Culture, Nicola Cook, Recruitment, Sales Skills

Build on your Natural Selling Style

 July 10, 2015

By  Nicola Cook

It’s important to be honest about both the strengths AND challenges different selling styles present. Nicola Cook explains in greater depth what to expect from each style.

After reading the outlines in Selling Styles Part 1, do you find yourself associating in particular with one of these styles?

  • The Gladiator
  • The Best Friend
  • The Wizard
  • The Banker
  • The Monarch

Or have you begun to pigeon hole some of your colleagues?!

If you are still undecided then keep reading, as next I outline some of the challenging characteristics of each of the styles. You may find yourself identifying more easily with some of the problems that each style can create.

It’s often easier to spot selling styles, particularly their weaknesses in others, however make sure you also focus on what you need to improve!

1. Gladiators – the downsides

Gladiator’s maybe a forceful bunch, but they are also terribly disorganised! They’re always dashing between appointments often without the correct information to hand. Just as a clash in the Gladiatorial arena leaves a wake of destruction, Gladiators who lack discipline can create turmoil within the workplace.

They abhor paperwork and never finish things off. Filing any form of paperwork is an unfamiliar concept to them, or at least filing anything anywhere other than in huge piles around (or even under) their desk is an unfamiliar concept! Their expenses are always late and usually missing receipts. Order forms will be missing information and they have constant run-ins with the operational team who are always chasing them for up-to-date accurate information.

They skirt around systems, forget to update customer records, are forever running out of time, either turning up for appointments with minutes to spare or are indeed late. They don’t respond well to authority and hate being told what to do. The purpose of reporting makes no sense to them – they are far to busy chasing the next big opportunity to record how many phone calls they’ve made today! At best they’ll bodge their sales report from memory, minutes before the weekly sales meeting.

Sometimes (although not always) you may have to widen the doorways to fit their heads through, as underneath that huge helmet lies a Gladiatorial sized ego which can often lead them to over-inflate their contribution to the organisation, their reported sales figures, or certainly their projected sales figures.

However, perhaps the worst weakness of the Gladiator is their inability to instinctively follow-up the opportunities they create. Because they are always chasing the next big victory, they don’t follow-through on the commitments they’ve already made to existing prospects. Proposals will be late, or last minute. They are impossibly hard to reach or pin down if you want to get in touch with them. Often due to their lack of long-term focus and organisational skills they don’t take the follow-up action they’ve promised; which sadly means they often miss the opportunities that are right underneath their noses.

Ensure you either set yourself clear boundaries for your own behaviour i.e. set an alarm to remind you to leave in plenty of time for an appointment or set time aside every day or every week to return phone calls and finish off paperwork; or ensure these types of boundaries are agreed within the organisation, otherwise you may be left with some messy carnage and some unhappy customers to deal with.

I once worked as the only female in a sales team full of male Gladiators. It was absolute chaos and the lack of organisation and systems, at times drove me bonkers! One guy, we actually nicknamed ‘The Tasmanian Devil’, after the cartoon character that would spin around so fast and create bedlam wherever he went. Having said that, working with these guys was also some of the most fun I’ve ever had working in a sales team. We laughed out loud daily and underneath the competitiveness lay a strong bond between us.

2. Best Friends – the downsides

It’s easy to spot a Best Friend sales person, just look at their projected sales or pipeline sales report, which will be enormous! Best Friend’s are brilliant at building rapport, yet often fail to move the sales process on, so they will be communicating with hundreds of people, many of which the opportunities will have gone stale – yet they are still spending time befriending them.

Their biggest challenge is that they hate rejection so much, they really take it personally, so they never actually get round to asking for the business. Their best hope is that at some point in the friendship the client will actually ask them to place the order.

They are so focused on building relationships they fail to pre-qualify their leads, again hoping that by befriending a prospect, any prospect a sale will ensue, whereas their time would be better spent qualifying their prospects, closing down their existing pipeline and moving on from those that say ‘Not just yet’.

Best Friends will be spending around eighty per cent of their time talking to their existing pipeline prospects rather than identify those that are true opportunities. They fail to distinguish between a true prospect for their business and a nice person.

