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If you are a salesperson, you probably have a better idea of how much some people’s tastes and preferences differ. And when it comes to business, the ability to distinguish between different personality types can be a real advantage, especially when the competition is tight. But this commonsense rule is not as adhered to as the apparently widespread knowledge of it would suggest. It seems to get lost on us as we go through the busy working day- as though the customer isn’t at the centre of the day’s work.

Knowing that customers are not just “customers”, but humans with preferences that greatly vary from one person to the other is one thing. Knowing how to attend to them in ways that are suited to their personality is quite another.

To make things easy for yourself, try to do a quick evaluation of the customer who shows up at your desk before you get into the meat of the transaction. They will almost certainly fall into one of the four groups we will describe here.

  1. The Assertive: In marketing psychology, these types are referred to as having a competitive or Type-A personality. They have a confident carriage and a commanding air about them. When they speak, they are more likely to make declarative statements than ask questions and are also quick to make their minds up about what they want. They tend to be irritated by lengthy introductions and prefer straight-to-the-point answers to questions they ask. Developing a relationship with the salesperson is not top on their list; but if they find your product reliable, they will stick with you. If you intend to get them to buy your wares, you should do two things: make them know how it will meet their need, and be clear and direct about it. Cut out the embellishments. Because for these no-nonsense people, the bottom line is all that really matters.
  2. The Socializer: The more expressive and jovial customers belong in this category. They are more likely to start a conversation with you about things other than your product or your business. This is because they are more people-oriented and are big on personal relationships. These people will stand out amongst other customers as they make their presence felt with their unrestrained comments on just about everything and their loud laughter (or equally loud angry barks, as the situation dictates). Being able to win the trust of these lively sorts is important to successfully selling your products to them. This can be achieved by connecting with them on a personal level, through conversations about much more than just what you intend to get them to buy. Find out what it is that interests them, and use it to win them over. You should try to tell real life stories of how your product has benefited other customers, and be real and plain about it. Don’t just bamboozle them with facts and figures. Paint pictures with words and let them see that you understand what they need.
  3. The Analytic: Mr Analytic will walk into your clothes shop, ask you a ton of probing questions, try on a single shirt about three or four times, seek out the minutest defects on it- and end the drawn-out process with the infamous words: “It’s not what I want.” They will not buy until they are really convinced that your product meets the necessary and sufficient conditions they laid out in their heads before heading for your shop. But their aversion to taking chances also means that if you succeed in making regular customers out of them, they are not likely to seek alternatives to your service for a very long time. Analytical customers are particular about facts and figures and are more apt to see through sellers’ marketing gimmicks. Where it is possible, they will research your product and your company before paying you a visit, so be sure you know your stuff inside out. And when you try to sell, do well to avoid sweet talk- for them, this is a dead giveaway. Instead, lay out the facts, give them the numbers, and be meticulous with product detail descriptions. Again, if you are able to convince them, you’ll find that it is easier to keep them as customers.
  4. The Amiable: The calm, laidback type of customer. They also drag their foot on making decisions, and dealing with them requires patience. But because they are great listeners and more informal than the assertive or analytical types, they are more likeable. However, their calmness should not be mistaken for aloofness. Instead of engaging in extended haggling, they may stubbornly refuse to shift on what they consider to be a fair price; or they may walk away from the table. The trustworthiness of the seller matters a lot to them, so you have to be one whose word is reliable, and who is more than just another marketer wanting to have some of their money. Be a solution provider and a friendly one too. They will appreciate this, and be moved to patronize you more often.

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This article was first published on 21st July 2016


Ikenna Nwachukwu holds a bachelor's degree in Economics from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He loves to look at the world through multiple lenses- economic, political, religious and philosophical- and to write about what he observes in a witty, yet reflective style.

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