The highest performing salespeople possess a few key characteristics. They're confident, ask good questions, see themselves as problem solvers comfortable with challenging decision makers, and always follow up. But another skill can turn a good salesperson into an exceptional one: The ability to read a customer or prospect's personality and adjust the flow of communication appropriately. That's according to Merrick Rosenberg, author of "The Chameleon: Life-Changing Wisdom for Anyone Who Has a Personality or Knows Someone Who Does." In it, he likens humanity's main personality styles to four kinds of birds. "The challenge for most salespeople is that they unwittingly impose their style on their customers, and then they don't close the deal and aren't quite sure what happened," he says. Here are the traits to identify in yourself and those you're selling to.

Eagles: Fast-Paced, Direct and Assertive

They make quick decisions without a lot of information and in turn, they may expect their customers to be equally decisive. Eagles may focus on business and neglect building a personal connection. This lack of rapport can make them seem unapproachable or intimidating.

Parrots: Outgoing, Social and Upbeat

They like to talk and may dominate the discussion in a selling situation. This may be perceived as egotistical, which can repel others. Parrots who impose their style are also prone to interrupting others mid-sentence and failing to pick up on details that can block a deal from being closed.

Doves: Harmonious, Thoughtful and Empathetic

They don't like conflict and may neglect to ask difficult questions so as to avoid making the customer feel uncomfortable. These individuals tend to be soft-spoken and value relationships. Customers who are doves don't like pushy salespeople.

Owls: Logical, Accurate and Questioning

Since they require a tremendous amount of detail to make a decision, they can impose too much information on their customers. Owls tend to dislike surface conversations and may be uncomfortable in social or networking situations.

The trick, Rosenberg says, is to adapt your communication style according to whomever you're interacting with. "[Typically], stage one of the sales process is build rapport and bond to your prospect," he says. "Well, if you're selling to a dove that's probably pretty important... But if you spend a ton of time building rapport and bonding and connecting to an eagle, the eagle's probably going to be sitting there saying, 'Let's get to it. Tell me what I need to know. I want to make a decision.'"

Published on: Aug 23, 2016