According to studies conducted in Neuroscience, we each make thousands of decisions a day. And the importance of these decisions varies enormously. Some are trivial: “should I wear a red tie or a black tie? “. Others are genuinely important: “should I hire this candidate for this position? ”

The role of a sales rep is to guide his prospect into making good decisions, whether large or small. For example, he may help him to make an appointment by sending an Outlook invitation – a fairly trivial decision. He may also help him to identify the solution that best suits his requirements – a very important decision.

A study by the Miller-Williams research institute in the US, conducted among more than 1600 corporate decision makers in various business sectors, identified 5 types of decision makers. The study revealed that 80% of sales presentations are focused on two types of decision maker… who make up just 28% of the target audience. To be sure you aren’t choosing the wrong way of selling to your prospect, here are the five types of decision maker and how to identify them, so you can tailor your sales approach accordingly.

The Charismatic decision maker

Charismatic decision makers are easily enthused by new ideas, methods and solutions. They’re energetic, like to talk and are results-focused. Because they usually think in “new and shiny” mode, they tend to concentrate on the most recent proposal or suggestion they’ve heard. That means it can be tricky to get them to make the decision you want them to.

Successful Charismatics have learned to temper their initial enthusiasm with a good dose of realism. If you don’t back your arguments with facts and figures, you’ll quickly find yourself losing their support. You need to avoid getting caught up in their enthusiasm yourself. Identify the areas they’re particularly enthusiastic about, and talk to them about the potential risks that might be associated with those areas. By working together to look at both sides of the coin, you can deliver a realistic proposal and strengthen their confidence in you.

The Thinker

The Thinker decision maker tends to come across as suspicious. He speaks little and weighs his words. He avidly absorbs facts. He’s always looking for additional information to reassure himself that he’s taking the right decision. He tends to want to protect himself and his company rather than taking risks relating to innovation or change. The Thinker also considers issues very logically and will be much more receptive to rational arguments than to emotional appeals.

If your prospect bombards you with questions and tries to view the subject from every possible angle, you can be pretty sure you’re dealing with a Thinker. If you want to win his trust, you’ll need to explain the possible obstacles to the deal, your product or your strategy before you can reach a mutually acceptable agreement.

However, make sure you don’t try to draw conclusions for him. The Thinker likes to make up his own mind independently. You’ll have a better chance of convincing him if you just give him all the information he needs and leave him to come to his own conclusions.

The Sceptic

As the name suggests, the Sceptic doubts everything and is highly suspicious, especially regarding anything which might contradict his own experience, knowledge or opinions. Be careful not to shake his own certainties too much. Generally speaking, the Sceptic can be identified by his dominating – even combative – personality. The Sceptic tends to like confrontation. He’s not afraid to say what he thinks, and won’t spare your blushes.

If you need to address or correct a point made by a Sceptic, do so with care. Remain as diplomatic as possible. For example, instead of saying, “Actually, doing X won’t work for Y reasons”, you could tell him, “I think doing X might be inefficient for Y reasons, but it’s possible I’m not fully informed on the situation “. You’ll get better results if you avoid denting his ego.

If you want to win business from a Sceptic, you’ll need to win his trust first. Sceptics are less suspicious of other people who appear similar to them. So you’d do well to find points you both have in common, whether professional or personal. And if you can, try to get yourself a recommendation from someone else in their close circle.

The Follower

Followers are responsible, but with a cautious streak. They’ll never be the first to adopt a new solution: they don’t like being guinea pigs. They’d rather let others establish the ROI for a new solution, and then perhaps they may consider buying it themselves. That’s why they’re particularly sensitive to testimonials from other customers, reviews and feedback. So if you find yourself dealing with a Follower, give him your best testimonials, and ensure they offer plenty of evidence of the results achieved. Followers are looking for proof. So make sure you give it to them.

The Controller

Controllers like to take decisions on their own. They’re sensitive, organised, precise and heavily into details. Although they tend to hide any feelings of insecurity or fears, what they hate most is uncertainty. To win over a decision maker who’s a Controller, you’ll need to give explanations supported by data, graphics and quantified claims.  Controllers want more detail than any other type of decision maker, but it has to be presented by experts. So when you’re presenting a solution to this type of person, make sure you take along a technical or business expert from your company. The message will be much better received if you – the sales representative – are the one who’s presenting it.

Once you’ve finished, don’t attempt to rush him into a decision. If you do, he’ll turn against you and you’ll have lost the battle. The Controller needs time and space to make his decision. Don’t force the issue. Give him room to breathe.

In summary, you’ll be much more effective in leading your prospects to the right decision if you adapt your approach to their own personal way of thinking. So identify what sort of decision maker you’re dealing with, and make sure you tailor your presentation accordingly.