How to Connect with Customers, Every Time

Published: Jan 24, 2019
Modified: Mar 24, 2020

The reasons for sales success can seem mysterious.  Why do some salespeople connect well with some customers and prospects but not with others?  Another salesperson may appear to waste time on social chit chat with customers, yet consistently closes sales.  And why does one time-tested approach succeed with some prospects, yet cause others to become impatient and tense? 

 At first glance, some salespeople just seem to have a knack for quickly putting almost anyone at ease.  They gain access to more contacts, enjoy greater customer loyalty, higher close rates, and more repeat business.  These are the lucky few often described as possessing good “people skills” that are said to be inborn and hard for others to acquire.

But our company’s Social Styles research indicates that these super salespeople are so successful because they use interpersonal versatility to communicate with others.  They have the ability to understand differences in communication preferences and to adapt their interactions to make them more productive.  The good news is that versatility is a skill that can be learned.  The people who master it are measurably more capable of building and sustaining open, trusting relationships with a wide variety of customers.

Defining One’s Social Style
According to the Social Styles model, everyone displays a recognizable set of preferences and habits in their interactions with others.  These preferences add up to our social style.  The four primary styles are:
1. Driver
2. Expressive
3. Amiable
4. Analytical

The four styles vary in terms of behaviors, reflecting the dimensions of Assertiveness (tell vs. ask) and Responsiveness (people vs. task orientation).  Drivers and Expressives tend to be more “tell” oriented, while Amiables and Analyticals are more “ask” oriented.  Analyticals and Drivers are more “task” oriented, while Amiables and Expressives are more “people” oriented.

When salespeople find it easy and natural to communicate with a customer or prospect, the likelihood is that they share the same social style.  But because only about 25% of people fall into each of the social style categories, each salesperson will share a social style with only 25% of the people he meets.  He will potentially experience difficulties in communicating with the other 75%. 

Think of the implications if a salesperson interacts with everyone in the same way. Some customers will find the salesperson to be overly friendly, while others might perceive him as aloof or not friendly enough.  Some customers will want a lot of different options to consider, while others will want to cut to the chase and know the bottom line right away.  These differences create tension in the relationship and can become barriers to making sales.

Versatility: The Key to Improved Business Results
Imagine the results if your entire team could connect successfully with 100% of the prospects and customers they meet. In one study, building the versatility skills of the sales force yielded a 53% improvement in market share.

Consider a company with 6.29% market share.  Suppose it has 1,000 customers, each purchasing $1,000 in product, making each one-percent increase in market share worth $158,982.  An improvement from a 6.29% market share to a 9.65% market share (or 3.36%) is equal to $534,179 in increased revenue.

Depending on your company’s industry, product offering, and market, increased versatility can bring boost your business’ results in a variety of ways.  Which issues are most critical in your organization right now?  Sales organizations challenged by the erosion of their existing customer base and price cutting competition can expand their opportunities by building stronger relationships with current contacts and developing a wider range of new business partnerships.  If the company is seeking to expand into new markets and increase prospecting activities to find new opportunities, versatility can make all the difference in establishing new relationships quickly and sustaining them to close sales and get repeat business.

Increasing Versatility
For most of us, interpersonal behaviors and preferences are habitual and largely unconscious.  The critical factor in becoming a more adaptable, versatile communicator is gaining the powerful insight that we do have different styles and that each style has unique strengths.  As salespeople come to better understand their own styles and recognize style differences among others, they will learn how to respond to their customers’ styles in a way that makes it easier to exchange information, reach mutually agreeable decisions, and work smoothly for successful sales closures, implementation, and follow up.  

Over time, as they develop higher levels of skill, salespeople will become adept at recognizing the indicators of different styles and adapting to them.  This adaptation will then become an integral part of how they communicate.  A highly versatile individual is almost always perceived as a highly effective communicator—someone who has those “good people skills,” is a trusted business partner, and is a successful negotiator.

The single most important factor for enhancing communication effectiveness across the board is style versatility.  As salespeople must work harder for every sale, building this kind of capability provides a real competitive advantage for the team the company as a whole.

©Wilson Learning Worldwide, Inc.