Elemental keys to staying in sync and making the sale.
The first thing you need to know is that your customers are different—from each other, and from you. You may feel that you already know that, but I can tell you that many business owners and professionals have lamented to me that the client they struggle with:
- doesn’t understand what they are trying to do;
- isn’t listening to them;
- can’t see what they are creating;
And my favorite: “He sees the situation entirely differently than I do.”
People have different preferences, and they have different personalities. Ultimately, when different kinds of people come together, they have difficulty in seeing their differences objectively—and seeing differences objectively is key to improving relationships, generating trust, creating a win-win situation and selling more products and services.
The savvy business professionals I work with embrace these differences, and don’t necessarily need to be “right.” They succeed by employing strategies, systems and smarts to notice differences objectively and adjust their approaches to their clients, keeping communication on track.
Profiles in personality
Your customers have four personality elements that comprise their hard-wiring. One of these four elements is likely to dominate your client’s personality. Once you identify what that dominating element is, you can start to build a productive and profitable business relationship.
I have studied a number of personality profile tools and am certified in three of them. The one that I find to be most scientific, easily understood and most applicable uses the categories found in Laurie Beth Jones’s book, “The Four Elements of Success.” The four elements are earth, water, wind and fire. Often when people hear these words strung together, they either get a deep desire to strike a disco dance pose, or they think it’s some weird kind of new-age voodoo … but this is a legitimate, powerful metaphor for how people tick (and how to avoid winding them up).
- Consider the adjectives that describe planet Earth: solid, stable, structured, nurturing, ordered, layered and full of resources. So are “earth” people.
- Think about the words that describe water: refreshing, energizing, cooling, supportive, go with the flow, detoxifying, flexible and smoothing. So are “water” people.
- The adjectives that describe wind: energetic, global, big picture, ushers in change, goes in multiple directions at the same time, bold, forceful and knows no boundaries. So are “wind” people.
- The words that come to mind when you consider the element of fire: hot, passionate, illuminating, intense, colorful, forging, brilliant, pioneering and radiating. So are “fire” people.
Earth people are all about the process.
Water people are all about relationships.
Wind people are all about vision.
And Fire people are all about results.
Knowing the motivation of your clients helps you give attention to what matters most to them, rather than focusing on what matters to you.
Strategies and smarts
Earth people want you to explain in detail what you’re going to do for them: They want you to share how you will design, build, create, install, service, communicate and prepare them to succeed through your products and services. They’re motivated to buy when the person and the organization that they’re working with provide structure and accuracy. You cannot over-communicate with them if you’re providing facts and figures about how they will benefit. Don’t confuse this with a sales pitch: These customers want just the facts, accurate proposals and prompt updates on the process. Treat earth people this way, and you could have a client for life.
Water people want you to make things run smoothly; their goal is to have stability. They care deeply about their customers and want you to exercise compassion for them as well; they want you to share something personal about yourself and build a meaningful relationship. The product is important to them, but even more important is a steady, predictable pace that creates harmony in their business. If you are personable and follow a distinct pathway, you’ll create a loyal client.
Wind people want you to make things exciting and fun; ultimately, your product or service should help make this customer’s vision take shape. It’s critical that you understand where this customer is headed, and demonstrate your ability to serve that journey. What will your product do for them in terms of status, recognition and superior quality? The wind customer wants to be in your social network and values your referrals. Most important, these customers want to work with optimistic, future-oriented people who see the potential in the deal.
Fire people want you to get it done, period. They’re driven by making a decision and seeing it have an impact on their business. They want you to bring them solutions that advance their strategic goals and future potential. They have an opinion—so ask for it. Speak frankly to them about the bottom line and focus on the desired outcome.
If you want to sell and service in the most efficient manner, treat people the way they want to be treated. The golden rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” is always valuable advice. The platinum rule, however—“Do unto others as they would like to be done unto”—will provide you a bigger return.
An informed approach
There are some steps you can take to help you determine if a prospective customer’s personality is dominated by earth, water, wind or fire.
Step 1: Determine if your client is people oriented or task oriented.
People-oriented clients display warmth, friendly facial expressions, expressive inflection, openness, lightheartedness and acceptance. People-oriented clients are wind or water.
Task-oriented clients display coolness and a poker face, use a monotone, closed stance, project a serious demeanor and take a questioning approach. Task-oriented people are earth or fire.
Step 2: Focus on your client’s interaction style to discern between these two categories.
Wind people have tons of energy, talk a lot, give lots of details, change subjects often and tell you stories.
Water people listen. They bring a kind, sensitive, patient approach to exchanging information. Water people have consistent energy, and they trust you right from the start.
Earth people are precise and detailed, are focused on getting it right, and are cautiously tenacious.
Fire people are direct, opinionated, love the big picture, and initiate to take control.
Ultimately, your first goal is to stop and take the time to assess who your client is, so you can change your approach and pick a persona that meshes with the client’s innate operating style. It takes extra effort, and you may first have some work to do just to figure out your own style. But you get what you work for. When you’re parallel with your client, rather than perpendicular, you’re on the same track.
Nicole Greer, PPCC, is CEO of Vibrant Coaching Inc., based in Sherrills Ford, N.C.