Buying Behaviours are a completely different way of thinking about customers. Unfortunately, they appear superficially similar to personality types and behavioural styles - which have been inappropriately used in sales processes for over eighty years.
Why Personality Typing is a Lousy Client Analysis Tool
Now, don't get me wrong. I am a huge fan of personality typing in recruitment and placement and of behavioural styles in teamwork, personal and professional development and leadership. It's just that often these tools are asked to perform tasks they were never meant for. For example, what's the use of analysing a client's personality type when that same personality type has been known to exhibit entirely different buying behaviour in different sales environments? I've even known companies that still use the model of the four temperaments (choleric, sanguine, etc) - first documented by Hippocrates 2,500 years ago!
How is Buying Behaviour Different?
Buying behaviour is more closely related to behavioural styles (like DiSC) because it involves two of the same parameters: (1) How 'friendly" they perceive the environment to be. (2) How much personal power they believe they have in this interaction. Buying behaviour and behavioural styles are different because buying behaviour involves two further parameters, past experience and buying beliefs.
Past experience is a huge determinant in buying behaviour. We retain long memories of sales interactions - particularly unhappy ones - and these significantly influence our approach next time we have to purchase what we see as a similar product. You need to be aware that products that the client sees as similar can appear totally unrelated to you. For example, you might see absolutely no connection between purchasing new software for their business and buying a replacement kitchen appliance - but, to them, they are virtually identical. They are both situations where they have little knowledge or interest in the product, no confidence in being able to make the right choice and they resent having to spend the money in the first place.
Regardless of our personality type, we all have set beliefs about how we need to act in a buying role. Often these beliefs vary depending on the product. I have known people who are generous as saints when dealing with their local shopkeeper but like Genghis Kahn when buying a new car. This all comes back to their beliefs about the trustworthiness of a particular industry. Sometimes, these are based on past experience, but, more often they are driven by stereotypes. They expect real estate agents to embellish the property and motor vehicle salespeople to be loose with the truth - so they are cynical and untrusting. They expect wait staff to be knowledgeable and honest with their food and drink advice so they follow their suggestions on the chef's special and a wine to match. I'm not saying these stereotypes are justified (sorry to my friends in real estate and the motor trade); but that is the reality.
So, What Can You Do?
Recognise there are five buyer behaviours:
Emotive: Driven by impulse and emotion.
Offensive: Always trying to keep you on the back foot.
Cautious: Needs proof of claims and past evidence of success.
Appeaser: Says whatever you want to hear and hides negative thoughts and emotions from you.
Altruistic: Driven by their desire for fairness and concern for others.
Future articles will go into each of these in detail, but in the meanwhile, there is one question you should ask as early as the relationship will allow: "How did it go when you bought your current...? Or "What was it like for you last time you got something like this?" Any question that uncovers a customer's past experience and their level of trust gives you valuable information about how you should build the sales relationship with them. And if it's negative, that's okay, because you have a fantastic opportunity to create a unique impression and quickly build trust by treating them the exact opposite to what they expect.