November 29, 2007

Four Types of Decision Makers: How to Reach Them

It takes all kinds. That goes for decision makers, too.

The problem is that sometimes their kind isn't our kind. And if we don't consciously make an effort to adjust our style to match theirs, we're likely to communicate to the one audience we really understand: ourselves.

Here are guidelines for communicating persuasively, in person or in print, to the four most common types of decision makers.

Four Types of Decision Makers: How to Reach Them

People are different, of course. But there are some guidelines that can help us deal effectively with certain types of decision makers. Some of these guidelines are based on research into personality types, and some of them are based on research into communications theory. Either way, if it helps you get your message across.

Pragmatic decision makers:

Pragmatic decision makers are focused on the bottom line. They value feeling in control and become irritated by inefficiency or indecision. In your presentations and proposals, they mainly want to know what will it do for me, how soon, and at what price? The delivery style they prefer is concise, focused, and objective. If you make them uncomfortable, they become bossy, assertive, or aggressive. Sometimes they just shut down completely and don't return your calls.

Your key strategies:

  1. Show that you support their business or technical goals and objectives.
  2. Keep the relationship businesslike.
  3. Focus on facts, not feelings.
  4. Be precise, efficient, and well organized in your writing and presenting.
  5. Provide a few alternatives and indicate their probability of success.
  6. Always show how your recommendations will help achieve the decision maker's objectives.

Visionary decision makers:

Visionaries are entrepreneurial. Geoffrey Moore, in Crossing the Chasm, calls them "the early adopters." They value intelligence, creativity, imagination, flexibility, and energy. They are likely to listen to what you say and immediately transform it in terms of their ideas or goals. They need to know how your products or services help them achieve their goals. In your presentations and proposals, they react favorably to high energy, excitement, commitment, focused interest, and sensory stimulation. Detail, routine, and boring processes are a turn off for these people, and once they decide you're not the person they want to work with, they will turn against you, become sarcastic or disruptive, and may even attack you or your ideas.

Your key strategies:

  1. Support their ideas.
  2. Don't argue with them, especially regarding details or factual points.
  3. Keep your presentations fast moving, interesting, and concise.
  4. Don't pressure or hurry the decision maker.
  5. Get their agreement and commitment to details and deadlines in writing.
  6. Use humor, ingenuity, color, splash, and dash in your proposal and presentation.
  7. Use testimonials and success stories from successful, high-profile clients to influence the decision process.

Consensus-seeking decision makers:

Consensus seekers are sincere and care about the feelings of others. They tend to get lost in technical details. They value close working relationships and want to know that you are dependable and that what you are recommending will be beneficial for all concerned. They want you to be pleasant, trustworthy, and reliable, so they are upset by insensitivity, self-interest, or pressure. Oddly enough, when they become uncomfortable, they are likely to give in and agree, then later become obstructive or resentful.

Your key strategies:

  1. Support and respect their feelings.
  2. Demonstrate personal interest in the project and decision maker.
  3. Proceed informally and carefully, building rapport and clarifying goals.
  4. Practice "active" listening, particularly feeding back what you hear them say.
  5. Back up recommendations with personal assurances of your support.
  6. Minimize risk for the decision maker.
  7. Base your persuasion at least in part on the positive consequences your solution will have for the people involved.
  8. Gently keep meetings and presentations on track, but allow time for personal talk.
  9. Establish mutual deadlines, schedules, and objectives, but indicate flexibility.
  10. Document key decisions, commitments, and action steps.

Analytical decision makers:

Analytical decision makers think that they can't decide anything until they know everything. They want lots of information and will examine it closely. They value being correct, so they want you to be accurate, precise, and logical in your proposals and presentations. They want to know how your solution will work, how it will be implemented and supported, and how they can logically justify it. They hate surprises and unpredictability, and will demonstrate their discomfort by withdrawing from the task and the relationship even to the point of avoiding you.

Your key strategies:

  1. Show patience and support for their thoughtful, organized approach.
  2. Demonstrate your competence.
  3. Provide solid, tangible, factual evidence for what you claim.
  4. Remember that accuracy is a primary virtue for this decision maker.
  5. List the advantages and disadvantages of your recommendations or plans; give priority position to the advantages.
  6. Allow the decision maker time to verify what you have said.
  7. Follow up personal contacts with written communications.
  8. Be systematic, exact, organized, and well prepared.
  9. Base your persuasion on accuracy and logic; avoid gimmicks and emotion.
  10. Provide guarantees and factual evidence that your solution will work.

Remember: If you don't understand your audience, you end up writing to yourself. And your chances of being right are no better than one in four!

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