Since you're a reader of Inc., I think it's safe to assume that you and I have something in common: We both need to sell. You probably have your favorite sales techniques, and heaven knows there are hundreds of books on selling, but in my experience most entrepreneurs overlook one crucial aspect of selling: the way your customers' brains are built.
You will naturally get along with people who are like you. But that leaves out 75 percent of other people—and the worst thing you can do while selling is to approach someone the wrong way.
The more you study people, the more adept you will become at identifying the ways they think and behave. When you make the effort to see the world through the eyes of others, you will know how to engage their interests and how to help them achieve their ultimate goals. But here are nine ways to use your brain—and your buyers'—to make a deal.
1. Determine right away whether you are talking to "right-brained" or "left-brained" individuals. They require very different approaches. You notice a Nerf basketball hoop, a scribbled whiteboard, and an abstract painting, you know this person is "right-brained." If instead you notice a place for everything, an organized bookshelf, and technical equipment, you are mostly likely talking to someone "left-brained." Using an innovative, intuitive, emotional approach on an analytical, logical, practical person would be a disaster. And vice versa.
2. Determine the influencers and decision-makers behind the sale. They may not be the highest-ranked people in the company, and they may not even be in the room when you make your presentation. Ask if it would be okay to "cc" others in the company on your materials and correspondence.
3. Keep your behavior middle-of-the-road until you know more about the prospect. You don't want to arrive dressed for a rock concert and discover the other person is in Armani office attire. If you are generally enthusiastic but the other person is restrained, try to tone down your natural inclination to make exclamations. If you are generally reserved but the other person is an extravert, try to ratchet up your enthusiasm, so you don't inadvertently appear indifferent.
4. You can't be certain what type of brain your buyer has. Therefore, make sure your presentation appeals to all four types of brains. People who are analytical thinkers want to know the "ROI" right up front. Those who are structural thinkers want to improve on processes. Social thinkers, meanwhile, want to make an impact on a relationship or on the welfare of others. Conceptual ones are interested in connecting the dots. Be sure to discuss how (or if) your solution meets all these different needs.
5. To check for analytical thinkers, listen for words like "exactly" and "precisely." An analytical thinker first wants the bottom line, to make sure your discussion is worth the time it will take. This type of brain doesn't want to weigh a lot of options. Quickly provide an overview, then sit back and wait. Be prepared to answer all questions with spreadsheets, data, and research, and do not make a mistake or this individual will lose all confidence in you. If you don't know an answer, say you will get it immediately after the meeting—then do so.
6. To identify structural thinkers, listen for words like "turnaround time," "preparation," "realistic," "wait," or "hold on while I get this down." This type of thinker is concerned about whether existing systems might be affected. Be prepared to list exactly how and when your solution can be implemented.
7. To pinpoint social thinkers, listen for words like "we," "them," "our," "us," and "you all." Is this individual concerned about relationships? Another clue is if the buyer asks you personal questions, such as, "How do you feel about the way it affects employees?" Social thinkers are eager to bring in others to the conversation.
8. To find conceptual thinkers, listen for immediate questions about the outcome. Like the analytical thinker, this type wants the bottom line right away, but in the context of the bigger picture. The worst thing you can do with a conceptual thinker is spell out everything in detail. Engage this individual's attention immediately; otherwise you may lose it forever. You may receive farfetched or unrelated questions. Take every question at face value.
9. Keep your buyer focused on the desired solution. Remember that some buyers have several preferences and it takes them a long time to make a decision. They are weighing rationality, processes, people, and vision all at the same time. Thirty-seven percent of the people in the world fall into this kind of multimodal thinking and probably need to carefully process a decision. Allow plenty of time, even if to you it seems to take forever. You are already familiar with what you are selling; your buyer is not.
As you wrap up your meeting, keep in mind what is happening in your buyer's head. Reassure this person that your solution will generate ROI, that it will not interfere with any other systems, that the human factor is addressed, and that the vision is clear. Remember, it's not about the way you're product is wired but rather the way your buyer is wired.