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Matching Your DISC Selling Style to the Client’s DISC Buying Style

Posted 9 years ago

They feel understood. They buy when they get what they expect—and more. But more what? That’s where the salesperson’s knowledge of behavioral styles comes in (see sidebar.) The perceptive salesperson knows the ‘D’ Style client, for example, wants more control. However, the ‘I’ Style cries out for more recognition and excitement. The ‘S’ Style wants more support, and the ‘C’ Style more logic. The most successful salespeople customize their approach and follow-through for each type. In addition, the best salespeople also reject the traditional concept of a sale. Yesterday’s selling systems will not work today because they were designed for an adversarial environment. When your clients are your partners, and you want them as lifetime partners, you cannot sell using commando tactics. A Cooperative Triumph A case in point is a person I know who started selling Toyotas in the early 1980s. He was so laid back, so people-oriented, so lacking in the customary intensity that his peers in the showroom actually made fun of him. For one thing, they thought he was bizarre with his emphasis on getting clients whatever fact they wanted, no matter how long it took or how difficult it was to get. Secondly, he absolutely refused to pressure people. “The coconut will drop from the tree when, and if, it’s ready,” he sometimes said. The others tittered. However, before long, unusual things started happening in that showroom. Some of his clients began coming by just to chat and say how they were enjoying their car. New prospects would ask for him by name because of referrals. He was named “Best Salesperson of the Month” so many times that he ran out of wall space to hold all his plaques. As his more competitive colleagues looked on in amazement, he was named sales manager of the dealership. Then one day he was gone; recruited by corporate headquarters to teach others about effective selling. Not bad for the person the others used to poke fun at! The point is the modern, collaborative salesperson helps the client solve a problem, fill a need, or reach a goal. He or she does not see the sale as just a one-time event in which persuasiveness triumphs over resistance. Rather, he views it as a cooperative triumph, which paves the way for a long-term partnership. Because today’s clients are looking for just such long-term relationships, your ability to collaborate with your clients will make or break your career. So the question becomes: How can you best cement that relationship, regardless of the client’s style? A Matching Process A sale is a matching process. You match the right product or service to your client’s needs…and your selling style with the client’s buying style. To do so, you must learn to adapt your style to that of your client. Of the four styles, the two most outgoing ones—the ‘D’ Styles and ‘I’ Styles—are often grouped together because they are both fast-paced and assertive. ‘C’ Styles and ‘S’ Styles, by contrast, are generally quieter, slower to decide, and less assertive. However, it is not quite that simple. For example, ‘D’ Styles and ‘C’ Styles also are alike in that they both tend to emphasize the need to accomplish tasks and get results. ‘I’ Styles and ‘S’ Styles put a higher priority on personal relationships. So, where does that leave you as a salesperson? Well, first try to determine which type your dealing with, then adjust your pace and your priority. You will find can get rid of much tension in a relationship if you start by simply altering your speed of doing things. Then adjust if need be, your priority–that is, whether you emphasize task or relationship.

