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03 December 2014

Understanding Buyer Behaviour

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In relationship selling we need to understand about peoples' preferred buying behavior and social styles. It is a fact that people buy differently.

Some people prefer to buy quickly, others slowly. Some people need a lot of information and detail, for others a sheet of A4 with bullet points is all the
information they need. Some buyers make purchases on impulse; others take their time and try to avoid risk. Some buyers are very loyal; others will automatically choose the
cheapest option. Some buyers can be quite intimidating to the point of being rude; others are quite passive and easily manipulated.

This makes selling a real challenge. To sell to all these different buyer types we need to be able to adapt our selling behavior and make the buying process easy for each type of buyer we come across. To begin this process we need to look at 2 aspects of buyer behavior; assertiveness and responsiveness. People who are assertive are confident and know what they want. They are not afraid to put forward opinions and are willing to listen to the opinions of others. They are not afraid of conflict and will be more than happy to argue their case. People who are highly assertive can be seen as being aggressive while people who lack assertiveness are often passive and get taken advantage of. There are times when it is appropriate to be more or less assertive and we need to recognise when these times are. Responsiveness means the extent to which people are willing to respond to us and our questions. Some people are highly responsive and will give lots of information about themselves, their problems and needs. Others are unwilling or unable to respond in this way and we see these people often as being negative or difficult. There are four basic styles of behavior and these are determined by the way, in which people relate to one another.


The analytical buyer

People who lack assertiveness and responsiveness are called Analyticals. The analytical buyer distrusts salespeople because they lack precision. Analyticals like to analyze and compare things. They take their time and are wary of making quick decisions. They deal in facts and like things to be objective rather than subjective. They tend not to confident in social situations and hate small talk. They avoid risk taking and like things to be put in writing and in detail. They find salespeople to be intimidating especially if they feel under pressure. Their main tactic for getting rid of salespeople is to stop replying to their voice mails.

The Driver

The Driver is highly assertive, but not very responsive. This is the typical negotiator. Tough, uncompromising, doesn't suffer fools gladly and determined to be in charge. Drivers want to be in control and can appear to be aggressive if you don't give them what they want. They seem unfriendly at first and will impose time deadlines on meetings. The Driver doesn't want to be your friend, so the typical salesperson will irritate the Driver, who will often bully the salesperson into submission. The Driver drives a hard bargain and wants to win.

The amiable buyer

The amiable buyer is highly responsive, but not very assertive. They are very friendly, good in social situations and prefer friendly relationships to conflict. Many salespeople are amiable in their nature. Amiable buyers lack assertiveness so will agree to appointments and meetings, but are they wasting your time? They tell you what the competition are up to, but what are they telling the competition about you? Look after your amiable customers. They are loyal and unlikely to move to a competitor because that involves a certain degree of conflict and they hate giving bad news. They are nice people to be around, but find difficulty saying no and in negotiations tend to give everything away.

The expressive buyer

The expressive buyer is highly assertive and highly responsive. They are impulse buyers with low boredom thresholds and a short attention span. They love to buy concepts and will make quick, if not always good, decisions. They don't want a lot of detail and will not read detailed proposals. They are not good listeners and like brainstorming sessions. They are confident and flamboyant, but not great when it comes to detailed thought and analysis. In negotiations they start off strong but get bored and will often make a concession just to get things over with. Expressives buy on the day. Get some sort of commitment from them while you can. Once you have gone they will be moving on to their next project and will have forgotten about you.

So, how do we deal with them?

The answer is that they need to be dealt with differently. We have to match their preferred style by becoming more or less assertive and responsive. The simplest way to sum this up is that drivers like to buy from drivers, amiables like to buy from amiables, expressives like to buy from expressives and analyticals like to buy from analyticals. Whatever our preferred style we have to match the behaviour of the person we are selling to. Speed up, slow down, get into the detail, sell concepts, be friends, or don't bother.


  • Don't push them into making quick decisions
  • Take your time. Slow down
  • Take action rather than words to demonstrate helpfulness and willingness.
  • Sticks to specifics - analyticals expect salespeople to exaggerate.
  • Their decisions are based on facts and logic and they avoid risk.
  • They can often be very co-operative, but established relationships take time.
  • Consider telling them what the product won't do - they will respect you for it, and they will have spotted the deficiencies anyway.
  • Discuss reasons and ask 'why?' questions.


  • Be assertive. Use eye contact. Stand up for yourself
  • Plan to ask questions about and discuss specifics, actions and results.
  • Use facts and logic.
  • When necessary, disagree with facts rather than opinions.
  • Keep it business-like, efficient and to the point.
  • Personal guarantees and testimonials are least effective - better to provide options and facts.
  • Learn how to say no.


  • Be their friend.
  • Work, jointly, seek common ground.
  • Find out about personal interests and family.
  • Use personal assurance and specific guarantees and avoid options and probabilities.
  • Take time to be agreeable.
  • Focus discussions on 'how'.
  • Demonstrate low risk solutions.


  • Look for the flip chart in their office
  • Let them do the work. Ask open questions
  • Seek opinions in an area you wish to develop to achieve mutual understanding.
  • Discussion should be people as well as fact oriented.
  • Keep summarizing - work out specifics on points of agreement.
  • Try short, fast moving experience stories.
  • Close them down today. Get some commitment

What typical Selling style can be applied for each buyer style?

Here's some tips on adapting your sales campaign based on the "tells" your buyer gives you.


Adapting to the Analytical buyer: Often considered the hardest type to sell to, these buyers expect and require a lengthy sales cycle, including technical deep dives in the solution, time for research, and time for deciding. Removing the risk in the sale is also critical to closing, from trials to warranties to "out" clauses. Be prepared to deliver the facts with precision and detail, stress the business case and ROI of the investment, respond to multiple inquires (and not necessarily in person – so keep good documents), and then give the buyer room – and time – to decide.

Adapting to the Driver buyer: The good news is these buyers make decisions quickly, and require much shorter sales cycles. However, drivers crave control, speed, and surety. Be prepared to deliver relevant, precise, and short presentations, with confidence. And to stick to the business at hand. Often the vendor and solution with the quickest, demonstrated results will win with Drivers.

Adapting to the Amiable buyer: These buyers expect to build a rapport with you, including building a friendship with you prior to buying, trusting you are making the right recommendation for them, and introducing you to multiple stakeholders to help build a consensus of decision. Be prepared to deliver a low-pressure sales approach, focus on the relationship and not the sales presentations, and help direct the buyer to the best choice.

Adapting to the Expressive buyer: These buyers are impulse buyers! The bad news is Expressives often make decisions based on first impressions. This can result in an easy sell, or a sale you lose without really understanding what happened. With these buyers, you need to paint a vision and sell the big picture. Be prepared to deliver with emotion and keep your presentations exciting. Always remember: You are on the stage.


People buy differently, so we should sell to them differently. Understand your own preferred style and the strengths and weaknesses it brings to the way you sell. You have to learn to be flexible if you are going to sell to a wider range of people. Work on being more or less assertive and more or less responsive and you will sell to more people.

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Last modified on Friday, 12 December 2014 08:33