A waitress carries a tray through a busy restaurant full of diverse customers.

Dealing With Different Types of Customers

Updated January 1, 1 . AmFam Team

Rarely will a business cater to only one type of customer — customers have different personalities, and businesses that can effectively cater to different kinds of customers will fare far better than those who don’t make the effort. Use these tips to better interact with your customers and make more sales.

Successful small business owners need to be comfortable serving customers of all types. One important part of improving your sales processes is identifying your customers by their personalities and tailoring your approach to respond most effectively to each.

“With personality styles, you’re going to have to adapt and recognize the differences,” says Elaine Allison, an author and speaker on customer-focused selling strategies. A sales tactic that works for one customer may turn off another.

Your customers and clients are not all the same. Allison provides tips on how to manage the differences.

Type of Customer: Director Chief
Description: They are strongly task-oriented and impatient to get things completed.
Tip: “The chief wants it done,” Allison says. When describing a product or service, get to the point as quickly as possible and don’t bog them down with minutiae. Give them concise options to choose from and be prepared to handle the details yourself.

Type of Customer: Friend
Description: They want to build relationships and keep everyone happy.
Tip: Give them space to tell you their story and tease out what their needs are, even if they seem indecisive. Work out a resolution that they feel is fair. Patience and empathy can result in a loyal customer.

Type of Customer: Problem Solver
Description: They are very detail-oriented and focused on addressing the nuts and bolts of their issue.
Tip: Make sure you know your facts and can provide nuanced solutions to this customer’s problem. Answer their questions thoroughly and make them feel confident that you understand exactly what they need.

Type of Customer: Expressive
Description: They enjoy interacting and impulsively emoting their thoughts, for better or worse.
Tip: Engage in small talk to improve your rapport. Lighten up and let the interaction play out, even if they make a comment about your business that you find objectionable. “They don’t think deeply before they speak so they can offend people,” says Allison.

Type of Customer: Picky Chooser
Description: They nitpick problems with minor details about your product or service.
Tip: If possible, cheerfully make adjustments to conform with their preferences. “I never disagree when someone has a taste issue,” Allison says. “I just say, let me see what I can do.”

Type of Customer: Political Activist
Description: They inject opinionated comments about politics, religion, gender or other hot-button topics into their interactions.
Tip: Keep interactions focused on your products and don’t engage when customers try to steer the conversation toward politics. “Don’t get into a tussle,” advises Allison. “Everyone has a right to their belief system, as long as they aren’t harming anybody.”

Thorough training on serving different customer personalities can help you and your staff create better relationships with customers. If you focus on identifying customer intent, you can tailor your sales strategies appropriately. “That’s the world,” Allison says. “There are different personalities, tastes, and beliefs.”

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