Selling Styles and Customer Interactions

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Interaction Styles

An earlier post discussed the two selling styles and how salespeople needed to blend them to suit the occasion—a particular point in the sales cycle. What is meant by blending styles? To answer this question, we need to revisit customer interactions. Most selling is done in face to face interactions with the customer, and sales cycles usually involve several meetings in which the salesperson plays out a scripted strategy to win the sale.

Although a good salesperson will have mapped out the objectives of a call beforehand, things don’t always go as planned. The customer may be having a bad day which will bring the salesperson’s personal skills into play. Conversely, the customer may be ready to take off for a weekend at the cottage, and the salesperson must try to get the business taken care of as there may not be another chance for a long time. The salesperson must hop between relationship and opportunity focus as appropriate.This is blending, and a Type 4 salesperson can do it blindfolded. It’s possible for a customer interaction to be wholly biased to one selling style or the other, but usually one of the two styles is predominant.

Relationship Focused Interactions

Suppose a salesperson visits an old and loyal customer who, at that time, has no specific interest in buying anything. The salesperson is conscientious in servicing the customer after a sale, and this is one of those visits. The objective is to check in to see if everything is OK, but the salesperson knows that this customer buys frequently, and the visit could unearth an early sign of a future sale.

This interaction is based almost entirely on relationship focus. There is no pressure being driven by a current opportunity as this is a service call. But, there may be a chance of another sale and the salesperson has to be ready for this possibility, and actively on the lookout for it. To do this they must exercise some opportunity focus. This is a relationship focused interaction, but it is backed up by judicious use of opportunity focus to check for future business.

rel-focusA relationship focused customer interaction is heavily weighted toward the personal interaction of the salesperson to the customer, but is supported by a coupled awareness of the need to discover a sales opportunity (opportunity focus)

Opportunity Focused Interactions

Another type of meeting with a customer might be quite different. The salesperson is in the late stage of a sales opportunity and a competitor is perceived to be the preferred vendor. Something has to be done. A tactic is to convince the customer that the competitor has no track record and no service, but just an attractive price. The message has to be put over to the customer, and this may be the only time to do it. Some selling must be done (opportunity focus.) There won’t be any time for dissension; diplomacy is paramount. If the relationship is broken, the sale won’t happen.

opp-focusAn opportunity focused customer interaction is dominated by the need to overcome competitive pressures and win the sale. It is supported by a parallel effort to maintain rapport with and respect from the customer

Each of these special customer interactions has quite a different focus, but each has its own special value to be used as the situation requires.

Interactions in Practice

The two interaction styles are quite different, and there are times when one or other will work better with the customer. Salespeople who understand this will be ahead in the sale. Again this is why Type 4 is the place to be. Type 4 salespeople have an uncanny sense of how to slant their discussion towards the opportunity or the relationship.

Using the way we have defined sell, salespeople won’t be selling all the time. They will be selling when the customer is buying, and when the customer is not, the salesperson will be maintaining relationships but always looking for the opportunity to sell.

It’s been shown that salespeople are selling most of their time to repeat buyers—customers who have purchased from them before. In the next post we’ll look at how that fact sets out a strong pattern for the use of one interaction over the other.

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