One of the wisest things I've ever read came from the pen of American writer Anais Nin. She said, "We don't see things as they are; we see them as we are." It is human nature to imprint the way we see the world on everyone and everything we encounter. This behavioral quirk can have a direct effect on how we perform on sales calls. We spend our workdays as sales people, but we spend a good deal of our leisure time as consumers. We purchase everything from a pair of socks to a new car, from a magazine to a 4 bedroom home. How we approach making a purchase, our personal "buying style", is as unique as a fingerprint. Some people are impulse buyers and make snap decisions on even major items. Others like to research and deliberate when shopping for something they want. Some of us are price shoppers while others are more focused on quality and brand names.
It is quite dangerous to assume that our customers share our buying style. I have a much deserved reputation for being the world's cheapest man. I drive a 1995 Ford Escort and buy a lot of my clothes at Goodwill. This is great for my savings account, but my frugality hurt my sales efforts when I started in the business. As a young rep, I thought that customers would always be interested in the lowest cost option. As I gained experience, I came to learn that many buyers were more interested in results, or the best coverage etc. They were more interested in advertising that addressed these concerns than they were in buying the least expensive program. Not being aware of a customer's buying style, and your own, can lead to communication difficulties. If the rep is an impulse buyer, they may not understand why a customer needs research to make a decision. Once, I was with a rep who liked to collect as much information as possible before making a buying decision. We presented a program to a customer who immediately responded, "That sounds good to me!" The rep actually had trouble recognizing this buying signal. He said to the customer, "I'm sure you'll need time to think this over." He would have walked away from the sale if I hadn't been there to close the sale for him. The key here is to recognize your own bias and to observe the customer to determine their individual style.
Managers should ask their sales people about their individual buying style. Asking a rep to describe the process they use to purchase a car or other big ticket item will help the manager to understand their rep's individual approaches to selling. By helping our reps to understand how their behavior as a customer influences their behavior as a seller is sure to increase their sales.