VUSSC/Content/Entrepreneurship/Selling and the Customer/Different Customer Types

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The Different Types of Customer

A successful entrepreneur must have confidence in his/her ability to sell and also ability in the product. The ability to assess customer's temperament and mental outlook is essential. The salesperson has to discover what motives are most likely to lead the customer to the right action. Study of the customer is essentially a study of human nature. Just as people have physical traits, so do they have mental characteristics which determine their thoughts, desires, and actions. Human nature may be very much the same when in a crowd, but each individual is influenced by age, temperament, occupation, education, sex , and environment. That is why in this section we talk of different customer types. What types are you personally familiar with? In addition to your suggestion, study the following very closely.

The nervous buyer

The nervous customer fears spending money, and the result is that he/she hates buying. This hatred drives such customers into some form of fright, which will render them easily irritable. Nervousness also emanates from the fear of being cheated.You can easily recognise the nervous buyer by their uncertain and abrupt manner as well as their rapid speech. The nervous buyer tends to be impatient, and does not give you time to explain. Such highly strung customers can be difficult to deal with.

The entrepreneur must concentrate on the buyer's fast talk, and exercise patience. In this case, concentration means condensed and concise presentation of whatever you will be selling. Long explanations will not appeal; careful and methodical elaboration will only irritate. A mere outline of what you think are important facts will suffice, then the customer will intuitively fill in the details. Such phrases as, "I won't waste your time. I know you you will quickly make up your mind", will go a long way in making this type of customer comfortable and make a decision to buy.

The sociable buyer

The sociable buyer comes midway between the deliberate and the nervous buyer. The latter weighs everything up, and becomes more cautious and leisurely when buying. This customer's brain works slowly. He/she is not excitable, and can rarely be worked up to a pitch of enthusiasm.

The sociable buyer, on the other hand, is a genial and confident person, who returns your greeting cordially. This type of customer is easy to interest, but not always easy to do business with. He/she likes to combine business with gossip, and the social side of life. If she likes a salesperson, she is not averse to being entertained; but many sales are lost by indulging this taste for sociability. When the time comes to decide whether she will order, she dislikes coming to a decision. Her favourite trick is suddenly to remember she has an appointment elsewhere, and rush away before she buys anything. Meanwhile valuable time will have been lost talking to her.

An experienced entrepreneur will keep firmly to the business objective, and leave entertainment or chat until after the sale. It should be remembered that selling goods is primarily a serious business transaction as suggested by the somewhat cynical saying: "There is no sentiment in business".

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Now that we have looked at the nervous buyer and the sociable buyer, take time to reflect on thes two types of customer by:

  • Drawing on your personal experience and cite examples you came across in your enterprise
  • Suggest how either customer type influences your type of business
  • Make a recommendation to peers on how you dealt with such types

The cautious buyer

Cautiousness is often a highly developed characteristic. People may be naturally cautious, or have become so by unfortunate experiences. The overcautious buyer is likely to see non-existent dangers. She discovers a disadvantage for every good point made, and takes a pessimistic view of the product, not so much because she cannot buy to advantage, but because she wishes to be absolutely reassured on every point. How would you deal with such a customer? See if you agree with what is suggested below.

The nearest way to the heart of the cautious buyer is to openly approve such caution by avoiding impatience , and showing sympathy with her desire for full information. You must be frank in acknowledging any little weakness or disadvantage she may point out. You should then overcome the effect of that acknowledgement by giving strong counter-arguments. Any attempt to conceal a weakness, or to brush aside an objection as trivial, will arouse suspicion and antagonism. Every point should be thrashed out with thoroughness, and no point should be missed until the buyer has admitted satisfaction with it.

The argumentative buyer

The argumentative customer is a combative type of person who always welcomes controversy. Her argumentativeness is generally temperamental rather than evidence of a particular mood mood or frame of mind. It should, however, be borne in mind that even the most easily persuaded customers may occasionally be in the mood for an argument. The naturally argumentative buyer loves discussion, and is often ready to air her opinions. You will easily recognise this type because she flatly contradicts every statement that is not proved. Whatever the point at issue, there are tactful ways of handling the situation without being drawn into an argument. However, you must never ignore false statements or accusations. How does one deal with this type of customer?

The greatest mistake you can make is to oppose argument with counter-argument in a way that leads to more or less heated wordy warfare. This is obviously foolish, but it comes naturally to most people in business. It mus, however, beguarded against. An argumentative person may assert, purely for argument's sake that your terms are higher than those of competitors. This rather difficult class of customer often responds favourably to anything that appeals to their sense of fair play. Unfavourable criticism, launched merely for purposes of argument, is difficult to handle , but can be counteracted by showing its injustice.

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Tell us a story


A group of young entrepreneurs has come to a workshop to learn about selling and buying. You are one of the facilitators of the workshop. Tell them a story from personal experience, to show what an argumentative buyer is, and suggest how best such a customer can be dealt with.