The Four Basic Customer Types

June 2012, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Brian Barfield - Also by this author

Over the years we have been trained to understand the four basic personality types. Some use animals as examples such as lions, monkeys, giraffes and turtles. Others use the terms dominant, expressive, amiable and analytical. These trainings have been very effective in understanding your customers and teaching you how to meet their needs. However, times have changed, and so has the world around us. What we find is that the pressures of the modern-day world can often alter many of our customers’ personality types. No one ever seems to be the same at all times. Without a clear understanding of this, we find ourselves failing to meet our customers’ needs by using the basic personality training. It only takes one bad experience to lose a customer for life.

What the modern-day sales associate needs is a new road map to find a greater success. It all starts with building on the foundation that has been laid with the four-personality-type training.

What I have discovered is that all customers fit into four basic customer types no matter what their personality is. They are as follows: simple-minded, demanding, analytical and guarded. Every customer who enters your store will fall into one of these four customer types. Learning how to sell each customer type will allow you to achieve the ultimate goal of building a large and loyal customer base. Let’s examine each customer type and how to meet their needs better. Keep in mind that there is a deeper understanding to be had of each customer type, but for the sake of this article, I will share with you some basics.

Let’s start with the demanding customer. These are often the most feared by many sales associates. They can range from high-maintenance time consumers to pushy and confrontational. Notice that the two mentioned are different personality types yet can both be categorized in the demanding customer field. There are many ways to handle such a customer. However, there are two weapons you can use that will work every time. Kill them with kindness and compliments. It is very hard for someone to be demanding when they are being treated well and feel respected. Another beneficial way to sell a demanding customer is to keep things simple. Make your answers precise and to the point and then move on. The more you speak, the more you allow time to be wasted and opportunities for discussion to take place. Try these simple steps and you will see these customers are not to be feared, as they can become life-long customers.

The next customer type we will examine is the analytical customer. This customer can range from a person needing information to a skilled genius who likes to play a mental game of chess with you. The best way to sell this customer is to know your product well and sell with confidence. Any sign of weakness or uncertainty can lead to a lengthy sales process. Be sure you make good eye contact and stay focused while engaging these customers. Most importantly, make sure to speak to them on their level. You would certainly sell an educated customer much differently than an uneducated customer. Try putting yourself in their shoes. If you knew very little about cars, how would you feel going to get you car fixed? Pretty vulnerable, unless you had someone who took the time to explain in detail what exactly was going on.

Now we turn our attention to the guarded customer. This customer is the famous “I am just looking” customer. For a variety of reasons, these customers have an invisible wall up and you must earn their trust before they will open up the door for you. Trying to scale their walls without permission or tricking them can be disastrous. These customers must feel that you are being 100-percent honest and have their best interests in mind. You do this by serving them rather than selling them. Create an obligation of trust by offering a free oil change or a service that is beneficial to them. It could be as simple as offering a cold beverage or coffee. You will be amazed at how quickly these customers will open up to you.

Finally, there is the simple-minded customer. This is the customer that is familiar with you and trusts you completely. Your goal with every customer you serve should be to turn them into a simple-minded customer. Once you have given them excellent service, a bond of trust is created and these customers offer you little resistance. They know that you care about them with the birthday, anniversary and Christmas cards you send them throughout the year. They become the foundation of your success year in and year out. You no longer are just a sales associate, but their friend.

The next time you greet a customer, I challenge you to focus on these basic concepts. Make sure that every customer you sell is given the proper service to meet their needs. What you will find is a new world of success as you build your customer base with a loyalty that is unmatched. Remember that with an intense focus and desire for success, beautiful things can happen.

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  1. 1. Catrina [ June 05, 2012 @ 06:52AM ]

    I'm not in the auto industry but I can use this in my own industry. The personality types are simply stated and easy to identify with. And you're right about the demanding customer. So many people get intimidated when they just have to be real.

  2. 2. Don Cato [ June 05, 2012 @ 07:09AM ]

    The article was well written and dead on. I have been in sales for over twenty years. The market is tough now, and if you don't know these simple facts, you're in trouble. All of these suggestions will increase your sales and get you customer retention. Great piece!

  3. 3. Rob [ June 05, 2012 @ 07:45AM ]

    I don't work in sales, but I do deal with the public everyday. Learning these personality types can help anyone who deals with people on the job.

  4. 4. Larry [ June 05, 2012 @ 08:48AM ]

    As a customer, I appreciate the author's points about how to treat a customer. When I find a sales person whom I trust, I will definitely do future business with that sales person. More importantly, I will send my friends and acquaintances to this sales person knowing that they will be treated kindly and with honesty.

  5. 5. Jeff Hofmeister [ June 06, 2012 @ 04:22AM ]

    Excellent article. Enough information to remember. No one likes to be put in a category and I especially like that you say no one is the same in all situations. Good that this article is written to better serve others. Thanks.

  6. 6. Tony Bellomio [ June 07, 2012 @ 05:34AM ]

    Brian hits the mark on customer types. He keeps it simple and precise. I have been in Auto sales for over 21 years at the same dealership. Sending Birthday cards , staying in touch and having customers that are friends are the bread and butter to your success. I would recommend Brian's book to anyone interested in being successful in sales.

  7. 7. Brett [ June 07, 2012 @ 12:55PM ]

    Good stuff! This could be applied in many different fields. It was very easy to read....he gets straight to the point. I like that.

  8. 8. Lillian [ June 07, 2012 @ 04:17PM ]

    I appreciate the comments regarding making eye contact. As a potential customer I find it extremely important engaging a sales associate that maintains eye contact with me. It tells me that they are interested in who I am and that I am worthy of their undivided attention in serving me.

  9. 9. utsav [ December 07, 2015 @ 09:41PM ]

    I believe you took the Simple Minded customer too casually. Just because someone trusts you does not mean that they will buy from you. This type of customer must be treated as an asset and proper care must be given to maintain relationship and sales with them.

  10. 10. J. K. Majumdar [ August 04, 2016 @ 03:11AM ]

    I conduct training training for Automotive Technicians and Service Engineer. Subject matter would be helpful in teaching the trainees in handling the customers. Thanks to you. ;


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