Bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, and full of enthusiasm I bounced into my next customer meeting at an institute in London. My customer was an introverted scientist who hid behind his glasses. I was an extroverted sales rep bubbling over with confidence. 
My approach was overwhelming. My customer had gone from sitting straight in his chair to being - metaphorically - curled up in the foetal position. My lack of awareness for his personal boundaries, my inability to read his cues, and my direct style had resulted in a communication breakdown - and I was mortified. 
But I did realise something from this experience. Adjusting your communication style to your audience is vital to being an effective communicator and in turn, absolutely essential to building trusted customer relationships, negotiating successfully, and closing deals. 


Understanding before being understood

To adapt your communication style to your audience, you must first understand them. While you may naturally favour one or two styles, you have the ability to use any of them. So how do you know what communication style you have? What style does your customer have? And how can you communicate with them effectively?

Several models have neatly grouped people based on their communication style. One useful approach describes the four different communication styles as directors, expressors, thinkers and harmonizers. If you listen carefully, you can quickly and easily identify the natural style of your customer. 



How to spot them?

Lights. Camera. Action! Directors are about action. Imagine someone who likes to get things done. They have little concern with small talk and social niceties. Always being on the move, they want to make quick decisions and assign tasks – quickly.  

They’ll ask a lot of questions, raise objections, and be challenging. Listen out for conversations around goals, results, challenges, change, performance, efficiency and moving forward. These tells are characteristic of a director. 


How to appeal to them?

They don’t want to trade stories about your children’s first sports day or exchange anecdotes about your most recent holidays. So cut the small talk and get straight down to business. 

The director is after completion - now, not later. Talk about results first, make recommendations, and don’t give options. Use visuals and summaries to get your message across quickly and effectively. And, respond swiftly to requests and follow ups. 



How to spot them?

Have you ever felt like you’re talking to someone who’s head is somewhere else? They’re probably an expresser. While they have plenty to say and animatedly go off on tangents, their listening skills leave a lot to be desired. 

They’ll talk excitedly about novel methods and innovation – they’re all about what’s new and love to think outside the box. 


How to appeal to them?

Turn on your listening! You might find it frustrating that you can’t easily get your point across, but expressers will love you if you let them talk. If you can, double your usual meeting time if you know you’re seeing an expresser to allow plenty of time to discuss options. When it is your time to talk, make sure you stress uniqueness and talk about future-proofing. 



How to spot them?

My early faux pas with the introverted scientist at an unnamed London institute could have been avoided if I knew he was a thinker. Thinkers tend to be shy and reserved but they’ll scrutinize the facts and agonize over details. 

Many scientists are thinkers so for those selling to research groups or laboratory personnel, it is especially important to know how to interact with these types of communicators. 


How to appeal to them?

Thinkers will be naturally skeptical of a company’s claims about its own product so come armed with data. Have you shown that your enzyme works ten times faster than your competitors? That’s fantastic but remember, a thinker will want to see the numbers. 

Be precise, give detail and be frank about the pros and cons of your product. They know that every product has its limitations, so don’t try to hide them. 



How to spot them?

If they’re worried about the impact your product or service will have on their team, it’s likely you’re speaking to a harmoniser. They’ll talk about how easy it is to integrate your product or service into their business and question you over your after-sales support. 


Appealing to them

Harmoniser’s will also want to get to know you. Allow plenty of time for small talk, ask them questions about their life outside of work, and let them know a little about you. In both written and verbal communication, use an informal style. 

Finally, emphasise the relationship between your company and theirs and show your post-sales support structure. They’ll want to see your reference lists and be interested in any testimonials that rave about your partnerships with other companies. 


Your natural communication style

Have you identified whether you’re a director, harmonizer, expressor or thinker? I’m most naturally a director. I have a bold, confident, direct communication style that works perfectly for similar personas but can be overpowering for others. When styles are too misaligned, misunderstandings and errors are inevitable. Worse still, you can appear incompetent. 

Therefore, practicing different styles of communication is essential to ensure your message is understood with clarity and purpose. Ultimately, flexing your communication style will reflect in your sales figures. If you think you or your team could benefit from more effective communication, then get in contact or check out our training programmes. 

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