HubSpot’s 4 buyer personality types (and how you should sell to them)

I’m Brian Sexton, a Hubspot Principal Channel Partner Manager and I work at our Dublin headquarters. In this post, I’d like to offer you some insights into the Agency Coaching session we run with our agency partners – here’s some guidance into how our experts at Hubspot categorise buying personality types (and how you can use this approach to ease the process at your business, too).

In any given sales context, there are four categories of buyers:

1. Buyers in heat

2. Buyers in power

3. Tyre kickers

4. The mistakes

Every prospect you come across will fit into one of these categories – and the sooner you identify which type of buyer they are, the sooner you’ll know which course of action to take, minimising time wasting and maximising the opportunity to sell to the right people. Here is how to spot each type of buyer, considering what the advantages and disadvantages of each are to your sales process.

Buyers in heat

These are the best-motivated buyers.

  • They want and need your product
  • They can benefit from your product
  • They can afford it now
  • They are prepared to make a decision right now.

They have experienced a pain point and are keen to make a decision to act: they are done with waiting around and wasting any more time. There’s a want or need that must be satisfied; in other words, they’ve got an itch that needs to be scratched. They’re probably feeling stressed about the situation and out of control. They need relief – and you can give it to them. Before the end of the day they will buy, if not from you, then certainly from someone else.

Question: What is the downside to buyers in heat?

Answer: There aren’t many of them. Only 10-15% of prospects will fall into this category.

2. Buyers in power

These prospects aren't consciously feeling any major pain from their unfulfilled need.

  • They lack the same urgency as buyers in heat
  • About 30% of prospects are motivated to buy
  • Leaving your site or store with a product in hand may not be first and foremost on their mind.

The want and need is there for this buyer, but they’re not feeling any pain. They know they’ll have to make a decision soon, but it doesn’t have to be today. In a nutshell, they control the timing of the purchase. This category of buyer is still useful to you, and can still be sold to – some of them might still choose to commit soon – but the time sensitivity and urgency isn’t the main driving force behind their purchasing actions. These are a more moderate, organised type of prospect who might be looking ahead for what’s best for their business in the weeks or months to come; they’re unlikely to be an impulse buyer.

Question: What is the downside of buyers in power?

Answer: They shop around. Be aware of competitive situations that might emerge and be ready to pounce, should you need to suddenly highlight your product or service’s USP against others (and ensure you have plenty of existing customer-generated content to help persuade them). 30% of your prospects will fall into this category.

An Important note for buyer types 1 and 2: These prospects make it past the intelligence-gathering stage, and continue their journey down the straight line. They are malleable and solutions-driven, making them serious contenders for your sales team to start discussions with.

3. Tyre kickers

These prospects are the most dangerous prospects that enter the flywheel. They can have a detrimental effect on your sales process and damage your figures if you don’t identify them early on:

  • They lead to time wastage
  • Your salespeople may even begin to doubt themselves.

What makes these characters so destructive is that they act as though they are genuinely interested in buying your product. Unfortunately, a substantial 30-40% of your prospects will fall into this category. Again, these characters disguise themselves as buyers so it’s easy to get excited about them before they let you down.

The thing is, 30% of prospects are just curious. They have no buying agenda, no real buying need. They might buy if the stars are perfectly aligned, but generally speaking, they’re pretty apathetic about the idea and are mainly searching for more knowledge.

The ways to spot tyre kickers are:

  • They ask a lot of questions they already know the answers to
  • They make it a point to ‘kick the tyres’ (or try out the product for themselves, looking closely at its features)
  • They let out a lot of “aah” and “ooh” noises to reinforce that they are genuinely interested (but may be overdoing it)
  • When asked about budget, they typically answer with wildly optimistic claims or unnecessarily vague responses (sometimes you can call their bluff on this).

4. The Mistakes

These are the people who have been dragged to you: they never belonged in the sales process in the first place.

  • They have no interest, whatsoever, in buying
  • They ultimately can’t afford it
  • They are a poor fit and should be identified by your sales team as such (but unfortunately a few might still get through).

So how do the mistakes end up in the sales process? Sometimes it can be that their needs have been misdiagnosed at a previous stage in the buyer’s journey and they accidentally find themselves in sales, when all they really needed was some helpful content from you, such as an email, web page or blog post to help them out.

These characters are likely to give you all the signs that they don’t actually want to be talking to you:

  • Avoidance of replying to contact
  • Ignoring phone calls
  • Trying to get off the phone to you as soon as they can, if you do get through
  • Spending very little time on your website.

As soon as you identify a prospect is a mistake, politely but promptly remove them from your sales process – hopefully they’ll have signed up to your newsletter or subscribed to your blog, but until they return to you actively seeking a solution, there’s little you can do for them now (and you’re potentially missing out on a great opportunity elsewhere).

Remember, it’s your move: you’re looking for the people who want your solution, need your solution and can afford your solution – preferably today! This is where your qualifying skills become one of your most valuable assets.

Imagine a shop floor for a minute, where the sales floor is packed with prospects; you don’t want to spend any time with people who are not predisposed to buying (you’re looking for buyers in heat) or can be moved toward a buying decision with relative ease (you’re also looking for buyers in power). There simply isn’t time in your busy market to be spending on tyre kickers and mistakes.

A word of caution: Do not attempt to twist someone’s arm (for instance, the tyre kickers) into buying just because you have them in front of you. Your job is not to turn non-buyers into buyers. Presenting to poor-quality prospects will always result in a deal that goes nowhere. Don’t waste your time. Your job is to turn buyers into happy customers.

I hope you found this slightly different way of approaching customer motives, and their position in the buyer’s journey, useful. I know we, at HubSpot, use these tips to establish buyer intent all the time. And if at first you don’t succeed – try, try again: the better acquainted you get with these profiles, the more efficient you’ll get at the entire sales process. Good luck!

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