Develop a system to keep track of all your prospects, so you only need focus on your qualified opportunities and allow others the time to mature into ‘hot’ prospects without losing any of their personal information or the detail of the communications you’ve had.

Best Friends struggle to fit anymore new business opportunities into their diary, as their meetings never last one hour or less. A Gladiator may schedule five or more appointments into their day, a Best Friend will manage two, at best three – each taking almost half a day at a time.

Best Friends also have a tendency to become just that, best friends. They can become overly familiar with a prospect and cross over from being a business acquaintance to someone who offers counsel in all areas of the prospect’s life, not just the business proposition and this can be distracting when your focus should be on delivering sales results.

How do I know all of this – because I was a Best Friend! I always had a hundred or more ‘hot’ leads in my pipeline at any one time, some of which I’d been talking to for over a year. I could tell you almost every intricate detail of all of my prospects. I knew their wedding anniversaries, when their wives were

having their wisdom teeth removed (I once sent a prospect a card for just that very reason!) and obviously I knew all their goals, aspirations and fears for themselves and their businesses. I was known amongst my peers as someone who knew all the detail, to such an extent, that I even had a colleague (who was a Banker in style – only focused on closing the deal) send me a text, whilst he was sat with a prospect in a sales meeting, asking me the name of the client he was with because he had forgotten!

Being the Best Friend in the team, he knew it would be easy information for me to recall. I was the best Best Friend in the business – but while my sales potential was huge, my actual results, were, at best, mixed. I remember distinctly the month I had to report a ‘zero’ figure on my sales report, never again would I allow myself to sabotage my sales performance by not overcoming my own fear of rejection. From that moment on, although I didn’t lose any Best Friend qualities in my approach to selling, I gained a lasting laser sharp focus for the overall sales objectives, which has stayed with me ever since.

Best Friends need to overcome their personal fear of rejection so that they close the business down or allow their prospects time to mature into hot opportunities, meanwhile focus again on finding more qualified new business opportunities.

3. Wizards – the downsides

For all their knowledge, Wizards can be a self-absorbed group. They are more interested in what their product does, as opposed to what it can do for the customer. Their sales technique is largely based on giving the client as much factual information as possible, until the client, weighed down with a ton of information, keels over and simply agrees to the sale, sometimes feeling that is the only way they will get the Wizard to shut up! Often a Wizard won’t stop talking, even after the client has agreed, they will keep on dishing out every point of detail until they have none left.

Wizards can’t abide silences. If a client is quiet whilst absorbing and contemplating the information they’ve just been given, the Wizard assumes they haven’t heard enough, and yes you’ve guessed it – they bombard the prospect with even more facts and technical information. Superhot salespeople know when they should be listening, when they should be talking and most importantly when they need to Shut Up!Silence in a sales conversation doesn’t automatically mean rejection. Let the client absorb what you’re saying.

Sometimes the client may feel as if the Wizard isn’t listening and that’s because they’re not. No matter how hard the Wizard is attempting to listen to the client, in their head they are thinking about what they will say next. You can easily spot this happening, just watch a Wizard’s eyes glaze over and their facial expression change to one of ‘lights are on but nobody is home’ expression – all very off-putting if you are the customer observing this behaviour.

Their primary focus is always on sharing with the client all the knowledge they have, as opposed to giving the client only the information required to make a positive buying decision. This is because they gain their feelings of confidence and validate themselves, by others appreciating how much knowledge they have.

Buying signals, stacking benefits, creating compelling reasons to buy, objection handling, building rapport, what are these? In fact, all technical sales skills, to the Wizard are alien concepts. Why would they need them anyway, when their potions taste soooo good, and if only the client would drink sufficient quantity, then they will easily fall under the Wizard’s spell – or so the Wizard thinks!

Another challenge the Wizard has to overcome is allowing their business proposition becoming detached from the current market opportunity. Because they’re focus and belief is largely wrapped up in their business and their product and during the sales process they fail to relate this to the customer, they can fail to spot changes in the market opportunity. This can mean they miss the beginning of a market downturn and they continue to sell a product they believe in strongly, yet the market is not buying. Or indeed, they fail to spot an opportunity to develop their product in a way that could translate into positive business growth.

