I Like Your Style

Many telephone salespeople I know don’t pay much attention to dressing stylishly during the week. After all, the customer can’t see what they are wearing, and it’s more important to be comfortable. But regardless of the type of clothing they select, each telephone salesperson has a personality style; systematic, direct, spirited or considerate.

Systematic salespeople tend to follow a selling process, and generally expect their customers to follow a distinct buying process. Direct salespeople get to the point, and don’t cherish small talk. Spirited salespeople are animated and infuse each sale situation with emotion. And considerate salespeople are concerned primarily about the customer as a person.

Customers too come in these four shades. Problems can occur when the style of the buyer is mismatched with the style of the seller.

For example, if a salesperson is direct and their customer is considerate, the customer may be put off because the salesperson does not take the time to build sufficient rapport before talking business. But the shoe may be on the other foot. If the salesperson is considerate and the customer is direct, the customer may feel the salesperson is wasting their time with needless relationship building. Or, if the salesperson is spirited, they may overwhelm the systematic customer with their possibly scattered approach, bore the direct customer with their stories, and scare the considerate person with their emotion. Of course, a fellow spirited would fit hand in glove.

Therefore, it is good sales practice for the salesperson to flex their style to the style of the buyer. This is an absolute requirement when introducing yourself and your organization for the first time, and becomes less necessary as the relationship is established and flourishes. For example, a systematic salesperson may need to dispense with the ruffles and lace and get right to the point with a direct customer, tolerate the emotional side tracks of the spirited customer, and reveal some personal details to the considerate.

I have used HRDQ’s “What’s My Selling Style?” for years as an assessment for salespeople to learn their style and to determine the style of any customer. ( The instrument can be taken online or on paper, and in just 40 minutes it can provide insights into why customers react like they do.

I recall giving the assessment to a customer service team who was struggling with cross- and up-selling. It turns out many on the team were considerate, and many of the purchasing agents calling them were direct. In the past, the customer service reps thought the direct customers were impatient, and perhaps upset. Once they realized it was just a different style, they were comfortable recommending cross- and up-selling items. Sales flourished.

And that never goes out of style.