Understanding the Buyer

A major purchase starts with rational justification – windows may be old and let out heat, a conservatory for extra space, doors hang off in the kitchen, and a fitted bedroom may be the most effective way to gain extra storage. They are expensive and involve upheaval, so are rarely bought on impulse. A customer cannot immediately enjoy the gratification of the purchase, as there is a wait of several weeks for the item to be delivered. Once the process is started, emotional drivers become involved, and the customer starts to think not only about how well the product will work but how it will look and enhance the home and their family’s life.

Ask Questions to Understand

The skilled salesperson asks questions to reveal the emotional drivers. It’s important to understand what is important to the buyer; price, peace of mind, guarantees, the safety of the children, and other aspects that the customer may not consider until the salesperson raises the question. The presentation is then tailored to include the relevant points.

Buyers are not looking for products and services.

They are looking for the rewards that the purchase will give them.

The salesperson who gives product information and a price without getting to know the customer well enough to understand what will trigger emotional responses may scrape a living, but he will never be successful.

Finance is an Unreliable Indicator

Available finance is not a reliable indicator of what type of buyer the customer is. You may think that the higher the budget, the more cautious customers will be, but this is often not the case. Customers with smaller budgets can be harder to sell to. £3,000 has more value to a person who earns £30,000 per year and supports a family, than £30,000 has, to a couple who have a joint income of £120,000, have paid off the mortgage and invested wisely. Spending £3,000 could cause hardship in other areas.  The customer is likely to consider the expense with care, ensuring they get as much value as possible by collecting as many quotes as possible and then returning to ask for a price match. Sometimes the more money a customer has, the less likely they are to spend it and conversely, there are customers with little money but high aspirations. There are no rules. It is up to you salesperson to use your skills to understand each individual prospective buyer.

Treat Each Customer as if They Are Different

No two clients are the same, and what appeals to one may not appeal to the other. Most customers love the wide variety of displays in a showroom and can spend hours examining the different styles and options. Some immediately engage with a salesperson, give all the information and are completely open. Others are intimidated and leave, assuming the standard of the showroom indicates that prices are high. The most difficult for a designer to deal with are those that will not engage at all, and whatever you say to them, they will respond with ‘just looking’. If pressed, they will become irritated and may leave. It is up to the salesperson to use skills that inspire the customer to open up and engage.

Experienced buyers, those who have made several large purchases or buy for business, tend to be confident and are quick to make decisions about what they want. First-time buyers take longer, especially those who are older and considering a once-in-a-lifetime purchase. For some, it is not so much about the destination as the journey; they love exploring showrooms and home improvement stores. 

A Little Effort Goes a Long Way

It is surprising how little effort customers put into the purchase of something that costs thousands of pounds. More effort goes into the purchase of a dress or pair of shoes than a product that must add value to the property but could devalue it and cause misery if it goes wrong.

Unless it is their job to purchase for the company they work for, it is unlikely that your customers will make many major purchases in your lifetime. For most, these are once-in-a-lifetime purchases. Even if they move to a new house frequently and prefer to buy projects to renovate, it is still unlikely that they will purchase more than ten of these items in a lifetime.

What Type of Buyer are You Dealing With?

The variety of personalities and approaches to buying make it impossible to say that there is one way best for a salesperson to behave. He must always be professional and helpful, but that is not enough to ensure success as a salesperson.

Customers are a unique blend of personality traits and knowledge. These are linked to the way that they process information, the amount of money they have and what it means to them, the products and services that they have experienced in the past, the way that their parents and friends have influenced them, their expectations and how they respond to sales personalities.

Some customers like attention in a showroom; others like to be left alone. Some want to take brochures away; others want to be shown a physical product by a salesperson. Some make impulsive decisions; others take weeks, months or even years. There are those that love shopping for something new, others are completely traumatised by the experience and suffer enormous stress. Some buy on the first visit, others will have five or even six appointments. I have tied up a kitchen sale from start to finish in forty-five minutes, and others with less complex purchases have taken five hours. It’s your job to work out what approach works best for the customer in the few short minutes it takes to make an impression.