Also, due to their lack of natural empathy skills, they can come across as self-absorbed. Wizards can talk too much, are poor listeners and their biggest failing is their inability to quantify the buyer’s emotional connection to their product or service and then create a sale based on those reasons. They just believe that their product is the best in the world and once someone knows all about it, obviously they would want to buy it.

Wizards need to master the 5 Step Sales Secret Sales Skills and then follow the structure of a purposeful conversation. For all their knowledge they must learn how to combine this with sales skills, which will massively increase their levels of success.

Even Wizards who are at the top of their profession, such as Accountancy, Law, Medicine, Technology, Education etc. may still need to become better at learning how to transfer that knowledge and experience into a conversation of influence, which is sometimes difficult for their ego to accept!

4. Bankers – the downsides

For all their business experience, some Bankers still have flaws. Their eagerness to close the deal may mean they rush the sales process, losing rapport with the customer and therefore making the client feel uncomfortable or pressured. Although many Bankers are often experienced business people, if the business (or even themselves) are under extreme pressure, perhaps cash flow is tight, or they are short on time; they have a tendency to transfer that additional pressure onto the client which makes them become more reluctant to commit, which in turn makes the Banker apply even more pressure to sell with a short-term focus. In this scenario usually their client will sense their desperation and will be put off.

A Banker’s focus is always on closing the deal and they are usually great negotiators, however, their eagerness to acquire the business makes them tempted to make a deal where the value delivered cannot be matched against the expectations set by them in the sales process. I.e. they over promise and under deliver. Aside from the operational challenges this causes, this will not build loyalty with their clients and they will find it difficult to acquire repeat business and referrals if they continually set the organisation up to fall short of client’s expectations.

Also, this bad habit does not make them popular with other internal departments. They may feel it’s absolutely fine to clinch a deal by agreeing to shave seven days off the delivery schedule, or slot a new business contract into an already overcommitted schedule, but decisions like this can throw a company into fire fighting chaos and create tensions between sales and operations.

I once consulted to an international manufacturer of large excavators to the construction industry. The Sale Administration team managed the after sales and delivery process with the organisations worldwide network of re-sellers and dealers. When I started working with the organisation this particular team was extremely frustrated. They dealt daily with a barrage of complaints from dealers who were being informed that the delivery dates for their orders had slipped. The re-sellers often had customers of their own who had pre-ordered the stock, so the slippage would have huge impact on their ability to meet their own client’s expectations, let alone the impact on their own business revenue and cashflow.

The lead time on the product was around 4-6months and they had to tell the dealers they would not receive their excavator for an additional 2-4 weeks. On further investigation this scenario was repeated with almost every single order, yet the solution appeared so simple to me – regardless of the expected delivery dates issued by the production schedule, add on an additional 6 weeks to the anticipated delivery date and communicate this new date to the dealer, as this would allow for some slippage in the schedule. This appeared to be such an obvious solution yet the Bankers on the sales team were less keen to tell their customers upfront that their goods may take longer to arrive; they had been used to the Sales Administration team mopping up their messes. However once the changes were implemented, the dealers, although some were not overly happy at their products taking 6 weeks longer to arrive, were more delighted that they did arrive within the timeframes agreed or even 2 weeks early!

Depending on a Banker’s personal motivations, their desire for the acquisition for monetary rewards can lead them to be more driven for their own gain, rather than seeking the best solution for the client which can create another bad habit of overselling; convincing the client to buy more than they really need.

This is an interesting point, as some people would say that that is the job of a sales professional to sell as much as is humanly possible. However, in my book ‘The Secrets of Success in Selling’ I define a conman as a person who operates without integrity and I believe it is more important to qualify your client’s needs and sell accordingly. It’s every person’s individual call to make but when you lie in bed at night and you listen to the stillness of your own heart only you know the truth of your actions. So if reputation and repeat business are important to you, then avoid overselling where it’s not going to benefit the client.

This is a great question to ask, to ensure you always sell with both a short-term & long-term focus; “If we didn’t need the money from this sale – would this still be a good deal for the customer and my business?”

I myself have left employment more than once previously in my career because I no longer believed in the product or company. In two of these cases, this was largely created by the Bankers I worked for, who were putting their desires to make money for the business at any cost, above delivering on the service and expectations for our clients.

