Understanding Prospective Buyers

Written by Sean McPheat | Linkedin thumb

leads prospect
If only everyone was the same, it would make selling a lot easier. Just imagine if you could predict how they buy, their behaviour and their next move. We’d all have smiles on our faces as we went into our next sales interaction. Sadly, this isn’t the case. There are several different personality types that we have to sell to, and this requires us to flex our approach.

While every person is different, you will find that most prospective buyers fit into certain categories. We will examine how to recognise each one, and then provide tips on how to sell to them.

These tips, of course, are not concrete rules that apply to every personality and every situation. However, you will find that they provide a good overall view of commonalities in the different types of buyers that exist.

Some of these tips will also suggest that in some cases and at some point, you should terminate the sales process. You may feel that this is giving up or accepting defeat. No. This is about being smart and staying professional. You will not make every sale and you will not change the laws of psychics by sacrificing your time, money, and dignity.

Definition Of A Prospective Buyer

Let’s start by a quick definition. According to Collins dictionary the term buyer means:

“A person who is buying something or who intends to buy it”

Prospective means:

“To describe someone who wants to be the thing mentioned or who is likely to be the thing mentioned”

Therefore, a prospective buyer can be said to:

“Be someone who is interested in buying something or who intends to buy”

Different Prospective Buyers

1. The Assertive
2. The Paranoid
3. The Know-It-All
4. The Price Only
5. The Timid
6. The Joker

man on red background

Prospective Buyer – The Assertive

This buyer personality can be difficult to deal with. If you have been in the world of selling for any length of time, you have met this person. This is the prospect that interrupts you, is often rude or disrespectful, tries to antagonise you and seems to be someone who eats salespeople for lunch.

You need not too many tips on how to recognise this person, as it is usually quite clear. When come across one in a B2B sales setting it can be very challenging.

However, let us look at a few traits:

Assertive/Aggressive Buyer Traits

1. Has overly firm handshake. This person usually puts too much emphasis on a handshake, grasping hard and long.

2. Maintains deep and constant eye contact. The person will stare you directly in the eye with unwavering penetration. It is almost as if they are testing you to see who will look away first.

3. Sits forward and upright. Usually, will not lean back or take a relaxed posture.

4. Overly confident in self and accomplishments. Very sure of themselves.

5. Will begin to interrupt your presentation. This person will often interject your presentation with objections long before they should arise.

Assertive/Aggressive Buyer Tips

1. Do not change your personality to match, be yourself. This includes your handshake. Allow this person to have the stronger hand. This person often wants some control and if you begin to change, you are allowing the buyer to control you. Be yourself.

2. Keep your eye contact natural. You should always maintain good eye contact with everyone, but don’t go overboard and force unnatural eye contact. Don’t be intimidated to the point where you are afraid to look away. When asking questions and closing, get close and maintain steady eye contact.

3. Sit back and relax. This is one place where you want to adapt. If you are sitting with the person across from a desk or table, as this buyer leans forward don’t lean forward too, this will cause unnecessary challenges and tension.

4. Don’t patronise. Be careful not to patronise this person with condescending, phony complements and agreeing with everything he or she says. If anything, try not to be overly impressed.

5. Patience – then continue. Once again, you do not want to patronise this person.
Often this prospect will want to throw you off track or see if they can disrupt your normal flow. Address each question IF it is a question and continue with your normal sales process.

6. Don’t be overly friendly. This is the worst prospect to try to make friends with and try to get them to “buy you” first, false admiration and condescending comments are always a bad idea but will mean an instant closed lost with this person.


With the aggressive and overly assertive buyer, you want to be yourself. Maintain your composure and do not be moved. You want to give the person respect, but you want him or her to know that you are a professional and will do your job.


Prospective Buyer – The Paranoid

This person seems to be afraid of everything and trusts nothing and no one. It can be very difficult to find their sales hot buttons.

Paranoid Buyer Traits

1. Usually answers questions and comments with, “But…” As in, “I understand that, but what about this…”
2. Will see a negative possibility in almost everything
3. Wants proof and guarantees
4. Will have examples of bad experiences with competitors or industry

Paranoid Buyer Tips

1. Good question.

Answer and move on. Let the prospect know that the question or concern is valid.

Don’t linger or continue to ask if the customer fully understands.

Just answer clearly and continue.

2. Don’t try to alleviate unwarranted fears or phobias.

Address legitimate issues, but don’t give too much time to fears that are completely ridiculous.

If you fall into the trap of fighting ghosts and monsters that don’t exist, you will waste a tremendous amount of time and if by some stretch of the imagination, you happen to make the sale, this customer will be your worst nightmare.

Such a customer will cost you far more money in unnecessary service calls, unwarranted complaints, and imaginary problems than the sale is worth.

3. Address questions but don’t justify.

With this personality, most salespeople have the tendency to try to justify or prove everything they say. Answer questions clearly and completely but don’t try to justify your statements.

Truth needs no justification and the more information you volunteer, the more this person will turn it against you.

4. Don’t bash the competition.

This is a critical mistake. If the customer’s bad experience is something that you are aware of, then show how your company has risen above this problem.

