A tribal approach to sizing up prospects

On a business trip to Brazil in 2008, Nancy Bleeke, President of Sales Pro Insider, a training and consulting firm, learned about tribes from her travel guide. The guide explained that the Copacabana beach scene in Rio de Janeiro is full of different tribes or groups of people — teenagers, families and singles — with similar customs who congregate in specific areas each weekend. Their shared customs include communication styles and preferences and so much more.

It inspired her to develop a Tribal Types assessment system that is designed to help salespeople identify a buyer’s “type” and then adapt how they work and sell with that particular person in the moment.

Bleeke identified four distinct types of prospects. “Yes, people are much more complex than four categories can explain, but with these four types as a guide, you are well equipped to make the necessary adjustments to work effectively with most people,” she writes in her new book, “Conver­sa­tions That Sell” (AMACOM).

Achievers are high energy, quick, impulsive and always on the move. They can be abrupt, confident, independent, impatient, and are often fast talkers. They can seem dominating in their actions and conversations in their quest to get things done.
Working Style: Achievers have many goals and priorities and they talk about their past achievements. Often, they give tight deadlines and short timelines for getting things done.

Achievers find value in someone who can help them get things done quickly, preserve their time, produce results, provide a lack of distractions, give them the opportunity to be first or try something new, and provide high-profile connections. Though often they tell you what they want from you, they appreciate someone who is strong enough to clarify options or to push back to make something even better quicker.

Commanders are reserved and controlled in their speech and body language. They are planners — precise, orderly, serious and methodical.
Working Style: Commanders are analytical, logical and systematic, and their decisions are data-driven. They may bog down decisions with analysis and strive for accuracy, and they will spend the time needed to “get it done right.”
Commanders know what they want. They look for a seller who is accurate and can help them be right. They want substance and an organized approach to the sale, relationship and solution. They like options with detailed pros and cons presented for analysis.

Reflectors are cooperative, friendly, patient, agreeable and people-focused. They appear more reserved than others and will not seek attention in a crowd. They are not your first adopters for ideas or productions. They prefer a high level of detail and are able to recall details or know where to get the data if needed.
Working Style: Reflectors like information in advance and want to know the steps involved. They appreciate someone helping them through the decision-making process by providing all the information they need and not pressing.

Expressers are energetic, social and talkative. Their decisions are swayed heavily by the impact the outcome will have on others. They may work outside the established systems or processes to get things done through their connections.
Working Style: They find value in sellers they can connect with and who can help them navigate the decision-making process. They appreciate the opportunity to be first or to be able to introduce something new to others.

The Tribal Types identifiers will help salespeople determine the necessary adjustments to make so their conversations count to each buyer.

They should prepare for every conversation with the individual’s Tribal Type in mind, Bleeke says. It helps determine the information they should have available, the way they should word questions, how much small talk to plan for, and the ways in which they should provide value.