rely on evidence to make decisions, so they want facts, data, and proof points. They’re going to weigh all the options, read everything you give them, and dive into the details. They’re also going to be skeptical and may have lots of questions for you.

Connecting with Controllers: It can be tough to build a relationship with a Controller. They hold their cards close to the vest. Best to be very prepared and to show up to “get their thoughts” on something. Bring something they can validate and with which they can engage –  and have proof and evidence to support your claims.

Supporters: These folks are focused on the team and on relationships. They need time to process information, so keep that in mind. The good news is they’re very loyal. And the bad news is they’re very loyal. That means they may be willing to talk with everyone – and might also spread their business to the full range of people who call on them. Most importantly, Supporters aren’t often the final decision maker; in many cases, they’re gathering information for that person. They can, however, be a champion for you internally.

Connecting with Supporters: Build rapport based on relationships. That goes a long way with a Supporter. Try beginning the discussion by connecting personally: “I know we have a lot to get through today, but – before we get started – didn’t your daughter have a soccer tournament? How did it go?  

A final critical point to remember: No one is just one style. We each have a combination of the styles in varying degrees. But we each have a primary behavior style, and that’s the dominant one. It’s your natural style. Some people also have a secondary style – their “adaptive” style, which they may have shifted into at work or elsewhere to be effective in that culture or role.

There is much more to the behavior styles framework – and plenty of strategies for understanding your own style and then adapting it to connect more productively with each customer, prospect, or colleague, whether you’re communicating in person, via email, or over the phone. Regardless of the medium, you honor them by communicating in the way they like to communicate. You’ll be amazed how much more smoothly the conversations will go and your sales success will continue to grow!



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