DALLAS-Given that many feel they already need a Ph.D. to work on today's technologically advanced vehicles, one might expect a seminar in psychology for tire dealers to bomb. Nope.
Playing to standing-room-only audiences, Patricia Dolence, owner of Johnstown, Pa.-based Interaction Management Group, told dealers at the recent National Tire Dealers & Retreaders Association convention in Dallas that psychology can play an important role in making a sale.
And, believe it or not, they listened-despite the fact that they were crammed into a tiny room at 9 a.m. on a Saturday.
The boisterous interaction between Mrs. Dolence and her audience during two back-to-back ``Interacting with People'' seminars was proof that tailoring a message to meet different personality types can create interest-even among those who are skeptical.
Furthermore, she added, the impact of a sales message is primarily delivered to a customer through non-verbal communication, a fact she explored in her second seminar, ``Your Silent Language.''
Understanding how to get over ``the wall'' of personality differences and understanding the power of body language are two essential concepts in communicating with friends, family, employees and customers, she said.
To successfully use psychology in selling, sales representatives must understand the personalities of their customers, said Mrs. Dolence, who has helped employees form better relationships with their co-workers and customers as a ``personal behavior consultant'' since 1987.
``Your normal way of behaving works (for you),'' she said during her first seminar, titled ``No More Communication Misfires!''
``And you can't change your behavior,'' she continued. ``Instead, this (seminar) is about understanding differences....
``If you behave different from the way I behave, you think I'm crazy,'' she said. ``We have to get to an appreciation of each other if we are going to communicate.''
It might sound as though a sales rep has to take his customers to a secluded log cabin for a week of bonding before closing a sale. Actually, it's simpler than that.
It just takes ``an appreciation of who you are dealing with,'' she said.
``If you learn to appreciate the differences between people, you can deal more effectively with customers, employees, bosses,'' she added.
Although every person is different, people generally can be pigeonholed into one of four personality types, Mrs. Dolence emphasized, based on the ``DISC'' theory developed by John Gierer, a University of Washington professor. Partially because of its simplicity, the theory can be an effective sales tool, she said.
In short, the theory classifies people as one of four personality types:
Dominant personalities don't care as much about how things are accomplished, as long as they are accomplished-and preferably quickly;
Interactive personalities are emotional, craving appreciation, in at least some small way, for their efforts;
Steady personalities immerse themselves in how things are done. Because they tend to be team oriented, they often make the most loyal customers and employees, Mrs. Dolence said;
Cautious people resist change unless it can be proven to be better. They strive to live up to their own high standards.
If salespeople can identify the personality types of potential customers by taking the time to recognize how they are going about buying their tires, they should be able to tailor their sales messages to make customers feel more comfortable and trusting.
For instance, a ``D'' personality probably isn't interested in a lengthy explanation of a tire's features or benefits, while a ``C'' would want to hear solid proof that new tire technology really works before switching to a different brand.
An ``I'' personality won't buy a set of tires until a rapport with a sales rep has been established, and an ``S'' will most likely want to compare as many different options as possible.
Once a customer's personality is pinned down, it is important for salespeople to focus on presenting the correct message-both verbally and through body language.
As much as 93 percent of a message's impact is conveyed through non-verbal communication, Mrs. Dolence said.
``(The message) comes to people like a big sandwich,'' she said. ``Now the middle part of that sandwich is words....But the outside part is presentation, emotion.''
That sales message must include three items-coincidentally, conveyed most effectively through body language-if a customer is to trust an employee.
According to Mrs. Dolence, these messages are:
``I am sincere.''
``I'm interested in you;'' and
``I can do what I say I can do.''
Confidence, which can be projected through a lose body posture, a clear voice and steady eye contact, can go a long way toward helping a customer understand those three statements, she said.
Whether a sale is made, she said, is not so much a function of whether a sales representative is well versed in psychological theory as it is in an understanding that different customers require different approaches before they can begin to trust an employee.