There are four recognised stages to selling where there may be important aspects of the buyer’s psychological profile to consider, as follows:
- Initiating the relationship
- Investigating client needs
- Proposing a course of action
- Obtaining agreement and contracting
My overall premise is that it’s useful to flex our style depending on the nature of the people we are trying to sell to.
There are lots of different psychological frameworks, but I’m going to use the Myers Briggs (MBTI) one because it is one of the best researched and documented.
For those unfamiliar with MBTI, here is a summary of the different psychological types of buyer:
|Focus of Attention||Extravert (E) – prefer to talk things out||Introvert (I)– prefer to think things through|
|Pay Attention to…..||Sensing (S) – practical facts, in the past and present||Intuition (N) – the big picture and what could be|
|Base their Decisions on….||Thinking (T) – logical implications||Feeling (F) – the impact on people|
|Their Preferred Way of Working||Judging (J) – organised, planned with a joy for closure||Perceiving (P) – flexible, spontaneous with a joy for processing|
- Initiating the relationship
Research is important to ensure targeting the right companies and people. This avoids wasting time. One client flew two senior advisors to the head office of a major computer company to discover that the service they wanted to talk about had been outsourced!
Once appropriate targets have been recognised, prepare questions for an initial phone call and meeting.
An initial approach might be made on the telephone or using email. Before making your approach, consider what’s in it for the prospect to spend time talking to you. Do you offer insights, connections or opportunities for the prospective buyer to meet their own targets or look good internally?
From your research, try to find five topics that might be of interest and pick one of them with which to lead your conversation.
Here’s an example. PwC were talking to a leading international law firm. They had done their research on topical issues. As the fork was lifted for the starter, the Senior Partner at PwC asked the Senior Partner of the law firm: “Tell me. What’s your thinking about LLP status?” Sure enough, three years later, this led to work for PwC.
How Psychological Profiling Affects Stage 1 of the Selling Approach:
- Research is important to try to find out the psychological style of the prospect you’re meeting. The clues are in the language you hear and behaviour you see.
- Extraverts (E) will want to talk everything through and may prefer phone calls to email.
- Introverts (I) will want to think things through and may not be as forthcoming on the phone. They may want to think about things after they meet you and get back to you. They may prefer email to a phone call
2. Investigating client needs
Having got a meeting, you need to deliver what you promised. But the main skills required now are primarily questioning and listening. You need to establish your credibility and build rapport and a sense of being a trusted adviser As the trust develops the prospective buyer will share their buying criteria.
The role of the professional sales person is to facilitate the buyer thinking all this through – not overtly to push their services! This may take several meetings and involve introducing colleagues.
It should be the prospective client that is doing most of the talking at this stage – not the seller!
How Psychological Profiling Affects Stage 2 of the Selling Approach:
- Prospects with a Sensing (S) preference will want a lot more specific information
- Prospects with an Intuitive (N) preference will want the big picture
3. Proposing a course of action
A proposal should be offered only after the prospect has expressed interest. The best proposals don’t start with a list of how good your firm is. Instead they should open with establishing that you understand the clients’ needs (those of the organisation and of the buyers themselves, as individuals) and show clearly what tyou can offer in terms of features (about the firm) and benefits (how the firm’s offerings benefit the client organisations and key individuals – in other words, the value propositions).
But most of all, the effective seller will demonstrate their capability by providing evidence. Selling is more effective if it’s not just ‘blah, blah, blah’ but also contains something such as ‘Here – let me show you….’
How Psychological Profiling Affects Stage 3 of the Selling Approach:
- For Sensing/Thinking prospects, remember the FACTS, be practical, keep it short and business-like
- For Sensing/Feeling prospects, remember to offer PERSONAL SERVICE, emphasise loyalty and build a relationship
- For Intuitive/Feeling prospects, support their VISION, emphasise personal connectedness and focus on harmony
- For Intuitive/Thinking prospects, provide LOGICAL OPTIONS, project into the future and help them think through pros and cons.
4. Obtaining agreement and contracting
It is quite likely that the prospective buyer will have some doubts about saying ‘yes’ just like that. When objections are expressed, it can feel like rejections to those that are selling. But they are often what are called ‘buying signals’. If the buyer was not interested they wouldn’t be haggling!
The sales person should firstly listen and acknowledge the buyers comments, perhaps asking some gently probing questions to understand better what lies behind their concerns. Then revised options should be offered with both buyer and seller offering thoughts on alternative ways forward.
If you are trying to overcome major objections and persuade at this stage then something’s wrong. You have probably missed understanding an important client need and you may need to go back to stage 2 to clarify the buyer’s needs.
You should gently seek to ‘close’ the sale. I don’t mean an old style, somewhat pressurized ‘closing’ (as in ‘Would you like it delivered on Wednesday or Friday?’ or ‘Would you like one dozen or two?’). This should be a process designed to reach a collaborative agreement on a way forward.
You should be acting as a facilitator and assume a positive development (assumptive closing). Complex systems, such as selling legal services, need help in arriving at good decisions. Try ‘How would you like to proceed and make a decision?’
How Psychological Profiling Affects Stage 4 of the Selling Approach:
In a Judging (J) mode, the prospective client may:
- Move more quickly to closure
- Find loose ends bothersome
- Want clarity about who has control over what
- Want a clear schedule
In a Perceiving (P) mode, the prospective client may:
- Resist closure
- Want to spend more time on more options, information
- Bring up side issues
- Resist having a schedule for moving forward
Having started to establish the role of ‘trusted adviser , you should now focus on fulfilling the provision of legal services and delighting the client. This may involve a good deal of internal coordination and good project management skills.
Good client advisers should continue to take responsibility for checking the quality of service being delivered, even if by a different team.
After-sales service is likely to be particularly important for those with a Feelings (F) preference.
If you can spot these psychological types in your business development activity and reflect back the style you’re noticing, you will develop more rapport and win more work.