Last time we finished at the point of declaring two basic selling styles, which we called relationship- and opportunity-focused. Only two? Well, we are at the 60,000 foot level here. Although these are broad generalizations, salespeople will have no trouble concluding in which camp they or their associates feel most comfortable. It boils down to selling through devising strategies or through relationship building, and at the end of the day, a bit of both. In this post we’ll use the 2 x 2 matrix tool to see how that works out.
Salespeople will have a comfort zone that lies to some degree with one of the two styles, and it’s important to know and recognize that. The affinity for one style over the other will also shift depending on circumstances, depending even how you feel physically or mentally on a particular day. It’s tough to appear to be the brightest star the room when you are sick with a bad case of the flu. Once you know which of the styles put you in your element, you can work on the other and become more proficient at blending it in.
The diagram shows a 2 x 2 matrix of opportunity-focused style against relationship-focused style. Each axis represents the use of one of these styles, ranging from low to high. In classic 2 x 2 fashion, this leads to four scenarios which we refer to as sales types. Note that we only talk about the extremes in the dimensions when we label the four quadrants. In practice, salespeople will show variations in both types that call fall anywhere within the space of the matrix.
There won’t be many experienced salespeople still in this quadrant. They won’t like dealing with people, and they will also be very weak at basic selling skills—there is no future in that for selling. This type could be a newcomer to sales who yet has to learn how to sell and improve their customer relationship skills. It’s easier to do the former rather than the latter. Liking people is something that is innate rather than taught.
The Type 2 salesperson places reliance on friendship with the customer to win sales. They shy away from competitive selling. They can get trounced by salespeople who outsmart them in the sale. This type of salesperson will have a loyal circle of customers who will repeatedly buy, but they won’t have the potential of the skillful salesperson who also has a knack for building rapport.
Type 3 salespeople are aggressive and hard-working. They use their knowledge of the way people buy to fine tune their selling skills. They are first to find the sales opportunity and work it, and their mastery of sales tactics stand them in good position to win. Unfortunately, they are awful when it comes to gaining customer trust, and can get scooped by salespeople who have more confidence with the customer. As these salespeople shun contact as much as possible, they are poor at following up to see if what they have sold actually works for the customer. Because of this, repeat sales are rare—hence their description as the “One-Hit Wonder.”
This is the quadrant in which all salespeople strive to gravitate to. Here, the salesperson is very comfortable at one-on-one interactions with the customer, and also proud of their ability to win the sale by sound and proven sales practice. What’s more, they can switch between either of the styles as the dynamic of the sale changes.
Every salesperson should focus their development, learning and effort toward being a Type 4 salesperson. The mandate of sales training is to increase sales ability; to help salespeople move from a low to a high opportunity focus. This will be most commonly observed by a salesperson moving from Type 2 to Type 4. It can also help the Type 1 salesperson move to Type 3, but for the most part, the Type 1 salesperson is a lost cause unless they are a raw beginner. Fortunately a Type 1 beginner is extremely rare—the discovery of sales happens by showing talent elsewhere in the company or by having a love of working with people.
It’s valuable for salespeople to understand this simple representation of the two selling styles, and to develop an honest and truthful assessment of where they fall on the 2 x 2 grid. You can do this by reviewing some of your key exchanges in some of the most important sales. How much influence came from working closely on a personal level with the customer? How much came from executing a flawless strategy that overcame the competition?