If marketers and salespeople knew exactly why people bought their products, it would be a lot easier to pedal their wares. The problem is there’s a lot of nuance when it comes to why people do what they do. Some are overwhelmed by choice and opt for what’s easiest while others need to examine every possible angle before they decide. Without knowing who a person is before they’re approached, a salesperson could inadvertently say the wrong thing and kill the sale altogether. Scott Gillum, a B2B marketing expert, identifies the different groups as needles, seekers, loyalists, and legacies, and you can use his categorization to develop your own selling strategies.

Birds of a feather

Regardless of how professional (or even robotic) a client might seem, they are driven by the emotions they feel throughout the day. While people may change throughout the course of the time you work with them, it’s helpful to get a firm handle on which groups have the most connection to your brand and which are always looking for a better deal. This can help with both long-term clients and prospects alike. While a salesperson’s script can have some flexibility, depending on who they’re selling to, there should be certain expectations based on which group a person falls into. On average, close to 80% of marketing leads do not end up as sales, so this is a topic that likely needs your attention.

1. The Needle

Gillum states that up to 15% of all buyers are those who fall into the “right place, right time” category. Essentially the salesperson happened upon them at a time when the client realized they had a problem that quickly needed a resolution. Handling this account requires recognizing that these people aren’t necessarily looking to be upsold or cross-sold on new products, and they might never look beyond the transactional nature of their relationship with your brand. However, it is possible to develop an affection to your company (if not undying enthusiasm) through both dependable work and flexibility though. This is a time to focus on practicality for them: reduce their risks, limit your own mistakes, and never give them a reason to look elsewhere.

2. The Seeker

This is a customer that actively comes to your company to see what you can do for them, and they can represent up to 20% of your customer base. They know what the issue is, and they’re looking to you to convince them that you can fix it. This is a time to really impress them, because they may be actively seeking out your competitors in the process. You won’t know if these people will make it to the Loyalist level when you first meet them, but they do have that potential. The takeaway for salespeople to remember is that it’s very different for someone to come to you with a problem than to approach them with a solution they may not need. It’s a big opportunity that many businesses fail at because they’re focused too much on making the sale or proclaiming superiority over competitors than really selling the Seeker on the answer to their prayers.

3. The Loyalist

These are the people who have already decided that you’re the company for them, and likely make up between a quarter and a third of your business. They tell their colleagues about you in an effort to get you even more business, and they’re interested in learning about your new offerings practically before you think of them. In order to keep them in this category, you need to stay on top of their account and recognize their continued loyalty in a way that singles them out from the Needles and the Seekers. These people are the easiest clients to work with, and do not necessarily need a lot of attention. However, the attention you do show them should make it clear that you see their devotion and appreciate it. Salespeople need to stay alert though because these accounts are easy to push to the background.

4. The Legacy

This is often the client-side contact that takes over after the Loyalist, Needle, or Seeker has left their role. They don’t really know your business, but they know you understand how their company works and will continue to use you out of convenience. It can be frustrating for both parties involved because you want to please them, but the client may be resentful they’re not carving out enough of a unique role by picking their own vendors to work with. Though this person might not want to develop a connection with your company, it’s still important to see where they’re coming from and to continue giving them excellent, consistent service.