Every member of the sales team who has been out in the field for even a short period of time has probably run into the take-charge, opinionated, and sometimes demanding customer. For some of us in sales the reaction is, "GREAT!! I have a hot one; someone who knows what she wants and who will make a decision." For others in sales, the reaction is, "This person is really overbearing. He doesn't let others talk and he's not willing to listen to what I have to offer. I feel intimidated." Which reaction is the right one? They both are because our reaction is highly dependent upon our own personality and our comfort level with certain attributes of others. What is important, however, is how we act and react toward this aggressive customer.
First we must understand that the aggressive person can be a very easy to deal with, if we recognize that person's needs, desires, and how he or she is likely to react to different stimuli. But, here the picture gets confusing as the highly aggressive, intimidating customer is not just one broad personality. Actually, there are two broad personality types that, at times, can fit the mold we just described and . . . they are driven and motivated by totally different things.
Not All The Big Cats Are Tigers
The first broad personality we'll call "type 1". This individual achieves his aggressive drive from a desire to accomplish and attain personal growth. What is important to him is achieving ever greater levels of accomplishment. The focus is usually intense and short-term; those long-range visions can be interesting, but that which is in sight is what is important. He is resilient and exhibits a high degree of stamina.
The other highly aggressive customer we'll call "type 2". This individual achieves her aggressive drive from a high level of dominance and a competitive nature. Controlling everything and everyone within her field of vision is important. Sometimes explosive emotion, impulsiveness and decisiveness are part of this individual's makeup.
How Do I Know Which Is Type 1? Type 2?
While they are quite different internally, they can appear much the same during infrequent sales encounters. So, how does the salesperson tell the difference? There are clues everywhere that can be learned in our workshops. However there are some major clues that the reader can put into his or her tool kit.
Our "type 1" customer maintains long work hours and is very detail oriented; your appointment time may be 7am or 7pm. When you do talk to this person, expect her to probe into the details until she knows what, why, and how. However, there will be a short attention span if the material is not deemed relevant to her short-term objective. When she has seen enough, she will readily tell you what she wants to do, or make a necessary decision.
Our "type 2" customer is more concerned with controlling you and the conversation and he does not care about the details; ultimate results are the focus. Feeling superior to you is important and putdowns are sometimes used to test you. Frequently you can expect sarcastic remarks toward you or your company; challenges; and a combative nature if you dare to question or disagree with him. One-ups-manship is always operative in the background and his surroundings are designed to inform you of his importance.
Taming The Big Cats
As was stated at the beginning of this article, the outer appearance of these two customers can look the same. They are both aggressive and generally take-charge by nature. While the type 2 aggressive customer is normally impatient and demanding, the type 1 can also be this way when his short-term goals are threatened. Despite this similarity, there are two entirely different minds residing under the skull and what you do to gain your unfair share of mind of one may well be a turnoff to the other.
For both customers you must be prepared for your meeting or you will lose both the battle and the war. However, here the similarity stops.
The type 1 customer needs:
If you are direct, professional, and can provide the type 1 customer with convincing details of solutions that will allow him to excel in his short-term challenges, expect him to commit. You will not need to use salesmanship to close, just ask for his commitment directly. He is decisive and will not even bother following up with references.
The type 2 customer needs:
If you present yourself with confidence and avoid details, while allowing this customer to feel superior (even though you know he is not) and maintain control, you will remain someone with whom he is willing to interact. Having created a comfort zone for him, you will find him the easiest person of all from which to gain a commitment. How you do that is by always offering alternatives (each of which you can live with) and then back off and let him decide. He will always make a decision and he will feel smarter and in control by telling you what to do.