Why salespeople must surface their inner chameleon - and how to do it
Every salesperson knows that long-term customer relationships are the key to success. Nonetheless, most sales training pays little or no attention to how personality styles affect these relationships.
Sales skills and strategies are crucial, but there is a third “S” that is just as important: Style. It encompasses the personality-driven behaviors and needs of both the salesperson and the customer.
To unpack style, let’s start with a basic principle of human behavior: People tend to treat others how they like to be treated. If I am someone who wants all the details before making a buying decision, I am likely to provide a lot of detail to my customers. I am driven by the subconscious thought, “I can’t make a decision without having all of the data, so they must need all of the data before they decide.”
The problem is that other people don’t necessarily want what we want. We need to reverse this innate tendency to sell others how we like to be sold to and instead sell to others how they like to buy. When you act like a chameleon and adapt to the customer’s needs, customers feel satisfied and you close the deal.
At the heart of this Chameleon Selling process is the ADAPT model:
- A stands for Assess your own style. Since the most self-aware people are the most successful people, the first step is to identify how you are wired to interact with others. By identifying your own personality style, you can ensure that you don’t impose your style on others.
- D stands for Determine your customer’s style. Using behavioural and environmental cues, quickly identify your customer’s style. Is the customer an Eagle (direct and decisive), a Parrot (enthusiastic and social), a Dove (sincere and harmonious) or an Owl (logical and precise)?
- A stands for Adjust to your customer’s style. Once you know both your style and your customer’s style, be the chameleon and flex to the customer.
- P stands for Perceive the impact of your style-flexing. Evaluate the response of your adapted behaviors. This allows you to repeat what’s working or alter your approach in the next interaction.
- T stands for Track reaction and results. That which gets recorded gets remembered. Log how you treated the customers so you can remember how to treat them next time.
Let’s put this model into action with Peter, a Parrot salesperson. Peter is upbeat, engaging, optimistic and charismatic. What he lacks in detail he makes up for with energy and passion.
Peter is about to meet with a new prospect and he is filled with excitement. Her name is Orla, and her company represents an incredible opportunity to expand Peter’s product line in a new region of the country. This could open many doors. Peter arrives at the meeting armed with vast product knowledge and a wealth of skills and strategies that he learned in sales training.
Peter shakes Orla’s hand and she doesn’t show much emotion. Her body language is poised and her tone is measured. Her office is flawlessly organised. Everything seems to have a place and everything is in its place.
Peter was taught that he needs to bond and connect before he probes for needs. So off he goes, schmoozing and sharing stories. But he gets little response in return. Orla seems like she is participating in the obligatory game of talking about the picture on her wall of a beautiful mountain and how she likes hiking…and evidently, Peter does, too. Peter doesn’t feel he built a strong enough connection, so he doesn’t leave phase 1 of the selling process, Bond & Connect, until he feels ready. After all, how can he close the deal if he skips building rapport?
Regardless of whether you are an Eagle, Parrot, Dove or Owl, your long-term success will be built upon being the chameleon.
When he finally moves onto Probing for Needs, Peter doesn’t ask many questions so he can get to his favorite phase, Presenting the Product. Peter’s enthusiasm is palpable. He knows that the more excited he is, the more excited Orla will be, so he turns up the dial on his enthusiasm.
Peter senses that Orla is not feeling his excitement, but his training kicks in and he moves on to Handling Objections. Orla launches into a barrage of questions, which Peter dispatches quickly to reassure her that his product is exactly what she needs.
To his surprise, Peter did not close the deal with Orla. He used all of his sales skills and strategies, but they did not work in this case.
Peter’s problem was not his lack of training or experience. He knew the selling process, but it didn't matter because he lacked the third S, Style. Let’s replay this scenario using the ADAPT model.
First, Peter Assesses his own style and recognises his Parrot nature. He realises that his natural approach is to sell with gusto and enthusiasm. Next, he quickly Determines Orla’s style. Her matter-of-fact tone and desire to get right into the details reveals that she is a logical and analytical Owl. He immediately Adjusts his approach to mirror her Owl style. He makes a few passing comments to build rapport, but quickly moves into probing to understand her needs. He asks question after question until he believes he understood every aspect of her company’s current pain and future objectives. And while this process is exhausting for Peter, he knows that it is necessary to satisfy Orla’s needs.
Throughout the meeting, Peter takes care to Perceive how his chameleon-like flexing to Orla’s style is working. When he returns to his office, he makes sure that he Tracks and records how he ADAPTed to Orla. Peter ultimately closes the deal and builds a long-term relationship with a new customer.
This is the power of incorporating style into the selling process. Skills and strategies are critical for success, but style modulates both. The most successful salespeople are the most adaptable. Regardless of whether you are an Eagle, Parrot, Dove or Owl, your long-term success will be built upon being the chameleon.
Merrick Rosenberg is a keynote speaker, entrepreneur and thought leader on the personality styles. He co-founded Team Builders Plus in 1991 and Take Flight Learning in 2012. Merrick is the author The Chameleon and co-author of Taking Flight!. Merrick specializes in team building, leadership development, and utilizing the DISC personality styles...