Style Flexing to Service your Customers Well
I like to believe that most people in sales and service try hard to help customers and prospects make good decisions, but sometimes the people serving me use the same approach they do with everyone else. Why? Because they are not communicating with me the way I want and have a one-size-fits-all mentality. They are not conscious of the other person.
We all do it at one time or another, but the answer to this problem is “style flexing.” I learned this concept in a leadership training program 20 years ago and it really helped me with managing my team.
Style flexing is an easy concept to grasp, but difficult to do. It is not manipulative, but other centric. You need to concentrate on the other person’s needs and how they want to be communicated with when making decisions.
One way to break this down is to look at each person’s leadership style. We are all leaders in some way, and leaders make decisions. We all make decisions. There are four types of leaders—peer oriented, system oriented, boss oriented and goal oriented. We all know people who lead by employing one of these styles, but the best leaders are able to style flex and don’t get stuck in one leadership style all the time.
By the way, we all use each of these orientations at some point, but have a predominant style. When we are under stress, our dominant style jumps out in front and it is beautiful or ugly.
Let’s see how this concept helps in selling and servicing customers and prospect.
Peer Orientation. These people, for the most, part need support and love badly. They need others to make decisions for them, and decisions are made by committee. They love to chat and hear how you are doing. They hate getting right down to business, and they want to get to know you extremely well.
The problem is, they have difficulty making decisions especially if it could hurt anyone or leave someone out of the decision making process. "Let’s have a group hug!"
A few things to consider when working with this group:
• They need assurance that this is the right decision.
• Don’t stress alternatives and variables. Simplify.
• Help make the decision easy.
• Be friendly and polite.
• Slow down.
• You need to help them decide or make the decision for them.
System Orientation. This group is very set on what has proven to work in the past. They are very conservative and systematic about decision making and are risk averse.
At one point, some of the major defense contractors got caught off guard by new, more nimble competitors. They kept to the management philosophy that, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it." Their leaders would say things like, “We always did it that way.” Similarly, in the computer industry names like Data General, Digital Equipment Corp., and Wang found out the hard way that being conservative can put you out of business. The motto of this group is, “Let’s go find the play book.”
A few things to consider when working with this group:
• Answer all questions they have and get into the details.
• Provide more facts than you would think necessary.
• Encourage evaluation time.
• Don’t let their skepticism get you down.
• To close on an idea, be patient, but firmly present the facts.
Boss Orientation. This group is great at making decisions and feels that everyone likes that they take control. Sometimes that is the case, but after the 20th time hearing, “Just do what I say!” it can beat you down.
This style of decision making was big in the early 1900s. Entrepreneurs are typically this way since they don’t have time to think before making decisions because they are blazing the trail. They want control and it must be their decision. "OK Boss, whatever you say!"
Here are a few style pointers for this type:
• Don’t let ego get in the way. Give in.
• Be prepared for a tough contest—don’t be sensitive, and no touching!
• You must provide facts, but let them develop the answer and make the decision.
• Give bottom-line answers and concentrate on high points
• Let their ego come through; let them feel important.
• Don’t feel rejected by their bluntness and don’t apologize.
• They will make decisions quickly, which is great. Don’t close, they will close for you.
Goal Orientation. Everyone says they are goal oriented, but this group feels that, "You're OK and I'm OK, but we have that mountain to climb." They understand compassion, but don’t let that get in the way of the big picture. They are long-term thinkers and are able to balance priorities with decision making. They will get input from others, but not let them drive the ship like a peer-oriented person. And they won’t get stuck looking at how things have been in the past in hopes it gives them answers to the future. They will balance the approach with the end in mind.
Here is how best to work with this group:
• Be open and take time to explain the objective or hear it from them.
• Appeal to team involvement to make the best decision.
• Communicate vision and long-term benefits. They will get it.
• Return on investment is always in the discussion. Be prepared.
• Share excitement. They are very positive and love driving goals.
• Have a well-defined plan of action with appeal to future needs.
• The two of you will collaborate on the best solution.
In summary, a challenging aspects of Style Flexing is consciously analyzing the situation and how the person wants to make decisions. One size does not fit all. The second, and most challenging part, of this approach is that they are not going to change their style for you. You must change yours for them!
Sound tough and uncomfortable?
You may be reading this and thinking you are more of a boss style person. Well, then if you are working with a high peer person, you can’t get right down to business the way you love to operate. You will alienate them, they will feel they haven’t been served, and you will lose a customer or prospect.
Style Flex to give others what they need to comfortably work with you and feel good about it. It is all about serving others and truly understanding them.