Understanding the Buyer Starts with the Seller
As any successful salesperson will tell you, the key to making the sale is understanding the buyer. But there’s more to it than first appears—and it starts with you, the seller.
The first part of this process is knowing which role your prospect plays within the company. They could be a decision-maker, analyst, assistant, communicator or one of many others. You as a salesperson could be speaking to any of these, and should certainly find out which you’re talking to. Not doing so could even upset your prospect and close the door to a possible sale for good.
You should create (or adopt) an approach for each one of these roles. For example, a decision-maker will probably not be interested in the fine details of the product or adoption, whereas the analyst—the one figuring out which product would be best for the company—certainly would be.
With a decision-maker, you would not want to compete with them as a salesperson, saying, for example, “Well, you think you’ve got problems…” That decision maker holds the purse-strings to the money you’re trying to obtain, so it’s best to show some deference.
Having the wrong approach, or (equally as bad) having a “one size fits all” approach for all roles, will quite likely lose you the opportunity. You might not even know why; you might consider you gave your best possible presentation, but since it didn’t work think the presentation was just over the person’s head.
So the first part of understanding the buyer is knowing the role of the person you’re talking to.
But simply and only having an approach for each type of role within a company is not enough—and unfortunately this where many salespeople stop.
In making generalizations, you’re operating like a machine, not a person. For example, you could decide that a CEO must be a “bold leader” every time. But it could be that the CEO is a reflective thinker, and isn’t behaving the way you (in your generalization) would expect a CEO to behave. While the role will have certain characteristics, you must never believe that “role equals personality.”
People as individuals are very different. This can even be seen physically: tall, short, portly, thin. From a personality perspective, you can have the direct driver, the expressive communicator, the reflective thinker, the support helper, the cautiously expressive, or one of many others.
So yes, you’re speaking to someone that holds a role within the company and must take that into account. But more importantly, you’re speaking to a human being, and human beings don’t fit into categories. That’s why renowned Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises wrote an entire book on the fact that human action making changes is what actually drives an economy.
You must view your prospect as a holistic person.
Be Authentic…and Listen
Once you understand the roles, you must take the next major step to become a truly successful salesperson: you must learn to be authentic. If you look back through your own experiences as a buyer, when did a salesperson really impress you? When they were being genuine, and most important of all, really listening to what you had to say. And that is probably the most important lesson a salesperson can learn.
Listening doesn’t mean just sitting there quietly while the other person is talking—another serious mistake made by many salespeople. It doesn’t mean simply waiting for the prospect to finish talking, then responding with whatever pitch you’ve been waiting to shoot back the whole time. That’s not an answer to what the prospect actually said, but a canned response.
If you really listen, you’ll hear your buyer telling you what they really want. And when you’ve understood what the buyer actually said, then formulate your answer, and it will be an answer that actually makes sense.
Another way of putting this is that you’re addressing the mind and heart at the same time. You must always talk to the whole person.
A prospect is late to a meeting, and is very apologetic, and because they’re stressed, they push several of their “wants” hard—boom, boom, boom, boom. A correct approach from you in such a case would be, “It’s no problem that you’re late, and it’s obvious you’re very busy. I’m here to help you hopefully alleviate some of that stress!” In other words, show some empathy. If you only address the “wants” they’re pushing, you’ll miss the important part, which is that they’re stressed out.
I have a friend who once got a job just through this kind of empathy. He showed up for the interview, and the woman doing the interviews, who was also the head of the department in which the job was located, was totally overwhelmed by the sheer volume of applicants. My friend laughed and said, “Man, I feel for you! How many interviews have you had to do today?” She told him it was dozens. He responded lightly with, “Well, I can alleviate your worries: I’m the best person you’ve interviewed today, and you can just stop with me.” She laughed, relieved that someone finally understood what she was going through. And, by the way, my friend got the job.
Listen. And based upon what you hear, respond. Along with understanding the role you’re speaking to, you’ll find it works like magic. You must walk in the person’s shoes while aiming for your own goal at the same time.
Down to You
You must get to a point where you feel comfortable with yourself, When you do, you respond to each person differently, as themselves. The buyer will immediately notice, because they “feel the vibration,” because we are human beings and energy is everything.
All of these factors are vital, and add up to why I believe sales is the most complex job in the world. It is undereducated, undertrained, not really understood, stereotyped (not in a valid way) and absolutely overlooked. Many have never understood well why it works—because there’s not enough good training.
It all begins with you—the seller!