Adjusting Pace and Priority

If you are a ‘D’ Style or ‘I’ Style salesperson, and you want to deal better with ‘S’ Style or ‘C’ Style clients or clients, remember that they make decisions more slowly and more privately. So, first, try to be more relaxed. Ask their opinions and find ways to acknowledge and incorporate their opinion in the dialogue. Follow their lead rather than try to take control. Make it a point to listen more than you speak, and when you do speak, do not interrupt, challenge, or push the process along faster than they want it to go. Be tactful about any disagreement. If you are an ‘S’ Style or ‘C’ Style selling to a ‘D’ Style or ‘I’ Style, you need to pick up the pace. Initiate conversations, give recommendations, and avoid beating-around-the-bush. Maintain eye contact, use your firmest handshake, and speak strongly and confidently. As for priority, if you are an ‘S’ Style or ‘I’ Style, you naturally emphasize relationships and feelings in your sales presentations. However, to deal best with ‘D’ Styles or ‘C’ Styles, you will want to stress more the task. So get right to it: talk about the bottom line, use lots of facts, and logic. If possible, prepare an agenda and stick to it. Keep your meeting focused and short. Downplay your natural ebullience; ‘D’ Styles and ‘C’ Styles view excessive enthusiasm as “hype.” They also do not like to be touched by strangers or have their physical space invaded. So do not make further physical contact—beyond a handshake—until you are sure it is likely to be well received. Dress conservatively. Conversely, if you are a ‘D’ Style or ‘C’ Style salesperson, put the relationship first when dealing with ‘I’ Styles or ‘S’ Styles. Share your feelings, and let them know who you are. Show an interest in them: their job, family, hobbies, for example. Then use that knowledge in the future to personalize your dealings with them. Slow down and talk more.  Try to speak in a friendly, informal way. Be flexible with your time, tolerating digressions, such as stories and anecdotes. ‘I’ Styles and ‘S’ Styles are more comfortable with closer proximity. So stand closer than you normally would. Try to use a few relaxed gestures, such as leaning back, smiling, or gently patting the client on the back or shoulder. The point is: Everybody is easy to please, if you know how. With ‘D’ Styles, be efficient and competent. With ‘I’ Styles, listen and support their ideas or dreams and flatter them. With ‘S’ Styles, stress your warmth and sincerity, and for ‘C’ Styles, take care to be especially thorough and well prepared. Working Toward a Win-Win Treating your clients or clients the way they want to be treated, selling to them in the way they want to buy is a strategy that can change your life. Thousands of salespeople have successfully applied these techniques. They have experienced dramatic increases in sales as well as greater awareness of their own personal strengths and weaknesses. What I have described may be a fundamental change in the way you have been selling. If you start paying attention to your clients’ behavioral styles and you begin viewing sales as a collaboration, not a conquest, you may, in effect, be changing jobs. You may be changing from a person who “sells” things, who sees a sale as a one-shot event, who sees your clients merely as people who can help your career…to a person who “consults” and “solves problems” based on your knowledge of your client’s personal needs and desires. As you work at developing a win-win solution with everyone, you will find there is a side benefit. Not only will your business improve, but you will also find you will make many new friends along the way. You will be building lifetime loyalty to your product or service…and to yourself as well. The Four DISC Styles Sidebar Behavior differences are our boon and our bane—they are what make life so rich and fascinating…but often so frustrating, too. Most of us never figure people out. We just ricochet through life, getting along great with some people, refusing to deal with others, and having as little to do as possible with still others because they are so—well, different—from us. Over the centuries, many attempts have been made to understand people by dividing them into behavioral categories. Today there are dozens of such models, most of which group behavior into four behavioral styles. Each of us signals our basic type by how we shake hands or organize our office, whether we are chatty or curt on the phone, the way we approach tasks, how we embrace or resist change, the speed and rhythm of our speech…and many other ways.   THE ‘D’ Styles    These are forceful, take-charge people: direct, decisive, determined…and often domineering. They are born leaders who are neither shy nor subtle. Driven by an inner need to get results, they are firm in their relationships with others and more concerned with outcomes than egos. Often in a hurry, always working toward a goal, frequently opinionated, the highly competitive ‘D’ Styles stir up dust and create energy wherever they go.   THE ‘I’ Styles The friendly, enthusiastic ‘I’ Styles want to be in the middle of the action, whatever and wherever it is. While also fast-paced, they most value admiration, acknowledgement, and applause. Flashy and popular, they are trendsetters who sport the latest fashions, spout the hippest lingo, and toss around the newest ideas. They are much more people-oriented than task-oriented, but sometimes have the attention span of a flashcube.                    THE ‘S’ Styles    The teddy bears of the human zoo, ‘S’ Styles make you feel good just by being around. They are the most people-oriented of the four styles. So having close, friendly relationships is one of their highest priorities. Easy-going and slow-paced, ‘S’ Styles believe in self-control and tend to follow the rules. However, they dislike conflict so much that they sometimes can be unassertive, overly sensitive, and easily bullied.   THE ‘C’ Styles Like the ‘D’ Style, the ‘C’ Style is a results-oriented problem-solver—but in a quieter, more low-key way that is less likely to ruffle feathers. ‘C’ Styles are analytical, persistent, independent, and well organized. Not wanting to call attention to themselves, they prefer to work quietly alone, emphasizing accuracy and “correctness”—so much so that they are sometimes seen as aloof, meticulous, and critical.