The appointment with the executive had been set up by telephone. It came as a referral from a current client. The account executive had done some background research about the potential account’s business challenges, and created a list of questions to learn more about their needs. She was excited and looking forward to this first meeting.
She arrived eight minutes early and sat waiting in the lobby while the receptionist announced her arrival. At seven minutes after the appointed meeting time, the executive’s secretary entered the lobby and introduced herself, indicating they would be taking the elevator to the 35th floor to meet the vice president.
The meeting commenced with the vice president sitting expressionless in his chair, hands motionless on his well-organized desk. His answers were short, followed by questions back to the account executive. Did she have any backup data? How long had she been with the company? His body language was reserved.
The account executive felt flustered. There was something not right in this meeting.
How do a customer’s communication style and needs influence the way in which we should prepare for our meeting? We have conducted research for more than 40 years and found that understanding an individual’s social style can help a sales person differentiate themselves in the eyes of the customer.
If the account executive had asked her current client about this referral, she would have learned that she’d be meeting a highly analytical individual who would need her to establish her credentials quickly and provide data during the meeting. It would have gone a long way to ease the tension in the room.
She would also have known that she needed to tone down her expressive style, reducing the amount of broad gestures to make her points and resist providing too many anecdotes.
It’s all about versatility. As sales professionals, we need to do our homework about the business we are calling on. However, we also need to flex our communication muscles to address the different styles of the individuals with whom we will be meeting.
So imagine if our account executive had stopped to ask her current client: “So what’s he like?” or “What do you think will be important to him on our first meeting?” or “How does he typically make decisions: quickly or deliberatively?”
With answers to these few questions, it would have been easier to prepare for a meeting with an executive who is fairly analytical and process-oriented.
The first step is knowing how to identify the four primary communication styles – Analytical, Driver, Amiable and Expressive – as well as the customer’s needs and how they operate under stress. Knowing one’s own style is the second step. Then the challenge is to find out as much as you can about the prospective client’s social style so that you can prepare appropriately and demonstrate your versatility to make them comfortable with you.
What challenges have you had with customers who are “different” and difficult to communicate with? Beyond your selling process, can you share how has this helped or hindered your success?