Have you bought into the idea that to succeed in sales you need to be outgoing, friendly, persuasive or even glib? Some sales organizations hire only people who fit that stereotype.

However, research by the Brooks Group with thousands of salespeople reveals that personality type really has very little to do with sales success. In some cases, the “right” personality (according to the myth) is the absolute wrong personality for certain situations. And personality mismatches often lead to lost sales opportunities.

The common denominator
Brooks’s research indicates that successful salespeople aren’t necessarily the extroverted and persuasive “sales type.” But they all have one key quality: flexibility. In this context, flexibility means:

  • Adjusting your personality to match the demands of the situation in which you find yourself.
  • Empowering yourself to blend your personality to be in total coordination with the pace, tone and speed of your prospect.
  • Not forcing your “dynamic personality” onto a prospect who is cool, distant or removed.
  • Not talking your head off constantly to a quiet or reserved prospect.
  • Not being distant and cool with a prospect who is warm, engaging and interested in dealing with you.

What’s the social ‘dress code’?
You know there are some prospects who will throw you out if you don’t show up in a suit. Others think you’re uptight unless you’re wearing flip flops. You have to play it as it lays.

In the same way, you should take your cues on how to behave from the prospect. Let the prospect dictate how the two of you will interact. You may think the best way to develop rapport is to be enthusiastic and friendly. But some buyers will consider that approach unprofessional; they want you to maintain a formal, respectful distance.

Dress codes are obvious. Social codes may be harder to decipher. Let’s take a look at how you can adapt to your buyers:

  1. Approach every prospect with an open mind, not a set of assumptions.
  2. Do as much advance groundwork as possible to learn the fundamental personality style of your prospect. Someone in your organization may have some insight; or your other contacts at the target company may.
  3. Approach sales prospects neutrally until they exhibit that fundamental style. Then adjust to them. Don’t assume your precall homework is correct.
  4. Look for cues in the prospect’s responses. Be prepared to shift gears quickly when your approach isn’t working.
  5. Look for one point of similarity and use it. You don’t have to try to be a clone of your prospect; one area of common ground is often all that’s needed to create a bond.

When you come to prospects this way – on their terms instead of your own – they’ll likely be more receptive to what you have to say. And you’ll have a better chance of getting to the next phase of the sale.

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