The author begins with a simple statement: "If you want to sell more, you need to understand how people buy things." Each consumer has their own, individual, process for making purchasing decisions, and these decisions vary even in a single individual for the different items they buy. Understanding this behavior is critical to selling.
(EN: It's clear from the onset that this booklet is about buyer behavior in the sales situation, not as an academic study, and not for general marketing, which is a very specific niche.)
Traditional sales training is based on techniques, instilling the salesman with a "trick" that can be used to close the deal in a particular situation. More recently, sales training has begun to take a different approach: to consider the sales encounter as a method of influencing behavior and capitalizing on the motives the buyer brings to the negotiating table.
The easiest way to accommodate behavior is to accommodate it: to give in to the buyer's demands for unreasonable accommodations, or to simply accept the buyer's decision not to purchase from you. But this will not lead to a successful and profitable relationship with a customer: it's a matter of negotiation to ensure that your needs, and those of your company, are served as well.
Some of the ways in which "salespeople get it wrong" are listed:
- They want to make friends. While Dale Carnegie's book on winning friends and influencing people is widely-read, and quite good, it's not the only tactic, nor the best tactic in every situation
- They capitulate too easily. When a customer complains about the price, they seek ways to offer a discount, and do not defend the value of their product and the fairness of their price
- They are short-sighted. Salesmen are driven by the commission they want to take away this month, rather than the success of the company over a time period of decades
- They are poorly managed. Aside of wanting an immediate commission for themselves, they are pushed to desperate short-term measures by companies that want to sell products immediately.
To be successful over the long term, the salesman must take a broader perspective. One valuable consideration is what the salesman would do if he owned the business. Would he pressure the customers to buy things they don't want or need? Would he damage a relationship with long-term customer to make an immediate sale? Would he sacrifice profitability to unload inventory?
The author describes his theory of learning: awareness, understanding, practice, and action. (EN: he goes into detail, but it's a common pattern in crisis management and therapy for the treatment of drug addiction.)
He also suggests that our own patterns of behavior are ingrained and it may be difficult to change practices with which we are familiar and comfortable. Accept that it will be a slow and gradual process - an amusing metaphor: "How do you eat an elephant? One mouthful at a time."
2: Behavioral Analysis
In the sales situation, there are two parties to consider: the customer and the salesman. The behavior of each must be considered separately before considering how the two different styles interact with one another in a negotiation.
Assertiveness and responsiveness
The author considers a four-square scheme in which behavior "types" are defined in terms of two parameters: assertiveness and responsiveness.
- Assertiveness - Deals with the give-and-take of interaction. The person who pursues what he wants from the other is said to be assertive, the other party assumed to be passively reacting to this behavior. Sales is inherently assertive, and customers are assumed to be passive - but this is not always so.
- Responsiveness - Deals with the way in which a person reacts to what the other person says. Some absorb without responding, others respond immediately.
Four Basic Buying Styles
He mashes these two together to define four different customer types:
- Analytical (passive and unresponsive) - "The Clinician" is a precise and orderly buyer who is motivated by logic and facts and distrustful of manipulative people. He seeks a lot of detail, takes considerable time to make a decision, and is a very conscientious consumer.
- Amiable (passive and responsive) - "The Supporter" is an agreeable buyer who is dependent on others in decision making. He is emotional and sensitive, and while generally an easy sell, he does not like taking risks.
- Expressive (assertive and responsive) - "The Socializer" is an intuitive buyer who is more attentive to relationships than tasks. He is amicable and gregarious, highly enthusiastic, and has a short attention span. He will be concerned about how he and others will feel about the purchase decision, rather than the ultimate results.
- Driving (assertive but unresponsive) - "The Director" is a highly task-oriented person who wants most of all to be in control. He is stubborn, inflexible, and a poor listener. He is prone to making bad decisions, being more concerned with his own power than the outcome.
Dealing with the Four Styles
Analytical. Provide information that demonstrates you understand how the product meets his needs, sticking to facts and avoiding grandiose claims, and be honest about the shortcomings of your product. Plan to spend considerable time on the sale, but count on a regular customer if you succeed.
Amiable: Focus on relationship-building with this individual, even to the point of discussing personal interests and family. Be patient and attentive to their fear of risk, even though they may seem like a pushover. Focus on agreement, and making the person "comfortable" with the decision.
Expressive: Consider that they are driven by emotions, so guide the discussion towards feelings about the product rather than facts. Use testimonials and inspirational success stories. Summarize and reiterate often to compensate for their short attention span.
Driving: Provide this buyer with facts and options. You can disagree with the facts, but do not dispute his opinion or pose any threat to his authority and sense of control over the negotiation. Avoid emotional sells, or using testimonials, as the only opinion he cares about is his own.
Identifying your preferred style
Salesmen are successful dealing with customers who have the same style as their own. However, few consider what their personal style actually is. To this end, the author presents a brief quiz - about two dozen questions, to plot themselves on the four-square grid.
(EN: I won't reproduce the quiz - there are various personality type assessments, some of which are more extensive and insightful than this blunt instrument - but the point is well taken that self-assessment is a valuable exercise.)
How to be more assertive
Assertiveness is valued in salesmanship - it's inherent to the negotiation that the salesman is pursing the customer, wants something from them, and must work to get it. A few tips are given to help salesmen who have an innate tendency to be passive:
- Appearances matter. People are shallow, and respond to things such as your dress, your mannerisms, and your body language in some cases more than to the substance of the negotiation.
