Have you ever found yourself trying to relate to a decision maker who is anxiously awaiting your direct answer? Or being regaled by tales of adventures when you needed to get qualifying information? Maybe you didn’t realize the prospects communication style was different from yours. All of us enjoy conversations matching our style of communicating. Great salespeople know how to recognize the different fundamental communication styles. And they match their sales presentation to the prospects preferred style.
Four Fundamental Communication Styles
Think about a chart with a horizontal axis measuring how responsive a person is. The scale from left to right varies from being quiet, reserved and task oriented to those who are outgoing, gregarious and people oriented. The vertical axis measures from top to bottom how assertive one is. At the top of the scale are those who dominate a conversation while at the bottom of the scale are those who are more amiable. The two scales laid out form four quadrants:
Drivers are very assertive and don’t respond well on a personal level. When selling to this communication style think: “just the facts, Jack!” They don’t care about your kid’s little league game or how much fun you had at the beach. Stick to the problem they need solved. Drivers are short on time, always busy, make decisions quickly and impersonally. Great salespeople know that to gain the respect and trust of a Driver they must get to the point quickly and confidently.
These people are a bit more fun than drivers. While they are assertive they are also interested in getting to know salespeople personally. They like to talk about themselves more than you, the problem and most anything else. Expressives respond well to open-ended questions. While they are assertive and make decisions quickly Expressives respond on a more personal level. Great salespeople know how to listen and control the conversation with Expressives.
Low on the assertiveness scale and high on the responsiveness scale are the Supportives. They really want to get to know you on a personal level. They will talk about you, your family, your pets, your hobbies and most anything else before discussing business. Great salespeople learn how to control the conversation with open-ended questions. They are patient knowing the Supportive will need to build a relationship before trusting the salesperson to lead them to make a change.
In the lower left quadrant lies the Analytical. All business but polite about it. Analyticals deal in facts. They will give salespeople detailed answers to questions. But are not particularly interested in building a strong personal relationship. Great salespeople know to go slow with Analyticals. To make a change they will want to analyze all the possible solutions in detail.
Your Communication Style
Think about where you fit on the matrix shown above. Is your communication style in a particular quadrant? Are you closer to the intersection of the two axes or at an extreme? It is important first of all to know what your dominant style is. Then you can tailor it to fit the situation depending on the prospects preferred style. Communication styles change with situations. A prospect who is a Driver in the office may turn Expressive at a casual lunch. Great salespeople can quickly determine the communication style of the prospect and adjust their conversation to the preferred style.
The Styles Are Not Absolute
Look at the Assertiveness and Responsiveness scales as continuums from one extreme to another. Some prospect’s styles fall closer the midpoints and some near the extremes. With practice salespeople can naturally move from one style to another to match a prospects preferred communication style.
One habit I have is to draw a small chart of two intersecting lines at the top of my sales call prep notes. During the conversation I make a mark in the quadrant representing the fundamental communication style of the prospect. This reminds me how to phrase the questions and how to pace the conversation.
What You Can Do Right Now
- Chart your preferred fundamental communication style.
- Does it change depending on your situation?
- Practice recognizing the different communication styles.
- Use the prospects fundamental communication style in sales call planning.
Don Crawford & Lois Carter Crawford