Streamlining Customer Buying Decisions

by | Feb 1, 2008 | Personality Styles

It’s not what people buy, but why they buy. Your customer’s personality style is a key to understanding how they make decisions to buy. A customer starts with both business reasons, and personal reasons, to seek a new product or service. Additionally, both objective and subjective factors are assessed by the customer as they decide whether to buy, who to trust, and which company to buy from. By understanding how the different personality color types relatively weight these decision criteria, and how they respond to these values, you can influence the decision to buy.

Objective reasons to buy: Before the buying cycle starts, there exists an identified need within the buying company. Customers purchase products and solutions to impact specific factors in their business model or to reach specific business goals. Some of the most typical of these are:

  • Increase profits and revenue;
  • Reduce operational costs;
  • Increase productivity;
  • Improve cash flow;
  • Reduce inventory;
  • Improve customer delivery;
  • Lower product defect rates;
  • Reduce whole life total cost of ownership of equipment;
  • Bring new products to market faster;
  • Open new markets for products.

Of course these vary by industry and company maturity. Once the purchase is complete, then from a business perspective, the impact on these factors is both objective and measurable. After the product or service is acquired, for the purchase to be successful, some measurable and beneficial shift should be observed. But at the time of the decision to buy, these are “potential” effects and the salesman can influence the perception of how the product will perform.

Subjective reasons to buy: But there are always subjective, personal factors which become significant reasons for a decision maker to buy or not to buy, wait or buy now. The following situations are subjective and personal, but nevertheless may strongly impact a decision to buy:

  • Will it ease the pressure on my position and my team?
  • Will I get a promotion or a bonus if it turns out well?
  • Will it help employee moral?
  • How will I be viewed by ‘xxx’ in making this decision?
  • How will our position change in regards to our competition?
  • Will it improve the quality of the work environment?

Objective buying-decision criteria: Five common criteria weighed by the purchasing team, when making a decision to buy a product or service, are: cost, capability, quality, service and risk. Whether it’s a product or a project, these are key factors your customers consider when making a decision.

  • Cost is the total cost of ownership including the return on the investment. This TCO includes the immediate price, the deferred downstream costs such as maintenance and service, and indirect costs such as any warranties involved.
  • Capability is the functionality of your product or service and the technology that’s used. “What is the product or service able to do?” “What’s the breadth of the solution and how can it expand in the future as we grow?” “How easy will it be to install and integrate with other parts of our business process?”
  • Quality is the reliability of your product. “Will it last?” “Will it have problems?” “Will it consistently perform as promised?”
  • Service is how well you will take care of the customer if problems arise. “What hours are you available?” “What is your response time?” Service is all about your company’s attitude on customer care and your ability to perform when issues arise.
  • Risk measures the probability that you will live up to your agreements, direct and implied, and additionally that the product is all they expect it to be. Some risk is inherent in any decision to buy or not to buy. Have they learned enough to be comfortable with a decision to purchase? Will their risk be reduced if they wait and weigh more issues and look at more products? Will the solution perform as promised and will the return on investment be what was expected?

Each of the four personality styles, as they consider the solution you are offering, will give a different weighting to each of these criteria.

Subjective buying-decision criteria: Cost, service, quality, capability and risk can be analyzed and assessed. In themselves they are objective factors which can be quantified, at least to some extent. But how a customer responds to these can be subjective. Subjective factors that affect a decision to buy, and when to buy, also include:

  • The customer’s relationship with the sales person. Whether or not trust and respect are established. Were these effectively built through the sales process?
  • How comfortable is the customer with the proposed product solution, as contrasted with how comfortable they were before the need arose?
  • How authoritative is the salesperson? Have they understood the business and personal needs of the customer?
  • The customer is buying from not only the sales person but the company they represent. What is the reputation of the company? In popular culture is it considered one of “the good guys?”

Personality plays a part in all these decisions to buy or not buy. The objective impacts are more to those who are left brained (Green and Gold). The subjective impacts are more often considered by the right brained (Orange and Blue). Each of the four personality styles will lean towards two of the five criteria more heavily over the others. We have seen that most often our usual rule-of-thumbs are:

  • Blue = Quality & Service
  • Orange = Cost & Service
  • Greene = Capability & Quality
  • Gold = Cost & Risk

Let’s now explore more specific responses of the four personality styles to the business reasons and decision criteria we have identified.

