Customer Buying Styles

Think about your business development person who’s going out there to build trust and credibility for your organization. They’re going to encounter potential customers and make an assessment of what’s important to that customer. Hopefully they will ask questions and listen to get a sense of who they are and what they’re looking for, and what they need out your organization. One of the most important things they can find out for you is, “What is this customer’s buying style?”

There are three primary buying styles, but most customers are a combination of at least two. They have a primary and secondary style that influence every decision they make. Recognizing these traits gives you an extraordinary advantage as you attempt to position your offering, overcome customer objections, and generally make your response attractive to this individual or group.

The three styles are Confidence, Value, and Control.

Confidence customers need you to be the expert. They want to rely on a trustworthy and knowledgable supplier, so it is critical that you establish rapport first. Once you are a trusted authority you can explore options, ideas, and suggestions to help the customer get the experience and outcomes they desire. Confidence customers are the most coveted because they want long term relationships. Finding someone else that they can trust is a lot of work, so once the latch on they tend to stay. Confidence buyers also tend to be more profitable.

Value customers are looking for a good deal, but not necessarily the best price. Value customers weigh features, timing, and cost, but they also respond well to pricing options and specials. Pure value buyers can be difficult to deal with because any variation in value will affect their decision. Value customers tend to shop more and change suppliers more easily. The key to working with a value buyer is to focus on their secondary buying style. Also, never treat them as price-shoppers. Even when they say that price is the most important thing – there is always something else that matters more.

Control customers consider themselves the expert. They are looking for a knowledgable partner, but not someone that thinks they know more than the buyer. It is therefore important to establish credibility with Control customers, with the goal of becoming an active participant in the transaction as opposed to an order-taker. Not all control buyers will let you do this. Control buyers also tend to dictate the terms of the deal, alter your specifications to better meet their needs, and keep their decision criteria secret. You often don’t know which way a control buyer will go until the decision deadline.

Rarely will you find buyers that are purely one trait. In general you will find a strong primary trait that tends to remain consistent throughout your relationship with that person, plus a secondary trait that more times than not will drive their decision-making process and may change from deal to deal. For instance, a Confidence-Value buyer will first seek to satisfy their need for trust and credibility, but ultimately make the final decision on value. Next time the final decision might be on a confidence issue.

Depending on the type of business you are in, one customer type may be preferential over another, but not all combinations are wonderful to work with. For instance, a Control-Value buyer wants to be the expert and set the terms of the deal. In other words, they view business relationships as transactions and are the most likely to switch suppliers for minor issues. Control-Confidence buyers are often high maintenance. They place a lot of demands on you throughout the process (control) but then need you to reassure them that you know what you are doing (confidence). Then there is the least loyal customer: the dreaded Value-Control buyer. Imagine an extremely detached purchasing agent that must work within strict criteria.

When presenting your product or service, framing a proposal, or dealing with objections, understanding your buyer type is critical. Meeting the buyer’s primary need may only get you to the table. Closing the deal often requires that you shift gears and focus on their secondary style. The goal in working long term with any buying style is to develop a Confidence relationship. Control and Value buyers can become Confidence buyers if you consistently meet their criteria. Eventually, control and value will become strong secondary traits.

For additional insight into Customer Buying Styles, check out this video blog.


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