By Carletta Clyatt, senior VP, The Omnia Group
Whether through bias, habit or work weariness, we often expect people to want what we want and be motivated by the same things we are. In the sales profession, this attitude is especially dangerous. Customers are not the same; they have different needs and different reasons for considering solar power. People make purchases for all kinds of reasons, and the salesperson’s job is to figure out each customer’s concerns and then persuasively communicate how solar power can allay those concerns. Failure to see customers as individuals can hurt that cause.
In other words, to make the most of each prospect interaction, it’s important to read customers and adjust to their natural tendencies.
Research has shown there are four types of buying:
- Routine buying: Items bought over and over again, almost automatically, such as necessities like food or toothpaste.
- Limited decision-making buying: Things you buy occasionally that require a little more personal involvement than routine buying, such as a new pair of jeans or an insurance policy.
- Extended decision-making buying: Expensive purchases made infrequently, such as a solar system, a refrigerator or a diamond ring.
- Impulse buying: Things you buy without much conscious thought.
Typically, the less often an item is purchased and the more expensive it is, the more extended the decision making. However, this isn’t always the case. Someone may buy an emerald necklace on impulse, someone else may be so loyal to a certain car make and model that the purchase is almost routine and someone else may agonize over what laundry detergent to bring home. Buying a solar system takes a lot of consideration. Again, personalities are different. As any behavioral economist can attest, it’s a mistake to believe that people always act in their own financial best interests.
The point is, not everyone comes to the decision to buy after a careful weighing of all the relevant facts and figures. Who buys what depends as much on the type and cost of the purchase as on the decision-making personality of the customer. Many people are comfortable making decisions with only partial information, others are definitely uncomfortable with that idea. How can you serve all of these prospects well?
Knowledge Is Power
Personality assessments help employers identify and develop talent at the managerial and non-managerial level alike. The same can be applied to your customers to uncover individual preferences for:
- Winning vs. security
- People vs. facts and figures
- Variety vs. stability
- Freedom vs. structure
You won’t be testing your prospects. However, you can test yourself, and self-knowledge, combined with the knowledge of other personality preferences, is a powerful tool for developing sales strategies beyond a “one-size-fits-all” approach.
Sales personalities like to win, and that’s important to close the deal, however, coming on too strong will deter some customers. They’re looking for attentive consultation from a solar subject matter expert. If your tendency is to push too far, you’ll want to know that about yourself and be aware enough to rein yourself in.
If your prospect is the one who likes to win, you how can provide something that will satisfy that preference and therefore seal the deal? Can you throw in a discount of some sort? If getting something extra will make that prospect feel good about the sale, how can you make that happen?
One way to get at your individual customers’ preferences is by asking a few questions, such as:
- How long have you been considering switching to solar power?
- What information can I provide to help with your decision making?
- When were you hoping to make a decision?
The answers to these questions give insight into how prospects make decisions, or at the very least, how they approach making this type of decision. Research from Adam Grant’s book “Give and Take,” shows that asking questions of prospects, rather than forcing your sales agenda on them, leads to more sales. Questions elicit information, and information is key to learning what’s likely to drive a sale. As we alluded to earlier, many prospects will appreciate a less “sales-y” approach.
Let Your Prospects Take the Lead
No one should expect you to be a sales chameleon by continuously changing who you are for each prospect. You have a personality too. However, it is important to tweak your sales technique to each prospect. With some potential customers, you can be more direct; with others, you’ll need to hold back a little. Some prospects will value your product expertise; others are experts themselves and will become impatient if you spend time telling them what they already know about solar. Some may not be sure what they want and need to be talked through the options.
Whatever the case, you’ll benefit by asking a few preliminary questions and then following your prospect’s lead. By listening closely, you’ll be able to figure out what kind of buyer you’re talking to and what kind of sales experience they are seeking. Once you know that, you can adjust your approach accordingly.
Carletta Clyatt, a popular seminar speaker, is the SVP at The Omnia Group. Omnia offers clients advice on how to manage more effectively and gain insight into employee strengths, challenges and behaviors. For more information about employee assessments, email Matt Gilroy: MGilroy@OmniaGroup.com