Blues make decisions from the heart; a decision must feel right. Blues will lean towards the subjective impacts of a solution such as: how it will impact the people in the organization, how will it affect moral, will it improve the quality of the work environment. Blues are slow to make decisions since they solicit the input of all the team members. Then they make a decision based on group consensus. Making sure everyone agrees on the decision can take time, during which Blues do not like to be pressured. Blues typically are risk averse and prefer the safe solution. Trust is paramount with a Blue decision maker, but objective criteria also influence Blues. A Blue will place emphasis on the quality of the solution and the service. How will the solution impact productivity (specifically people productivity)? How will the product/purchase impact ‘customer satisfaction’ (again focusing on their team of people)? To gain commitment from a Blue, ask how they feel about moving forward.

Oranges make decisions from the gut; a decision must seem advantageous. When it comes to personal purchases, Oranges are impulse buyers. When making business purchases, Oranges are bottom line driven. The more important criteria for the Oranges are subjective and distinctly personal. How will they look inside the organization if they go with the decision to buy? Will they get a promotion or bonus? Importantly, Oranges like to do business with a person they can rely on time and time again. Ease of doing business, convenience, and great personal service during the sales cycle are important to the Orange. Specific objective criteria (those associated with competition) also influence Orange decisions. How will the solution position the company in regards to the competition? Will the solution improve customer satisfaction and market share? Will it improve the time to market for new products? Oranges tend to be more impatient than the other personalities since they typically juggle many balls at one time. They are quick to make decisions, and when Oranges make a decision they are decisive. When presenting to Oranges, describe the big picture, use bullets and provide the short summary. Oranges need to know they are getting a great deal and they can have it now!

Greens make decisions from the head; a decision must be logical. The Green personality is objective when assessing the impact of a solution. They will research the product, market, your company, and make quantitative comparisons with other vendor’s solutions. The objective criteria established for the purchase are very important to the Green’s consideration of any solution. For example, how will the solution improve product quality and functionality? How will it lower the defect rate? How will it bring new and innovative products to market? How will it open new markets? Greens are slow to make decisions since research takes time and they seek lots of information. Once the research is complete, they will make a decision – but until then, don’t push them. Subjectively, Greens are pressure averse. With Greens you need to be patient and provide everything they ask for. For a Green, each decision is personal, usually unaffected by the opinion of others. The best approach for moving the sale forward is to ask them: “what other information might you need?” and “what will be your next step in the assessment?”

Golds make weighted decisions for the company; a decision must impart financial well being (for the company first, and then indirectly, for them). For the Gold, decisions are mostly objective. What is the return on investment? How will this impact the bottom line, reduce operation costs, improve cash flow or reduce inventory levels? Golds study the companies (yours and even your partners) that they consider doing business with. How long have they been around? What is their position in the industry; their credibility? From a subjective side, Golds are concerned with their position in the organization and what impact the decision will have politically. Will it enhance their prospects and weaken their rivals? Trust is also important to the Gold. Objectively, Golds will assess the risk involved in making a decision. Subjectively, Golds like corporate security, value the status quo, and need a prudent reason to make a decision. Remember, Golds need to have expectations clearly laid out. Golds are usually very organized and have a timeline for each step in the process that leads towards the buying decision; which makes them predictable as to when they will make a final decision. For Golds, “time is money” is literal – do not waste their time. Be supportive of the Gold and their decision making process and you can ask for the order.

The bottom line: If you are dealing with a left brain personality type (Green or Gold) the decision will more often lean towards the business aspects of your solution. Business needs will override the personal needs. However, if you are dealing with a right brain decision maker (Blue or Orange), the personal needs can outweigh the business needs.

Recapping, questions like: How do they feel? (Blue) What does their gut tell them? (Orange) Is it logical? (Green) Is it advantageous? (Gold) Are they looking for a promotion or how will they be viewed by the rest of the organization if they make the decision? (Gold or Orange) How will it impact the people in the organization? (Blue or Gold) Is it the best solution? (Green)… Understanding that each personality style goes about making decisions differently can reset your approach and strategy with the customer. If there are multiple decision makers, you can emphasize the key points that will be important to each personality style involved – thereby covering all your bases. Focusing on both the objective and subjective points will satisfy each individuals own issues and be significant in moving the sale forward.