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Start-up Sales: Understanding Your Buyer’s Mode

When selling complex solutions to organisations it is imperative to understand your buyer’s mode. Not all potential buyers are in the same ‘mode’.

All buyers are not in the same position or share the same outlook.  As a sales professional, you are likely to be trained to positive and sell the benefits of your products and services – but not all people will receive you as you expect them to.


Organisations (and their staff) can be grouped into three modes.


  • Trouble (T) – currently dealing with problems. Fire fighting
  • Even Keel (EK) – looking for little change or challenge. Sitting back.
  • Growth (G) – addressing opportunities to accomplish. Getting it done.

Find out as soon as you can, which mode they are in, using questioning and a consultative approach. Look for different modes

Trouble Mode (T)

The organisation is facing problems. They are dealing with issues around (for example) compliancy or regulation poorly. They are not as efficient as they want to be. They want to solve an organisational problem, or range of issues and regard a change in IT as a panacea.

  • Selling to this category of organisation is easier – IF – you focus on helping them solve their list of problems.
  • When communicating with these organisations, focus on how your company solves problems.
  • Point to examples/references where you have assisted other social housing associations manage the firefight.
  • Use emphatic language – you are there to help and tell stories of overcoming struggle with other clients – in phone calls, and blog posts.
  • Explore working with a reference client who you helped deal with a trouble mode to produce a webinar, or a new blog post – or both. This could be powerful content, which could also be used to produce a 1-2 page PDF, which can be downloaded from the website and/or sent vial email.

Consider what problems or trouble your team have solved for past clients – use that in your dialogue and marketing content.

Even Keel Mode (EK)

This organisation is fine – or the person you are talking with is not facing any issues or requirement changes.  They are dealing with their daily operations as normal; they are not seeking change. They want to leave things as they are.

  • Selling to this buyer mode is very difficult, as they have no issues or problems to solve. They have no growth plans.
  • Your sales and marketing efforts are a distraction to them. Do not expect a warm welcome or encouragement.
  • Any prompt that is likely to make them engage with you, it is to focus on problem solving, emphasis the negative – the problems they could face, and how working with you keeps them at Even Keel.
  • If you are in contact with one person in the buyer who is EK, then consider, is there another contact in the organisation who might be in the T or G mode? They might be more receptive to your approach. Try to widen your contacts in the organisation to find someone who is in T or G mode, but don’t make an exhaustive effort if you are dealing with a small organisation.
  • Choose to park them as prospects if little traction can be made. Focus your time and energy elsewhere.

Growth Mode (G)

An organisation that is in growth mode has perhaps seen their budgets increase; they may have merged with another organisation; the area of IT expenditure, or its relevance in general, may have been focussed upon recently with a new appointment. They want to get things done.

  • These organisations are in a positive change mode. They are likely to be positive in outlook and hold a towards your proposition.
  • They are likely to be more receptive to you – and – your competitors, so your sales plan here needs to top drawer.
  • Focus your dialogue on helping them affect change and create value.
  • Focus on your sales differentiators – on what makes you better and different from the pack.
  • If these organisations have an increased IT budget or a dedicated IT team, they are likely to be more educated in tech and the buying process.
  • Use positive language, act, and sound like an enabler – someone who will help them grow.
  • Explore working with a reference client who you helped in growth mode to produce a webinar, or a new blog post – or both. Focus the messaging on the tangible outcomes you can help the organisation achieve.

Individuals in your target can exhibit variances in mode behaviour.  For example, the IT contact might be a firefighter, constantly in problem-solving mode – in the T mode, yet their colleague in finance might appear to be in a different mode, say EK.  Adjust your language and communication accordingly if you are communicating with them both.


What can you do?


  1. Go through a number of your current prospects and categorise them accordingly. What mode are they?
  2. Ask. What mode was your current client base in when you made first contact with them?
  3. What is the most common mode of your current enquiries?
  4. Does this provide an indication of your most common customer type?


If you are an early-stage business and you’re struggling with sales get in touch and see how we can help.


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