Originally published in the Piedmont Business Journal, Summer 2011

We’ve all heard the phrase “work smarter, not harder.” In today’s economy we should also add, “and spend less.” But, you’ve already assessed your expenditures, cut back on the extras, focused your marketing, and only spend money on the essentials. What more can be done?

Optimize your sales relationships to close more deals in less time and keep your existing clients coming back for more. By learning how to relate most effectively with your clients and prospects, you can continue to build your bottom line even in a down market.

Understanding The Four Behavior Styles: Your Key to Successful Selling

According to international sales and relationship selling expert Jim Cathcart of the Cathcart Institute, people exhibit four main behavior styles that we must understand clearly to gain trust and influence. These include:

  • the dominant director
  • the researcher
  • the team player
  • the actor

(Source: Jim Cathcart, Relationship Selling: The Key to Getting and Keeping Customers).

Knowing what people with these behavior styles need is central to developing an effective sales strategy. Not understanding how to interact with a person with a certain behavior style may cause you to lose 25% of market share or more.

Dominant directors need to be in charge, are goal focused, decisive, and results-oriented. They require a confident, efficient, decisive salesperson — a salesperson completely prepared to provide them with specific bottom line results. When speaking to a dominant director, you must articulate the return on investment (ROI) using quantifiable metrics or risk losing the deal. Dominant director types will remain clients as long as you can continue to deliver top notch products/services with a reasonable cost-to-benefit ratio.

Individuals with the researcher behavior style are thoughtful, deliberate, fact-based decision-makers who seek data, precision and accuracy and are irritated by surprises and unpredictability. Effective salespersons must present evidence to appeal to the researcher and be prepared to wait patiently for a decision. The researcher may need periodic prompting, but not too frequently or one could be viewed as pestering. Once convinced of the salesperson’s credibility, the researcher often remains a loyal client.

Team player behavior styles look for compatibility, sensitivity, and close relationships; they make decisions based on their level of connectedness to the salesperson or leader. Team players need salespersons who are pleasant, sensitive and patient, ones committed to getting to know them first, before doing business. Team players will also be reluctant to tell you if things are not going well, they often just move on to another firm rather than risk “hurting your feelings.” They require consistent personal check-ins to maintain the relationship and ensure that service is on-track.

The actor behavior style is a spontaneous decision-maker who loves new ideas. Actor types require attention, flexibility, recognition, and love to be center-stage. They require a salesperson who is stimulating, playful, and who will give them the “stage.” Effective salespeople must keep in regular contact with this behavior style since they can be elusive, quickly change their mind, and not be particularly loyal.

Knowing the behavior style of your clients and prospects gives you insight into how to approach the first meeting, how frequently to follow-up, what venues may be best for meetings, how much time to allow for visits, and what type of data and new products/services to emphasize. It’s equally important to understand your own behavior type and work to adjust your style to best accommodate your client or prospect.

So, look around and see if you can find folks who exemplify each of the four different behavior types, watch how they interact, identify what makes them happy and what makes them annoyed. Start anticipating and addressing their needs and watch your business blossom. Good luck!