Now that I am getting back into the sales side of things, I have been reading a variety of books to step up my game by finding new approaches and making them my own. I was particularly intrigued by an idea I read in Biz Dev Done Right by Caryn Kopp and Carl Gould*. In their book, they share the idea that there are four basic buying styles that govern how people, and in our case shippers, like to purchase. If as sales professionals you can identify the dominant buying style of a given prospect, write Kopp and Gould, you can adapt your pitch and process to make the person more comfortable. The more comfortable the person becomes, the more likely they are to buy from you. So I thought I’d share a brief outline of how to identify the four styles and how you can apply them to the transportation business.

How to identify and adapt to the Four Buying Styles:

  1. Panthers like to pounce: They don’t like to drag things out. You can identify a panther because they are quick and results focused. They can be very demanding customers, but are also very decisive and so they won’t have any patience for a long, drawn out sales story. With Panthers, it’s important to quickly get to the bottom line, “what’s in it for me,” so they can make a decision and move on. During a sales conversation, you may sense impatience from this shipper. Once you have piqued their interest, it’s important to quickly identify their pain points and needs and demonstrate why you can quickly and easily alleviate their pain and satisfy their shipping needs. If you can’t, put everyone out of their misery and close the process so you can both move on. Since Panthers are demanding customers, if they pounce on you and you’re not the right solution, it will be a painful waste of time for both sides.
  2. Politicians like trends: They care what others think. They want to please others in their organization and promote their status. You can identify a Politician because they are the type who needs the newest iPhone the second it comes out, so they can show everyone how up with the latest technology they are. You can take more time talking to Politicians, because they need to be coaxed and even appreciate being flattered. They want to know they are making the best choice possible and that others in their organization will think they are amazing for choosing you as their freight agent. Again, once you coax out the true underlying need that is driving the buying decision, if you can demonstrate that you are the best option, Politicians will glom onto you as long as they will look like the hero in the end.
  3. Protectors like tradition: They like predictability and want to reduce risk. As a Gen-Xer, I may be dating myself here, but people used to say “No one gets fired for buying IBM.” (For you Millennials out there, IBM used to be the leader in business computers, akin to Microsoft in the software side of things.) Protectors see their role as protecting the company, so unlike the politician, they don’t want anything trendy. With Protectors, you need to follow a logical, step-by-step sales process that feels safe and consistent. They are very methodical, so don’t come up with any surprises. Once they feel comfortable with you, your approach to the freight market, and how you will handle their freight safely and effectively, they may consider switching to you or adding you to their roster of resources.
  4. Professors like to analyze data and take their time in making decisions. They are looking for high quality suppliers with proven track records. So with Professors, you need to demonstrate your reliability with facts and figures. Sharing case studies on other customers you have helped save time and money, and specifically how much time and money you save would be of great interest to this type of buyer. Oddly enough, they don’t even have to like you personally, as long as the data add up. If they can do more research on their own, Professors will delay a decision, so potentially having other shipper testimonials ready at hand or providing references can help.

So now that you know the different buying styles, you can craft different sales messages for each of these buyer types and have them ready in your sales arsenal so you can change tactics once you get a feel for the type of buyer with whom your dealing. It sounds like a lot of work, but really, you know yourself and your services the best. By taking on the approaches one by one, you can become a master at identifying and using this approach to close more sales. And if you note down their buyer type in your CRM (Customer Relationship Manager) software, you will always know how to approach them. I just offered a peek into one of the topics covered in Biz Dev Done Right, but I do recommend getting the book* to find even more ways to master the sales process and up your game. Happy Holidays and Happy Selling!

– By Cheryl Biron, President

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*Click through for full references on books that inspired us: