Selling With Style

by Bruce R. Wares

Bruce R. WaresHave you noticed that some prospects are easy to approach, enjoyable to get to know, and can often become genuine, close friends?

Have you also encountered prospects or clients who are difficult to get along with, very demanding, nearly impossible to satisfy — and if you never saw them again, you’d be a happier person?

What makes one person so easy to get along with and the next person so difficult?

The answer often is our “personal style” or preferred style of behavior. This is true both in social and professional situations. In sales it can mean the difference between success and failure with an account.

How can we more easily sell and relate to more people? How can we improve our closing ratios?

Each of us has, over a period of years, developed certain habit patterns of behavior. We learned to use these behaviors to get what we want. In most cases our preferred style of behavior works. Research shows us, however, that certain behaviors are counter-productive and even injurious to us.

This is certainly true in the world of sales. For instance, if you are dealing with a slow-paced, detail-oriented, cautious and indecisive prospect, and you insist on talking loudly, forcing your opinions, moving along quickly towards the sale, and being impatient with your prospect, the outcome won’t be very pleasant!

Common sense tells us this. Despite common sense, it’s amazing how many sales are lost every day by salespeople who insist on behaving in their own preferred way – and at the same time ignoring their prospect’s preferred style of buying.

If you want to sell more, more easily, and you want to develop and maintain profitable client relationships, learn just two important ideas:

Learn to quickly identify your prospect’s preferred style of behavior.

Learn how to “shift” your sales style to put your prospect at ease and make the buying process go more smoothly.

Based on years of extensive research by Terry D. Anderson, Ph.D. and my own sales training experience, we’ve defined four selling styles, which we call “Sales Style Dimensions.” These styles are:

Behavioral ACTION


Cognitive ANALYSIS

Interpersonal HARMONY

Which of these comes closest to describing your selling style?

Behavioral ACTION

This Sales Style dimension has a strong tendency toward directly and forcefully persuading prospects and altering the sales environment in an effort to achieve well thought-out sales goals.

Sales people who naturally operate mainly from this quadrant of Sales Style are likely to seem self-assured, aggressive, driven, and many times oblivious to their prospect’s feelings; on a focused track of their own. As viewed by their sales team, they are often perceived as “heavy-hitters” and sales leaders because they tend to forge ahead to meet difficult sales challenges with unusual vigor.

The action-oriented style is typical of strong “closers” and those salespeople who are very persistent in scheduling appointments. This action-oriented behavior can be perceived as pushy and aggressive by both the Cognitive Analysis and Interpersonal Harmony Styles, as they both move forward much more slowly than this style salesperson.

Decisive and bold, this Sales Style constantly seeks new or proven ways to speed along the buying process.

The Behavioral ACTION Sales Style characteristic (by itself, without other style influences) is extroverted and can withstand greater sales-related stress (for instance: high sales quotas) than other styles. They don’t tend to use highly creative or “flashy’ modes of selling, but prefer planned, proven, and very direct sales methods to achieve previously defined bottom-line sales results.


Sales people with this style have a strong tendency to intuitively explore their prospect’s emotions and the sales situation; then intuitively interact with them in order to achieve the desired sales outcome. Spontaneous expression of ideas and feelings mark the natural tendencies of this Sales Style.

People with a natural tendency toward this Sales Style use very creative approaches of speaking, gesturing, or letter writing in their attempts to persuade prospects to buy. They make artistically creative, and often very dramatic, presentations.

They like to quickly sell others on themselves, their ideas, and the products or services which (hopefully) will be helpful and provide solutions to their prospects’ problems. They often go out of their way to help prospects because they believe in the value of satisfied clients and their ongoing relationships with them.

This Sales Style (by itself, without other style influences) is extroverted, not being easily over-stimulated by their prospect’s thoughts or feelings, or by the sales environment.

People strong in this style dimension can seem insensitive as they rapidly move ahead of others. The Affective EXPRESSION Sales Style generally avoids analytical or technical approaches to selling, but is more intuitive and creative in selling others on taking action. Social interaction and a focus on having a “good time” characterizes this sales style.

Cognitive ANALYSIS

This Sales Style dimension is characterized by a strong tendency to remain in control of the sales situation. Attention to details, precision and correctness, and being on the alert for potential dangers or inconsistencies enable sales people with this style to maintain control of the interview and to avoid rejection. They want to avoid being influenced negatively by other people or by the sales environment. This sales type slowly and methodically focuses on each small detail necessary to complete the sale. They often get caught up in the sales “process” and must be encouraged to move more aggressively towards “completion” of the sale.

People with this Sales Style tend to avoid emotional intensity and unpredictability. They find that gaining trust from others is not easily attained. They may need to offer more friendly, personal contact with prospects and clients to gain some much needed trust.

This Sales Style (by itself, without other style influences) is introverted, being more sensitive to actions and words of prospects and fellow workers.

The Cognitive ANALYSIS Sales Style does not prefer intuitive or emotional modes of selling, but tends toward logical analysis and exacting precision during sales tasks, with focus and interest on preparing the “perfect presentation.” This aim at perfection can reduce the number of presentations made, yet can be particularly effective in technical sales situations.

Interpersonal HARMONY

This Sales Style dimension is characterized by a strong tendency to adapt to individual prospects and sales situations in order to promote harmony and to provide comfort for everyone involved in the sale.

People who are strong in this style dimension feel they must be personally liked and respected by each of their prospects or clients. The Interpersonal HARMONY Sales Style typically approaches life and people in a practical, friendly, and naturally warm manner.

Adaptation to all other styles is a way of life, providing the desired career security and balance needed and preferred by those who score higher in this style dimension.

The Interpersonal HARMONY Sales Style finds it much easier to make friends with prospects than to move ahead assertively to close the sale. They do not like to be perceived as being pushy or aggressive. Their natural tendency to gain a sense of validation and personal approval is achieved by supporting their prospects’ desires. Because of this sincere effort, they are often described by prospects as warm and friendly, and service-oriented.

This Sales Style (by itself, without other style influences) is introverted, being more sensitive to the words and actions of prospects. It favors a practical balance of both the logical and intuitive modes of selling; avoiding extremes in behavior. Closing the sale does not come easily for this Sales Style.


      The four Sales Style Dimensions provide you with an organized view of how you perceive yourself while also revealing the likely consequences of your Sales Style.

As you become more keenly aware of those consequences, you can plan to develop greater style flexibility to increase effectiveness in various selling situations. This can lead to greater rapport, trust, mutual respect with your clients, and increased profits.

The behaviors exhibited by your Sales Style vary somewhat from person to person, and from situation to situation. For the most part, and for most people, they remain consistent over time. The general pattern you exhibit is unique and distinct from most other people’s Sales Style patterns.

Gaining a deeper understanding of the Four Sales Style dimensions will assist you to appreciate the characteristics of other styles. You can later apply this knowledge when you want to adjust your style in order to be more effective with certain prospects and clients. This style shifting is an important sales skill to develop, and you can learn to be more flexible and effective without being artificial in the way you present yourself.

© Copyright 1996 Bruce R. Wares. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

Bruce R. Wares has more than 30 years of successful sales experience and has presented sales training since 1976 for industry-leading companies (and those that plan to become leaders in their industry) from the Fortune 100 to small entrepreneurial firms. He personally trains groups of 12 to 50 or more, specializing in his PARTNER$SELL approach to achieving Measurable Results.

You can reach Bruce Wares at:

Sales Productivity Institute
3730 North 26th Street
Boulder, CO 80304-1324
Phone: 303-938-1420 Fax: 303-938-1483
[email protected]