- Speak clearly and concisely. You don't need to be domineering, but you do need to make yourself heard. In most instances, people need to be more aggressive in conversation.
- Know your objective. Being indecisive is a clear problem: you have to be able to clearly communicate your main priority (and sort out conflicting goals).
- Be realistic. While pursuing your goals is the main thrust, you have to be reasonable in choosing your objective or you will not succeed.
- Know your allies. Especially in service situations, the person who is confronting you is not always the source of the problem. A store clerk, ticket agent, or a waiter is acting on policy, and will in some cases be glad to ally with you to serve your needs.
- Practice. Especially when going into a difficult scenario, do not rely on your ability to do well by speaking off-the-cuff. Consider how the conversation might go, or practice with a friend who can give feedback.
- Be polite. Being assertive does not mean being rude. People are more willing to deal favorably wit ha person who is polite and respectful.
- Ask questions. A negotiation is geared toward a solution that is acceptable to both parties. You know your objective, but must ask questions (and pay attention to answers) to learn the other party's. Do not make assumptions.
- Be direct. Don't be reluctant to disclose information to the other party, even if they might find it disagreeable. They will eventually find out, and it's best they get it from you directly.
- Be firm. Especially when offering "bad news," don't go overboard in couching in with details, reasons, and apologies. Beign elaborate is taken as a sign of weakness.
- Avoid emotionalism. Being hot-headed is not conducive to a positive relationship. If the other person must acquiesce simply to cool you down, they will eventually seek to disengage from you.
- Be friendly. While a negotiation is a situation where there is an inherent conflict, it must ultimately end in a mutually-agreeable solution and a desire to re-engage.
- Think long-term. The greatest damage to a customer relationship is done by short-term thinking, being so desperate for an immediate sale that you undermine a long-term relationship. "Pushy people may win battles, but assertive people win wars ... and only assertive people keep the respect of their peers after a conflict."
Personal and organizational needs
Research done by Xerox into buying behavior found that people purchase to fill needs, whether rational or emotional, and they are broken into two categories of needs: organizational and personal.
Six personal needs are identified:
- Power - An item gives the person the power to do things. A railroad ticket is purchased not for the pleasure of the ride, but the power of being able to traverse a distance quickly.
- Safety - An item does not give a person an additional ability, but instead it gives them a sense of protection against loss.
- Achievement - An item represents a sort of "prize" to a person, a reward to the individual who is capable of obtaining it
- Recognition - People identify with the things they buy. An executive buys a suit not for protection from the elements, but because wearing it makes him recognizable as a businessman
- Affiliation - People buy things to be a member of a culture or group of people that own such things.
- Order - (EN: The author skips this one in the definitions entirely)
Organizational needs are:
- Finance - People purchase things because they are affordable. It may have a low purchase price, a higher resale value, or low operational expenses.
- Image - People purchase things because they gain some sort of esteem by owning them (conspicuous consumption).
- Performance - People purchase things because they are efficient or effective in the way they operate
Identifying the need that the customer is motivated by enables a salesman to properly pitch his product. (EN: The author does not elaborate much, but this seems self-evident.)
3: Buyer Tactics
In their role as buyers, people consciously or unconsciously seek to use specific tactics. They may have been taught these tactics by someone, or they may stumble upon them by trial-and-error.
The author asserts that using tactics in negotiation is "a matter of personal choice." (EN: I disagree: you may make a conscious decision to use a specific tactic, or you may use a tactic without much consideration - but in the latter case, it is still a tactic.)
Of particular interest to salesmen is that the same tactics can be used by either party in a negotiation. When you understand a tactic, you can use it more effectively, and if you recognize it as a tactic, its effect can be reduced or eliminated.
A list of tactics is provided:
- Preconditioning - The negotiator makes an aggressive announcement of what he will or will not negotiate about, to fortify their position
- Misrepresentation - The negotiator presents a problem, such as having a set amount to spend, and makes it your responsibility to work around it.
- Authority - An unseen person must approve the deal before they will be willing to close. In a car sale, there is the "sales manager" who must approve the salesman's deal, and maybe a spouse who must approve the customer's deal.
- Nibbling - The negotiator pretends to be on the verge of entering an agreement, and brings up extra things they want thrown in, acting as if they expected them to be included in the deal.
- Good Cop Bad Cop - Two people are involved in the negotiation on the other side. One of them is irascible and the other wants to "help" you strike a deal
- Concealment - A person may use tactics to conceal their enthusiasm for a deal, figuring they can get a better one if they do not seem excited. They may act nonchalant, or even put on the air of being upset.
- Balking - A specific concealment tactic is the "balk" - to simply say nothing and expect the other party will take it as disapproval give a bit more before they make their next offer.
- The vice - This is putting general pressure on the other party, insisting "you'll have to do better than that" without making a counteroffer. A specific countermove is to ask them to be specific.
- Authority of Writing - People generally give more credibility to something they see in writing than they would if it were said aloud. Using documents such as memos or invoices, or even a price tag, grants credibility to a fact.
(EN: These and other tactics are covered in greater detail on sources specific to negotiation.)
Selling to people is more effective if you spend some time analyzing the specific person you are trying to sell: their personality, their motivation, and their negotiation tactics will indicate the approach you must take to most effectively appeal to them.