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The four basic customer types

By Brian Barfield

77824829-mainOver the years, we have been trained to understand the four basic personality types. Some experts use animals such as lions, monkeys, giraffes, and turtles to describe them. Others use words like, ‘dominant,’ ‘expressive,’ ‘amiable,’ and ‘analytical.’ This concept of personality types is very effective in understanding your customer and teaching you how to meet their needs. However, times have changed and with them, so has the world around us. What we find is the pressures of the modern day world have altered our understanding of personality types, and without a clear grasp, we find ourselves failing to meet our customers’ needs.

What the modern day sales associate needs is a new road map to find a greater success. It all starts with building on the foundation that has been laid with the four personality types. Greatness is achieved when you take what is successful and make it even better. Can you imagine using a 20-year-old television? Why not use the modern day flat-screen television with high-definition and surround sound? The difference would be amazing! That is exactly what I have created to help the modern day sales associate meet their customers’ needs, however they arrive in your store.

What I have discovered is that all customers fit into four basic customer types: simple-minded, demanding, analytical, and guarded. Every customer who enters your store falls into one of these four types. Learning how to sell to each can help you achieve the ultimate goal of building a large and loyal customer base. Keep in mind there is a deeper understanding of each customer type. For the sake of this article, I will share with you some basics.

Let’s start with the ‘demanding’ customer. These are often the most feared of many sales associates. They can range from high-maintenance time-consumers to pushy and confrontational. Notice how these personality types can be categorized as ‘demanding.’ There are many ways to handle such a customer. However, there are two weapons you can use that will work every time: kill them with kindness and shower them with compliments. It is very hard for someone to be demanding when they are being treated well and feel respected.

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The next type is the ‘analytical.’ This person can range from an uneducated customer needing information to skilled genius who likes to play a mental game of chess with you. The best way to sell to this client is to know your product well and sell with confidence. Any sign of weakness or uncertainty can lead to a long sales process. Be sure to make good eye contact and stay focused while engaging this customer. Most importantly, speak to them on their level.

Now we turn our attention to the ‘guarded’ customer, who is always ‘just looking.’ For a variety of reasons, this customer has an invisible wall up and you must earn his or her trust before they let you in. Trying to scale their walls without permission or tricking them can be disastrous. They must feel you are being 100 per cent honest and have their best interest in mind. You do this by serving them, rather than selling them. Create an obligation of trust by offering free ring cleaning or a service that is beneficial to them, such as a cold beverage or a coffee. You will be amazed at how quickly this client opens up to you.

Finally, there is the ‘simple-minded’ customer. This is the one that is familiar with you and trusts you completely. Your goal with every client you serve should be to turn them into a simple-minded customer. Once you have given them excellent service and a bond of trust is created, they offer little resistance. They know you care about them with the birthday, anniversary, and Christmas cards you send throughout the year. They become the foundation of your success year in and year out. You no longer are just a sales associate—you are now their friend.

The next time you greet a customer, I challenge you to focus on these basic concepts. Remember to give every client you sell the proper service to meet their needs. What you will find is a new world of success as you build your customer base with a loyalty that is unmatched. Don’t forget that with an intense focus and desire for success, beautiful things can happen. Make sure you take whatever is successful and build upon it with greatness.

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Stay tuned for part 2 of this series.

This article is based on the book, “Modern Day Selling: Unlocking your Hidden Potential,” by Brian Barfield. For more information, visit his website at or e-mail him at           


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