5. Monarchs – the downsides

For all their strong abilities to make great Managers and Account Managers, Monarchs can also have their flaws. Monarchs can become detached from the sharp end of the sales within their team, instead focusing on information gathered from their systems, some of which can at times be archaic. Rather than talking to internal and external customers to find out the reality instead they can love their systems to such an extent that if they’re not careful they can lose sight of the purpose in collating all that information. In these instances, it would be prudent for Monarchs to take a step back and look at the object they wish to achieve by collating information and implementing processes, rather than allow systems to build organically overtime or continue to use inherited processes.

A Monarch should consider job-swapping so that they appreciate other people’s efforts, challenges & opportunities, and if you are a Monarch of seniority within your company, make time to speak to an external customer at least once a day.

A Monarch can sometimes appear unapproachable, isolated in their ivory towers and ineffective at communicating with their client base. Therefore, it’s important that Monarch’s find ways to maintain consistent and open lines of communication to both their, often very large, client base as well as those working within the organisation; otherwise, this perception of disconnection may make them unpopular or poorly understood.

A Monarch should make sure they still spend time in the ‘Engine room’ of their organisation, getting out and about with their sales team, observing and participating first hand in the sale process, then they can be confident that the sales targets and objectives can be achieved and it gives them the opportunity to experience firsthand any shifts in market trends or sales opportunities.

One of my best friends, Angela Armstrong, until recently held a position of considerable responsibility within one of the UK’s largest retailers. She started her career in retail as a Saturday girl and has worked her way up the chain of command. Although her current role is much more strategic and as a senior manager she is required to deliver her sales results through her teams’ performance, she is always the first to roll up her sleeves and get stuck in at the grass roots level to maintain her connection with the ‘coal face’ of the organisation.

I remember one evening, whilst I waited outside for her to close-up a particular flagship store, I watched as she grabbed the vacuum cleaner and proceeded to vacuum the entire sales floor. Later when I questioned her reasons for doing so (knowing that that this particular task clearly was not her personal responsibility) she answered that she wanted to demonstrate to the team, quite simply that the store could be vacuumed within 15minutes, something that some of the team previously refused to accept! Likewise she is the first to offer support in a shop refit, or a stock move, or as an additional member of the sales team on peak trading days. Only by actively participating in this way can a Monarch really understand the opportunities and challenges of their sub-ordinates.

Help! I can’t decide on a style.

It’s likely following these descriptions that you are either laughing out loud as you think of one or more of your colleagues or indeed yourself if you resonate with some of the characteristics from a particular style. Or you may be finding yourself draw to more than one style and relating to a number of the characteristics from each of the styles?

The purpose of highlighting the characteristics from each of the Gladiator, Best Friend, Wizard, Banker and Monarch is simply to draw out your natural approach to sales and also highlight any areas you may need to work on. Therefore it’s important, that as well as identifying with a particular style, you understand what you need to improve on.

Even if you are unclear about your particular style, or you can’t choose between a few of them; for the next two weeks pay attention to your natural preferences as you approach your sales tasks.

From these observations you should begin to see a pattern forming that you can attribute to the different selling styles. You may find that you demonstrate dominant behaviour of one style, or that you are a mixture of a few of them.

Either way, the purpose behind any form of self-awareness exercise is simply to help you identify what you do well, to boost your confidence and self-belief in that area; and also highlight any areas that you need to work on. Write down some actions that can help overcome the frustrations that your behaviour has created as these will help you improve your overall performance. For example, allow an additional 15mins when you plan your travelling time in between appointments. Or decide you will review your potential sales in your pipeline once a fortnight and either move them on or close them down.

Pay attention to your natural preferences to find your sales style.

If you would like to pursue your leadership development with Company Shortcuts, look at our Leadership Programme here or email us for more information.

Next we will look at managing different selling styles in a team.

Nicola Cook

Nicola Cook is an award-winning entrepreneur and twice published international best-selling author on professional selling and personal & business growth. She is CEO of Company Shortcuts, a business devoted to improving business results by injecting skill, passion and strategy to help those entrepreneurs and sales enthusiasts achieve the sales results they desire.

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