As American novelist Kurt Vonnegut wrote, it takes all kinds of people to make up a world.
In the world of negotiation, however, there are three kinds of people you need to be worried about: the assertive, the accommodator, and the analyst. The better you understand each of these approaches to the negotiation process, the easier it will be to achieve the business outcomes you’re looking for.
The best negotiators not only understand what makes each of these negotiators tick, they are also able to quickly identify their counterpart’s personality type. They can adapt their approach to any conversation based on that information—making the other side feel comfortable, understood, in control, and consequently making yourself likable throughout the process
With that in mind, let’s take a look at how you can determine what kind of person you’re negotiating with—and what you can do to improve your sales skills by increasing the chances a deal is made with each personality type.
Personality Type No. 1: The Assertive
Assertives are honest, logical, and to the point. They don’t beat around the bush—which can make them seem aggressive and even harsh to an extent. This type of negotiator is more interested in arriving at their solution rather than the best solution. They love winning more than anything else, and if you give them an inch, they’ll take a mile.
When an assertive gives a hard stop (or “no”) on a particular issue or term, you need to appeal to the logical side of their brain by simply paraphrasing or summarizing their content. Otherwise, walk away. If there is a misalignment “the assertive” will only get angrier: “I told you no several times but you’re still here.” This is obviously not an emotional moment you want to be in the habit of creating. No one wants to be known as the pushy salesperson that can’t take a hint. And yes, even an assertive might be put off by your approach. However, keep in mind that the door never completely closes with an assertive. Just because they might say “no” today doesn’t mean they won’t come back to the table tomorrow. You will always have a chance to revisit the conversation.
When dealing with an assertive, there are a number of tools you can use to achieve your goals—mirrors will be the tactical empathy skill you’ll want to lean on most. Assertives like to talk about what they want and why. They have an inherent need to know you heard them, even if you can’t give them what they were after. Keep in mind that you will need to get a “that’s right” before successfully selling to an assertive. If you haven’t heard these two words, walk away, move on to the next person, and plan to talk to the assertive again in the future.
Personality Type No. 2: The Accommodator
Accommodators, by no surprise, are personable and conversational. They’re most interested in developing great relationships with the people they do business with—to the point that they often come across as friendly and too talkative. They are extremely likable and easy to talk to, due to their predisposition of wanting to get along, and accommodators are most likely to make the initial concession.
In these negotiations, the No. 1 goal of an accommodator is and will always be the relationship—they tend to make deals based on how much they like the other side. That being the case, while common ground should typically be avoided, it’s okay to engage in common-ground conversations with accommodators because they can help build rapport—something accommodators genuinely enjoy. They want to know about your daughters softball game.
Since accommodators like to talk about things unrelated to the issue at hand, don’t schedule a 30-minute conversation with them. You’re going to need an hour—or even more. You might book an hour-long call only to find out that—after having a great interaction—you have 10 minutes left and still haven’t gotten down to brass tacks. Plan for this to happen by shortening your pitch and being patient.
A good way to engage with this personality type is by asking calibrated questions strictly focused on implementation. Keep in mind that accommodators might actually overpromise and agree to something they can’t deliver simply because they want to get along with you.
Personality Type No. 3: The Analyst
Analysts spend a lot of time preparing and also tend to ask many questions. These folks are pragmatic and skeptical by nature. They also hate surprises—so you should limit questions that catch them off guard. While analysts see themselves as smart and realistic, they can often come across as cold and standoffish.
To an analyst, you’re the enemy. In the event that you’re talking to an analyst completely out of the blue, don’t try to close them in the first conversation. They will not agree with you simply out of spite for the fact you didn’t respect their decision making process.
Labels will be the skill you want to rely on most with this type. Analysts are interested in having a dispassionate conversation about the data they have collected, and labels will help you do just that. In contrast, questioning will only raise red flags for the analyst. Even if you ask a question with good intentions, the analyst with hear this as a potential problem and obstacle to moving forward.
Improve Your Sales Skills by Understanding Your Counterpart’s Personality Type
So who’s the easiest to persuade: the assertive, the analyst, or the accommodator?
There isn’t necessarily a correct answer to that question. But there are a few general rules to keep in mind.
All three types have their quirks, just like you do. This means what it will take to make a deal with one is obviously going to be different than what it will take for another. The old adage of the golden rule doesn’t actually apply here unless you’re negotiating with yourself—and even then it might not apply depending on what is at stake and what side of the table you’re sitting on.
Bottom line? Figure out what kind of personality type you have, and what kind of personality type you’re selling to. The better you understand what makes the other side tick, the easier it will be for you to develop an effective negotiating strategy for each conversation.
Treat others the way they need to be treated.