If the customer’s complaint is something that appears to be an isolated incident, then don’t justify it by slamming the competition.

Let the customer know that it’s an isolated incident and that you are shocked to hear of it. Defend the competition and the integrity of your industry.


Don’t add fuel to the fire.

dancing woman

Prospective Buyer – The Know-It-All

This buyer can also be very frustrating to deal with. This buyer believes that they know more about your product and company than you do and there is nothing in your presentation that provides any new information. This patient wants to tell the doctor what the prognosis and remedy is. They want to buy and will hate to be sold anything.

Know-It-All Buyer Traits
1. Will challenge or debate much of your claims
2. Will test your knowledge of details and industry information
3. Will claim to know more about your competition than you do, including prices

Know-It-All Buyer Tips

This buyer and the assertive/aggressive are similar. However, unlike the assertive buyer, this prospect needs the preverbal pat on the back.

Let the customer know that someone as educated in the industry as she always buys your product and the easiest sale your company will make.

1. Complement buyer on thinking
2. Congratulate buyer on ideas
3. Let buyer know that the educated consumer is best

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Prospective Buyer – The Price Only Buyer

It is very easy to describe this customer’s traits because all they want to know is how much your product or service will cost them. They are not interested in a sales presentation or any explanations of what you have or what you do. They just want to know how much.

Price Only Buyer Traits
1. Will tell you they understand all the benefits and a sales presentation isn’t necessary
2. Will tell you they are ready to buy now. Just want a price.

Price Only Buyer Tips
1. Don’t fall into this trap—stick to your presentation
2. Inform the buyer of your pricing process.

You should have a presentation that requires feedback and answers from your buyer so you can construct a proposal or a price.

Let the prospect know that you have a process to come up with the best price and it is in their best interest that you follow your process.

3. When all else fails, put your foot down.

When you have exhausted all avenues try this approach:

“I appreciate your interest for my product and I sincerely appreciate your time. However, I am a professional and all my customers became customers because they are able to make a well-informed, well-educated decision. So, unless you allow me to give you all the information you need so you too can make a well-informed decision, then I am afraid that I cannot allow you to make any decision at all and I will have to leave.”

If the prospect allows you to continue after this point, you will almost always make the sale. If the customer continues in the same way, then keep your word and leave.


Giving the buyer the price before they have all the proper information is a disservice to them.

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Prospective Buyer – The Timid

This can be one of the most confusing prospects and one that can cause you many lost sales. This person is quiet and doesn’t usually ask any questions.

The Timid Buyer Traits
1. Asks very few questions
2. Agrees with everything you say
3. Offers no definitive objections

The Timid Buyer Tips
1. You must pull information out of this person. You must get them involved
2. Do not assume that the silence and the smile means that they agree or buy your service/product
3. Offer objections.

Provide challenges to what you say—then overcome them


Silence is not always golden.

happy old man

Prospective Buyer – The Joker

This person will also cost you a lot of money if you’re not careful.

This person is full of distractions that take you off course and out of the sales process.

This buyer is usually overly nice, cordial and more like a good friend than a prospect.

He or she wants to go to lunch with you, have dinner with you, and play golf with you and everything else except do business with you.

Full of jokes and funny stories, this person will turn every serious conversation into a comic routine and avoid deciding for as long as possible.

The Joker Buyer Traits
1. Will avoid and put off questions
2. Wants to have a long meeting or lunch to talk about anything but business
3. Is afraid you are going to ask for the order

The Joker Buyer Tips
1. Keep your cordial attitude, but stay firm on questions until you get an answer
2. Let the prospect know that you want to discuss other things, and will, AFTER you both take care of business.
3. This prospect thrives on the belief that you are too intimidated or afraid to ask for the order, don’t be.

Do not make friends before you do business. Make friends as you do business.


Stay focused and ask for the order with conviction.

Let’s put it all together.

Here’s just a quick recap of the main traits of each prospective buyer.

Assertive/Aggressive Buyer
• Has overly firm handshake
• Maintains deep and constant eye contact
• Sits forward and upright
• Overly confident in self and accomplishments
• Will begin to interrupt your presentation

Paranoid Buyer
• Answers questions with, “But…”
• Finds negative in everything
• Wants proof and guarantees
• Has bad experiences with competitors

Know-It-All Buyer
• Challenges and debates
• Tests your knowledge and details
• Knows more than you

Price Only Buyer
• Presentation is unnecessary
• Ready to buy now
• Just need price

The Timid Buyer
• Has very few questions
• Agrees with everything you say
• Offers no definitive objections

The Joker
• Will avoid questions
• Wants long meetings or lunch
• Is afraid you’ll ask for the order

I hope this blog has been useful, please check out our Advanced Selling Training for more on modern day buyers. Below are some additional useful techniques and strategies to help you with your selling

• How To Critique A Sales Meeting
• Phrases To Use When Asking For Referrals
• Become A More Assertive Salesperson
• How To Improve Your Salesmanship

Happy Selling


Sean McPheat

Sean McPheat
Managing Director
MTD Sales Training

Sales DNA

Originally published: 20 November, 2017

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