Digital Selling (Part 7)

It's all a matter of type: How to sell in a customer-oriented way

Being blue or seeing red - the ability to do this will lead you onto the yellow brick road and make competitors green with envy. In an excursion into psychology, expert Leif Kania explains which personality types are behind the colours. Because if you recognise what makes people tick, you will sell in a customer-oriented way.

Oct 05 2021

Listen and observe 

Don't be afraid! You don't have to be a psychologist to recognise personality types. However, if you want to increase the chances of a successful deal, you should work like a good psychologist, advises sales coach Leif Kania: 

"Basically, it's about sticking to certain core questions and sequences that are included in the sales process. If you go into the conversation well prepared and structured, you automatically get to another level, the psychological level. In the end, it's certain questioning techniques that are behind it, it's the part of active listening. Because psychologists, what do they do: A big part is really to listen carefully and to observe at the moment when someone reports. If you learn to do that, you get a lot of information that is helpful for the sales talk." 

Empathy as a competitive advantage 

Now you might ask: Isn't it enough that I point out the advantages of the products or offer an attractive design at a fair price? No! Leif Kania knows the reasons: 

"Merchandise is and remains comparable. However, the customer's trust grows through psychological aspects, and if we can bring emotion, empathy and trust into a conversation, we have a competitive advantage. Because most others talk primarily about the product and the spark doesn't fly. The customer then compares product and price." 

If you want to sell in a customer-oriented way, the interpersonal aspect comes to the fore. Does the customer feel that he or she is in good hands and that his or her wishes are being taken into account? If so, this also speaks for the expert knowledge of the professional staff – and for good service! 

The Platinum Rule 

"By the way, I recognise that people appreciate me and my expertise by the questions that come in," says Leif Kania. "When someone asks my opinion, for example, or which hob I personally use, or is interested in whether you have children yourself, after I have asked about their living situation. That's how I notice: there is trust and closeness."

But how do you reach exactly this emotional level in the sales talk - digitally as well as in the studio? Leif Kania has a maxim ready: "There is this golden rule in dealing with people: Treat others the way you want to be treated. But that doesn't work in sales! That's why my rule is called the 'Platinum Rule': treat others the way they want to be treated." 

The four personality types 

Now it gets exciting - and colourful! How do you know how the people who are interested in your furniture want to be treated? After all, they don't have a note on their forehead, nor will they say "your manner makes me uncomfortable" or "you bore me" if you don't sell in a customer-friendly way. The cash register simply won't ring if you don't manage to push the right buttons. 

Fortunately, we can assign people to certain personality types based on primary behavioural patterns. These include, for example, word choice or body language. Incidentally, the basis for this analysis was laid by the psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung, founder of analytical psychology. 

By listening and observing, with a little practice you will quickly notice which of four basic types your counterpart corresponds to. Each type is assigned a colour, namely blue, red, yellow and green. Leif Kania explains the essential character traits according to the Insights MDI® methodology, which he himself uses for his training: 

Red 

"Red is the dominant, goal-oriented, power-oriented person. With him, everything always has to happen quickly. The classic red types also usually move very quickly and are very dominant in their body language. Word patterns like I want to have a solution quickly or we have to get this done by tomorrow also help to recognise this type." 

Yellow 

"The yellow type is the motivator. He needs the stage, is outward-looking, likes to talk, but doesn't necessarily go into depth. If someone says, we don't need to discuss this any further, just do it, then that's more the yellow type. That may seem superficial on the surface. But behind that there is also confidence in the advisory service, because the yellow guy tends to be an optimist." 

Green 

"The green person is an absolute team player to whom togetherness is important, to whom the well-being of other people is very important – the red person, for example, couldn't care less. Green people might first ask you how you are or how you got here. In sales, too, you can tell a lot from the speech pattern. You might find out that these customers have friends with them all the time and that it is important to them that they are well. They want to cook especially well for their guests in the new kitchen. You can tell by the respective remarks that there are green traits in there." 

Blue 

"And then we have the blue type. That's the classic controller or accountant, very detail-oriented, rather a bit withdrawn. A thinker who loves numbers, data and facts. Blue customers have already created a folder before contacting us, filed various brochures in it, know the prices and how many watts the cooker has."  

Gut feeling vs. rational thinking 

A circle with four segments helps to further classify the personality types and to understand them even better. Blue is at the top left. Clockwise, it then continues with red, yellow and green. The coach explains: 

"Blue and red, the colours in the upper half, are rational thinkers whereas the ones below, green and yellow, tend to be more emotional and rely on their gut feeling. In the same way, you can divide the circle from left to right: left means more introverted, right more extraverted. The types on the right, i.e. red and yellow, react more actively to everyday situations and those on the left, i.e. green and blue, more passively." 

Self-perception and perception by others 

Also important to know: Most of us are hybrids of different personality types. But each person will usually have a primary colour that particularly shapes his or her behaviour. Here, by the way, no distinction is made between good and bad. Whether strength or a weakness - this is more a question of perception, explains Leif Kania: 

"Where the red person would say, I am dynamic and goal-oriented, the green person would say about the red person, he is going over dead bodies, that is all blind actionism, I don't like that. It's the same the other way round. The decisive thing is what we make of it!" 

And so we’ve come full (colour) circle  

Let's recall the platinum rule once again. If I want to sell in a customer-oriented way, I should be able to classify my counterpart and adjust all my communication to the corresponding type, says Leif Kania: 

"If you know you have a deep-blue person sitting there, tthen you can safely assume that the presentation of an appliance will take a longer. I will then include all the certificates, warranty extensions and everything I can find in terms of details in the conversation, because then the blue person will thrive. They will be and say, this is really everything I imagined." 

Elsewhere, however, the exact same thing may backfire: "As a yellow person, I want to be treated accordingly and not like a blue person. If I shower the yellow guy with details, pick out lists or talk for hours about how many programmes the dishwasher has, how long each one runs and how much salt a rinse cycle uses – that doesn't interest the yellow guy at all. On the contrary! I annoy him with it to the max!" 

Which type are you? 

If you yourself are a big fan of the dishwasher in question and its many possibilities and would love to hang the sheet with the technical data over your desk, you are in your element with the blue customer. Because then you are probably more the blue type yourself. Your biggest challenge are the jittery yellows who are right opposite you on the colour wheel. 

So if you notice that a certain type of customer is particularly annoying, it could be because you are dealing with your complementary colour. You should therefore know which personality type you are in order to be able to adjust to such situations and train yourself to deal with other colours. 

Conclusion and outlook 

Knowing about the different personality types will help you to make fine adjustments within the individual phases of the sales process so that you sell in a customer-oriented way. Your attitude, the first contact, the needs analysis where you get to know your customers, the presentation and the closing are your anchor points. Friendliness, a nice conversation atmosphere, good preparation, questioning techniques – all this is always part of it. But how you communicate in detail depends on who you have in front of you. Leif Kania gives a concluding example: 

"With a red guy, I make less small talk as a salesperson. Otherwise he'll think, this is too much talk for me, I want to reach my goal. It would even be counterproductive to invest a lot of energy here. With a green or yellow guy, on the other hand, small talk goes down very well. So it's very important to recognise when I'm reaching limits and then not to ask further into any areas." 

With this in mind, perhaps you are wondering what the "born salesperson" is all about? We'll give you the answer in episode 8, where we'll also have tips for you on how to better deal with strengths and weaknesses in sales. Until then, if you have any feedback or questions, feel free to write us a comment!

Author: Christine Piontek

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Portrait of Leif Kania
Leif Kania Human Ressources
Möbel Kania Consulting GmbH
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