There is a misperception that success in developing customer relationships is based solely on one's interpersonal skills and the dynamic/interaction during the sales call. In fact, there are a number of specific insights, skills and processes that support the development of productive customer relationships, many of which occur outside of the customer meeting. I would like to address one such key insight: Customer Orientations.
Four Customer Orientations are identified in Carew's Dimensions of Professional Selling (DPS) program:
These customer "types" are defined‚ not as means of stereotyping the population, but as a useful context in which to assess customer needs, values and motivations, and thereby improve our responsiveness to the customer. While I can't examine and discuss each to the degree needed or addressed in DPS sales training, the overview below suggests the implications of this insight in cultivating customer relationships.
Security Customer characteristics: avoid controversy, risk or change; act methodically; solicit others' opinions before making a decision; high appreciation for documentation, precision and attention to detail. From their sales professional they value guarantees and assurances, need to have confidence in your insights/solutions, and will not tolerate surprises.
Power Customer characteristics: assertive, confident, focused on end results; high value on external recognition, such as title, position and "getting credit" for successes. Power Buyer's sales professional must make customer part of their solution development process, share milestones and other indications of progress, and recognize the customer's ownership of any success.
Affiliation Customer characteristics: people oriented, cordial, develops close relationships easily; seeks harmony; avoids conflict. Sales professional must take time to build a warm relationship. Affiliation Buyer's innate loyalty makes it difficult to displace existing competitors. Their aversion to conflict makes it difficult for them to bring problems to your attention until it is too late.
Actualization Customer characteristics: focused on welfare of their organization; open, honest; creates a positive environment; willing to take risks, accept consequences, shares credit; demands high performance; places high priority on honesty. Sales professionals need to continually perform and function from a place of honesty and collaboration. Because benefit to the company is always the top priority, Actualization Buyers will not be overly loyal to any one supplier or sales person.
Taking the time to consider customer orientation as part of the sales dynamic will facilitate better connections and healthier, more productive customer relationships.