How to Work with 10 Buyers’ Personality Types

By Tom Hopkins

When you work with companies, a key concern is discovering who the true decision‐maker really is. It may be the office manager, a purchasing agent, or a department head.

You can usually find out simply by asking the receptionist who is responsible for the area of business to which your products or services apply. After she tells you, ask a confirming question, such as, “So, Ms. Carter has the responsibility of authorizing purchase orders, is that right?” If Ms. Carter does handle the area, but she has to get approval on purchase orders from someone like the comptroller, you need to know that going in (and your question will verify that for you).

When you have the name and position of the person responsible for purchasing in your area, you need to know a little about that person’s style. If you recognize one of the ten basic personality types of the person you want to sell to, you can respond appropriately. With the exception of a couple of the personality types, you find these folks in both business sales and consumer sales. Your job is to become familiar enough with the types to quickly determine how to work with each.

Your delivery style must be flexible enough to relate to all the different personality types. Never settle for having one presentation style. Having only one style severely limits the number of people you can serve. Just remember that if you don’t like the personality of the decision maker, you can learn to like the opportunity she offers you to do business with her.

These personality types are exaggerated for the purpose of example, and they’re not limited to the genders identified them with. They demonstrate characteristics of buyers, but the people you encounter in the real world won’t fit into boxes quite as neatly as these examples do.

Buyer #1: Believing Bart

Believing Bart is already sold on your company or brand. He knows just what to expect from your products, and he likes their reliability. He’s easy to work with and, after you convince him of your personal competence, will remain loyal to you and your product. If he’s not convinced that you’re competent, Bart won’t hesitate to call your company and request another representative.

How do you appeal to this personality type? Don’t short‐sell the product or service just because he’s already sold on its quality. You need to exhibit great product knowledge to garner his trust and belief in your ability to meet his needs. Providing dependable service and follow‐up will help you close the sale and gain Bart’s repeat business (and referrals from him).

Buyer #2: Freebie Freddie

Freebie Freddie is a real wheeler‐dealer, the guy who won’t settle until he thinks he has the upper hand and you’ve agreed to give him something extra. Today’s market is full of these types of buyers. If you give Freddie any extras in order to consummate the sale, he’ll probably brag to and upset others who may not have received the same benefit.

So how do you handle this type? Let Freddie know that he’s important and special — that he drives a hard bargain and that you admire his business savvy. If you think Freddie’s business is worth giving something extra to, consult with your manager or the business owner about the best way to handle it.

You may not have to give away much to entice this guy to buy. The enticement can be as simple as providing a little extra TLC (that’s right — tender loving care), such as sending him thank‐you notes or making a few extra calls after the sale to let him know how important he is.

Buyer #3: Purchasing Polly

Purchasing Polly is a distant, matter‐of‐fact type who carries a high level of responsibility. (You find her in business‐to‐business sales situations.) As with many other purchasing agents, she may have little personal contact throughout the day besides the contact she gets from the salespeople who parade through her office. She can’t risk liking you too much because she may have to replace you with the competition at any time.

When you’re dealing with Purchasing Polly, give a no‐fluff presentation. Don’t try to become too familiar. Stick to the facts and figures. She’ll be grading you every step of the way. By being low‐key, you’ll be different from the other all‐too‐typical salespeople she encounters — and she’ll remember you for that.

Let her know that you understand how important and challenging her position can be. Send her thank‐you notes. Present all figures to Polly in the most professional manner possible. And do everything in writing — she needs the certainty of documentation in case she needs to present it or defend her purchase to upper management.

Buyer #4: Evasive Ed

Evasive Ed is your most challenging buyer. He refuses to return your phone calls, he postpones appointments or reschedules at the last minute, he likes to shop around and keep you waiting in the meantime, and he tests your patience at every turn.

If you find yourself up against an Evasive Ed, enlist the aid of his secretary or support staff. (If you have an Evasive Ed in a consumer sales situation, enlist the aid of his spouse or someone else who knows him well.)

A second person may be able to tell you how to get and keep Ed’s business. If she tells you “that’s just the way he is,” you need to work on creating urgency in your presentations so he’ll see the benefit of making a decision quickly and, just as important, what he’ll lose if he doesn’t make the decision. A good example of this is a special reduced investment or closeout on a product where you can only offer it for a short period of time or on a first‐come, first‐served basis.

Buyer #5: Griping Greg

Griping Greg always has something to complain about or something negative to say. He wouldn’t be your first choice for a companion if you ever got stranded on a deserted island.

If you’re dealing with a Griping Greg, you have to decide whether the income his business generates for you is worth all the energy he’ll steal from you. If his business is not one of your bread‐and‐butter accounts, you may want to consider finding other clients who don’t take so much out of you. No client is worth risking your mental and physical health for.