Most customers are somewhere between the extremes. Working out the dynamics and differences in a couple is even more difficult. Are they both as keen on the purchase? Do they have the same expectations, the same tastes, and the same idea of budget? Is one more dominant than the other? The salesperson makes gender assumptions at his peril and can be shot down if he assumes that the kitchen is the female domain or that the husband is the main wage earner.

Despite the many differences, there are some typical patterns.


‘Cautious buyers’ are likely to research more. The caution comes from fear, usually of making a mistake. Most buyers start being cautious but relax as soon as they feel the salesperson is trustworthy. Truly cautious buyers are always a bit nervous and will remain that way even after feeling that the salesperson is trustworthy. I worked with a customer for several months to design her kitchen. She was nervous from the start, and I was so unbelievably patient. Over three months and five meetings, she changed the design several times and then reverted to the first one I designed. When she finally signed the order, I was so pleased with myself. She phoned the next day to cancel, saying she had no sleep all night and felt physically sick. That is extreme, but if the customer shows signs of anxiety, a bit of extra reassurance might prevent a cancellation.


‘Reckless buyers’ are quick to act. They often buy from the first salesperson that offers a solution that meets their needs at a price that is acceptable. They are not concerned about money. They have it available or have unshakeable confidence that everything will turn out ok. They often make mistakes as they are in too much of a hurry to pay attention to the details.


This type of buyer can be the most difficult to do a good job for. They have complete specifications and know exactly what they want. Whatever they know, they do not know as much as a good salesperson does. ‘Know-it-all’s rarely taken advice. The salesperson has the option of quoting as specified or if he thinks that the design will not work, could refuse the order. It is rare for a salesperson to refuse an order, though because he knows that someone else will be willing to take it if he does. Generally, if a salesperson tells a customer why an idea does not work, they appreciate the input, but a know-it-all is rigid and does not want advice.


Everyone should research before purchasing but ‘researchers’ take it to the extreme. They have notebooks or folders and gather quotes from everyone possible. They often know more than the salesperson, who may only have scant knowledge of competitors. 

Researchers will create tables and comparison charts. It is almost impossible for the salesperson to close the sale. The researcher takes control from the start because their agenda is not to buy a product; they often do not, but they thoroughly enjoy investigating, and it is like a hobby for them. Even after the product is installed, they continue to look at alternatives and question whether they have made the right decision, so never relax and enjoy the new purchase.


‘Closed buyers’ do themselves no favours. A good salesperson wants to know about his customers, to understand how they live and what they hope to achieve through their product. I always considered that the more I knew about my customers, the better job I could do for them. I chat a lot, and meeting people was the most enjoyable part of the job. Letting the salesperson into their life can be personal; not everyone likes getting to know others. ‘Closed buyers’ want to talk strictly about the product.


‘Open buyers’ are the nicest to deal with. They are comfortable with themselves and are happy to chat and tell the salesperson about themselves. They appreciate that the salesperson is interested. They also trust easily. It may mean that the ‘open’ buyer will pay more as the perceived value is higher when all the elements of the appointment are working well. If you’re all getting along nicely, you’ve met all their needs and they like you, they are likely to place an order. It is difficult to say no to people you like as it is natural to want to please them. It is always best if you can build a good relationship in the short time you have with the customer.


The characteristics above are often made more complex if the two members of a couple are different. The same applies if a single person brings a friend to the appointment with a different approach. A ‘researcher’ and a ‘reckless buyer’ together is a recipe for disaster. A good salesperson will be able to bring their ideas together, but until they agree, there will be no sale. It is rare for a large amount of money to be spent if a partner disapproves.

Your customer almost certainly will not have considered their own motivations as a buyer or even know that they exist, but the salesperson ought to know the importance of them and look for clues by asking questions and observing what the buyer reacts to. Your approach will be different when selling to the buyer who needs the best to feel good enough than the buyer who buys for practical reasons.

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