Your Customers Are Different, So Treat Them Differently

This is a guest post by our friends at The Omnia Group, Inc.

Like the old saying goes, “It takes all kinds to make the world go around.” Still, sometimes we forget.


Whether through bias, habit, or work weariness, we may find ourselves expecting people to want and be motivated by all the same things and then feel surprised or frustrated when they don’t. In the sales profession, this attitude is especially dangerous. Customers are different. People buy things for all kinds of reasons, and the salesperson’s job is to figure out what concerns each particular customer and then persuasively communicate how your product or services can allay those concerns. Failure to see customers as individuals can hurt that cause.


In other words, to make the most of each prospect interaction, it’s important to read customers and adjust to their natural tendencies.


Research has shown there are four types of buying:


  • Routine buying: Purchases a buyer makes over and over again and almost automatically, such as a favorite snack item, toothpaste, or breakfast cereal.
  • Limited decision-making buying: Purchases made occasionally that require a little more buyer involvement than routine buying, such as a new pair of jeans or an insurance policy.
  • Extended decision-making buying: Expensive purchases made infrequently, such as an automobile, refrigerator, or a radio ad.
  • Impulse buying: Purchases that are made without much conscious thought.


Typically, the less occasionally an item is purchased and the more expensive it is, the more extended the decision-making process. However, this isn’t always the case. Someone may purchase an emerald necklace on impulse, someone else may be so loyal to a particular car make and model that the purchase is almost routine in his/her eyes, and someone else may agonize over what laundry detergent to bring home. Again, personalities are different. And, as any behavioral economist can attest, it’s a mistake to believe that people always act in their own financial best interests. If that were the case, every employee would contribute enough to their company retirement plan to receive the full match, consumer debt wouldn’t continue to rise, and waste disposal companies like 1-800-Got-Junk would be out of business.


The point is, not everyone comes to the decision to buy after a careful weighing of all the relevant facts and figures. Who buys what depends as much on the type and cost of the purchase as on the decision-making personality of the purchaser. Some people are comfortable making decisions with only partial information; others are definitely un-comfortable with that idea. How can you serve all these prospects well?


Knowledge Is Power


Omnia’s behavioral assessments help employers identify and develop talent at the managerial and non-managerial level alike. However, did you know you could use the assessment to learn more about your customers? Well why not? Customers are people, too! The Assessment uncovers individual preferences for:


  • Winning versus security
  • People versus facts and figures
  • Variety versus stability
  • Freedom versus structure


The individual preferences are plotted on a simple 8-column graph that shows a “picture” of a personality.


Obviously you won’t be testing your customers. However, you can test yourself. And self-knowledge, combined with the knowledge of other personality preferences, is a powerful tool for developing sales strategies beyond a “one-size-fits-all” approach.


For example, if you’re a true sales personality you love to win, and that’s important to closing the deal. However, coming on too strong will be a turn off for some prospects. They’re looking for a consultation from a media advertising expert. If your tendency is to push until the prospect cries “Uncle,” you’ll want to know that about yourself and be aware when it’s time to reign yourself in.


But what if your prospect is the one who likes to win? Good question. What can you offer that will satisfy that preference and therefore seal the deal? Can you throw in a discount of some sort? What about a freebie service or add-on? If getting something “extra” will make that prospect feel good about the sale, how can you make that happen?


Decisions, Decisions!


One way to get at your individual customer preferences is by asking a few questions, such as:


  • How long have you been shopping for media advertising for your business?
  • What information can I provide to help your decision making about our company?
  • Have you ever bought advertising before? If yes, when is the last time you bought?
  • When were you hoping to make a decision?


The answers to these questions will give you insight into how the prospect makes decisions, or at the very least, how they approach making this particular kind of decision. Research, such as the research documented by Adam Grant in his book Give and Take, shows that asking questions of prospects – rather than forcing your sales agenda on them – leads to more sales. Questions elicit information, and information is key to learning what’s likely to drive a sale. Plus, as we alluded to earlier, many prospects will appreciate a less “sales-y” approach.


Let Your Prospects Take the Lead


No one should expect you to be a sales chameleon by continuously changing who you are for each prospect. As we’ve already noted, you have a personality too! However, it is important to tweak your sales technique to each prospect. With some prospects you can be more direct; with others you’ll need to hold back a little. Some prospects will value your advertising expertise; others are experts themselves and will become impatient if you spend time telling them what they already know. Some prospects aren’t sure what they want and need to be talked through the best options for their business.


Whatever the case, you’ll benefit by asking a few preliminary questions and then following your prospect’s lead. By listening closely, you’ll be able to figure out what kind of buyer you’re talking and what kind of sales experience they are seeking. Once you know that, you can adjust your approach accordingly.


Author: The Omnia Group, Inc.

The Omnia Group is an employee assessment firm that specializes in using personality data to hire and manage more effectively. Omnia’s personality and cognitive assessment tools give clients insight into employee strengths, challenges, and natural behaviors. For more information about employee assessments, call us at 800-525-7117 or email:

Don’t forget that as an MBA member, you can purchase OMNIA profiles through us at a discounted rate! Contact Terry at to learn more.