The importance of versatility

Updated: Jan 29 2008, 05:45am hrs
Consider for a moment the following sales situations:

* Should the technical-minded customer be satisfied with a salespersons broad-brush explanations, or buyer benefits, about the product

* Should the decisive customer be tolerant of the precise and systematic salesperson whose attention to detail would try the patience of Job

* Should the flamboyant and forceful salesperson intimidate the conservative and cautious customer

* Should the easy-going and affable salesperson irritate the restless and impatient customer

These are not reasonable expectations and in any one of these situations, or their reverse, the salespersons natural selling style is alien, even hostile, toward the customers natural buying style. In as much as they are alien toward the customer, they are detrimental to producing a successful outcomea sale. If, instead, sales people practised versatility in their approach then each of these problematic encounters could be avoided.

In failing to adapt our selling style, to show versatility, to meet the customers buying style, we are like the obdurate Englishman abroad. The one who insists on speaking English despite the fact the Frenchman doesnt understand the language. The one who then blames the Frenchman when he fails to make himself understood! In such situations, most reasonable-minded people would not expect the Frenchman to learn

English. Similarly, why should we expect a customer to buy from us in the way we like to sell, rather than in the way they like to buy Its absurd!

We might suppose such problems simply do not arise between speakers of the same language. How wrong we would be to make this assumption. Communication failure between salespeople and customers is much more common that we might imagine. How do we know this Well, take your average salesperson. During the course of any given week, he or she will present products or services to any number of potential customers. For various reasons, not everyone buys. Perhaps it will be the wrong product, or the wrong price. Yet for some customers, neither the product, nor the price will be an issue. So why will they not buy Plain and simplethey will not be convinced. In other words, the salespeople will have failed to communicate how or why the product will benefit the customer. They may, of course, think that they did, but, self-evidently they hadnt, for if they had the customers would have bought.

Another way of checking this is to examine your own closing ratio. How many customers who could have bought, (that is, price and product were not an issue), actually did There will always be a gap and the bigger the gap, the worse the communication problem.

Given how widespread the problem is, wouldnt it be better if we spoke the same language as our customersthe one in which they are likely to buy. I call this language their natural buying style.

The responsibility for matching selling styles to buying style clearly must lie with the seller, not the buyer. Had we all chosen a different occupation, then perhaps things might be different.

Consider a negotiation. Here it is not unreasonable to expect both parties to shift their style, especially if both parties are agreed upon finding a solution.

Even in negotiations where no such obligation to find a solution exists, and agreeing to disagree is an option, it doesnt provide any comfort for the sales-person. Agreeing to disagree with a customer seldom results in a sale! No sales manager worthy of the title is ever likely to pat you on the back if you return to the office announcing The customer and I agreed to disagree!

So how is the salesperson to respond to this responsibility As individual salespeople we represent just one of four possible personality styles (these four styles will be explained in the following chapter). On the plus side, this means our selling style will match he buying style of about one in four of our customers. On the downside, of course, our selling style is alien to the other three buying styles. The outcome of encounters with these three buying styles is likely to yield less than satisfying results. In order that they are successful, we need to exercise versatility in our approach. We could, of course, lay the blame for all these missed opportunities at the door of poor sales skills; maybe we failed to identify the need, or maybe the customer was broke, who knows Yet how many times have we identified a clear need for the product or service we were offering. Knew the customer could afford it. Yet still failed to come away with the order. given how often this happens, we could do worse than heed George Bernard Shaws advice:

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself.

In other words, we could do worse than adapt our selling style to match the customers buying style. Be versatile!

We might all agree that tenacity is a desirable quality in a salesperson but to carry on selling in a style that alienates the customer is just a waste of effort. Adapting our selling style to minimise or even eliminate this conflict is therefore essential to our success. This requires a high degree of versatility on our part.

Isnt it the case that we find some customers to be friendly, yet others we find are remote, some to be cautious, while others are prepared to take risks. From this it follows that there is no one single selling style to suit them all. Neither, therefore, can there be a single selling style that is more successful than another. Its not our selling style that matters but our customers buying style. In each of the cases just described, the buying style is quite different for each and you will need to modify your selling style accordingly if you are to win the order.

Reprinted with permission from Westland Books

Book: How Customers Like to Buy

Author: Steve Deery

Price: Rs 150