InSights - What you didn't know you didn't know

How to Match the Right Type of Salesperson to Your Customers

The most successful sales managers recognize that all good salespeople must have certain vital skills and motivations. The degree and type required, however, will vary according to what customers need in order to use the product or service. The best strategy is achieved by matching salesperson skills, focus, and motivation to best serve these needs. Market and customer analysis by Chally has identified four distinctly different types of customers. They, in turn, respond most positively to four different types of salespeople.

Understanding Market (Purchaser) Types

Truly new products are typically purchased either by technical experts (who must buy new technology to remain expert) or (more frequently) by visionary “gateswingers” who have never used that product–for example, the state-of-the-art dermatologist who buys a new style laser for removing skin blemishes but hires an expert to operate the equipment. Even so, most brand-new products must seem exciting yet be simple enough to understand the benefit. The gateswinger, then, doesn’t want 20 different features from which to choose.

The new “system” buyer is an inexperienced but real user. This could include a financial services buyer who must select asset managers. It could also be a computer system user. Once this person becomes knowledgeable on usage, he or she becomes an experienced and more controlling user of the established system.

Commodities buyers have become so totally experienced with a product or service that the purchase and usage are completely standardized and often delegated as a routine function … when was the last time you asked how to use an electric pencil sharpener?

Understanding the Basics of Customer Needs

Customer need is largely driven by two factors:

  • Complexity of using a product/service
  • Experience or expertise in its use or application

In Chally research, we have found that intuitive gateswingers need an emotional appeal stimulated by “closing” salespeople in order to buy.

Inexperienced but real users have both substantial technical and application support needs and purchase and delivery needs that must be met by a “consultative” sales approach in order to use their system.

Experienced and demanding users no longer have high technical and application support needs. However, they continue to have pressing purchase and delivery needs that include a major personal component with a “relationship” salesperson to help in the ordering process. Typically, only two needs predict commodity buying behavior from “display” salespeople: price and convenience.

Determining Customer Needs

Actually identifying and analyzing customer needs, those that influence buying behavior and those that predict
buying behavior, is an emerging research science being pioneered by Chally.

It is a sophisticated process involving scoreable executive interviews that lead to quantifying qualitative, open-ended data. However, we have established key questions that can assist you in determining your customers’ basic needs.


Questions Indicating Technical and Applications Needs:

  1. Customers are biased toward buying from a prestigious name partly because they lack the internal expertise to evaluate or critique our product or service
  2. Customers recognize that the quality of technical assistance and follow-up is more important than price?
  3. Your product or service is not so built into your customers’ way of doing business that it is essential to them?
  4. You are perceived as one of only one or two sources where customers could obtain product/service?
  5. Your product or service must be custom ordered?
  6. Reliability and credibility (often an image) are more important than price?
  7. Follow-up orders will also require technical help to plan or design the order?
  8. Price is not a major issue as long as the “benefit” seems worthwhile?

If you answered “Yes” to five or more questions, your typical customer is in one of the two left quadrants. If four or less, your typical customer is in one of the two right quadrants.

Questions Indicating Purchase and Delivery Needs:

  1. Your customers see less (or little) technical or qualitative difference between your product/service and competitors, and therefore select on “service” price?
  2. Your customers are more bothered by late delivery or poor follow-up than engineering” issues or new product development?
  3. Your customers expect regular contact, not just when you want to take their order?
  4. Your products/services would be difficult to buy from a catalog without someone to talk to?
  5. Customers tend to stay loyal to vendors they know and trust?
  6. Customers often develop personal relationships with salespeople (possibly even following them if they switch to work with another vendor)?
  7. It takes customers a fairly long time to really trust and depend on a new vendor?
  8. Usually your customers will not just call in an order without at least occasional face-to-face contact?

If you answered “Yes” to five or more questions, your typical customer is in one of the top two quadrants. If four or less, your typical customer is in one of the two bottom quadrants.

Download PDF