The most important thing you can do for the Griping Gregs of the world is listen and be empathetic. (Maybe he can’t afford a therapist, and you’re the next best thing.) To limit your exposure to Greg’s negativity, call him just a few minutes before his normal lunch hour or just before the end of the day, so he won’t want to talk long. If he calls you at other times and begins to cost you valuable selling time, find polite ways to get off the line.

Stay pleasant and helpful; after all, that’s why Greg gives you his business. If Greg gets to be too much to handle, the easiest and least costly thing to do may be to refer him to someone else in your organization. The person receiving this new client may not be as strongly affected by Greg’s personality and may be able to get along with him just fine.

Buyer #6: Analytical Anna

Analytical Anna knows exactly what she wants — and she wants it written in blood or at least carved in stone. She nitpicks everything and needs to feel as if she has complete control. This may stem from a bad past experience with another salesperson who wasn’t as professional as you are. She may have felt ripped off before and blame not only the salesperson but herself for not having everything in writing.

Disorder in any form shatters Anna’s day, so don’t be a source of disorder for Anna — if you want to get and keep her business. When you’re dealing with Analytical Anna, be very organized. She appreciates — nay, she craves — organization. Handle every detail in writing. Be punctual. Double‐check everything and let her see that you do.

When she knows she can depend on you, she will do just that. Confirm appointments, and always reconfirm details of your meetings with her in writing. Send a recap to Anna of every meeting you have with her. Also, contact her ahead of every meeting to let her know what information you need for your next appointment. In other words, treat her as she treats others. Everyone wants to be around people who are just like themselves.

Buyer #7: Domineering Donna

Donna is a strong‐willed ball of fire who will most often be found in a business situation. She most likely has designs on a more powerful position in the company. She often hides her needs because she expects you to have done your homework — and if you have, she figures, then you already know her needs.

In talking to Donna, perhaps the most important thing you can do is to compliment her on her importance and remind her of the value of her abilities to her company. She likely bowls others over with her ambition for power — and most people try to avoid working with people who dominate like this. But you don’t have that option.

Besides, Donna can become a positive force for you if you have challenges with billing or want to sell your product to another department or branch of her company. If Donna believes in you and your product, she’ll be your best supporter. She chose to work for you and she’ll want others to prove she was right by using your product, too.

Buyer #8: Controlling Carl

For Controlling Carl, it’s his way or the highway. He’s a self‐proclaimed expert, even though his expertise may be limited to his own company. He’s also poor at delegating authority. Carl wants everyone and everything to be reported to him. He may also be rude and interrupt your presentation while he takes calls or gives directions to his subordinates.

When dealing with a Controlling Carl, be extremely polite, prepared, and concise. By all means, don’t make any assumptions. Let him know that you value his time. If the interruptions become too distracting, offer to reschedule your meeting off the premises — for, say, a lunch appointment — so that you can have Carl’s undivided attention.

Or you can simply enlist the aid of Carl’s secretary or assistant in keeping interruptions to a minimum during your appointment. Unless Carl has a rule carved in granite that he takes all calls and sees all visitors, you’re likely to get the assistance you want just by making a polite request.

You may encounter Carl in a consumer setting as well. He’s the guy who asks you a question and then takes a call on his cell phone before you can engage him in conversation. It’s important that you be agreeable with him and say things like, “This will only take a minute,” or “Let me take you directly to that product.” This strategy lets him know that you’re cognizant of how valuable his time is but keeps you in control of the sale.

Buyer #9: Cynical Cindy

Cynical Cindy is the first to say, “But we’ve always done it this way.” She fights change, is suspicious, and questions your every move. She’s very likely part of the old guard where she works — a long‐term employee. In consumer sales, Cynical Cindy may be an unwilling spouse or even a child. She has no interest in whatever the other party wants and will do her best to make your job more difficult.

Welcome Cindy’s objections — even compliment her for being smart enough to bring them up. Impress Cindy by dropping the names of people and companies she trusts; in order for Cindy to bring down her wall of doubt, she needs to know who else uses your product or service.

For you, though, Cindy’s hesitancy can become the best thing about her. Why? Because if you have such a difficult time overcoming her objections, you’d better believe that your competition will get discouraged trying to win her over. It’ll be hard for your competition to persuade her to change her loyalties once she sees the value of becoming your client. And loyalty like that is what you’re after.

Buyer #10: Drifting Dan

Drifting Dan is typical of many potential clients. He has a lot on his mind. The purchase you’re discussing is just one of many duties or tasks Dan needs to handle. If your presentation isn’t designed to keep him both mentally and physically involved, you lose him. It will take you longer to close the sale and complete the agreement.

Be prepared to deliver your presentation in small bites and include several brief summaries of what you’ve already covered in order to bring his attention back to the matter at hand.