Most of us have had the experience of standing in line at the checkout and knowing the customer ahead of us is going to be trouble. There are all sorts of indications, from body language to the way they communicate, to the people around them. Sure enough, the trouble starts when they reach the cashier. The store doesn’t have what they want, the price of an item is in dispute or their credit card doesn’t work. It could be anything. Whether a legitimate matter for customer service or not, whatever the difficulty is, it is being used more as an excuse to hound and control, than for any other reason.

Fortunately, such people are rare. However, it is important to understand that customers fit certain psychological types. It’s odd really, no matter how individualistic we may be in our private lives, we all fall into certain categories when it comes to buying things.

The customer mentioned above could be called “The Dramatizer.” Such people need drama in their lives. They aren’t ever really happy, they only feel satisfied when fighting a battle. In a sense, they are at war with the world. For whatever reason, they feel that life must be a constant confrontation.

Here are some other classic customer types.

The Controller

These are people who feel the need to direct the sales process at every step. They don’t like small talk and attempts at cross selling are considered to be wasting their time. The best way to deal with the Controller Type is to realize that the Controller already has a goal in mind. If you can find out what that goal is, with a few judicious questions, and deliver a product that will meet that goal, then he or she is already pre-sold and selling to them is actually easy.

The Analytical Type.

This type shouldn’t be confused with the Controller, but often is. The Analytical Type can be distinguished by an almost obsessive attention to detail that is usually manifested by asking numerous questions and a great deal of attention to the fine print. You can often sell the Analytical Type by appealing to ego. Direct flattery isn’t recommended, but asking them detailed questions that enable them to show off all the product research they have done is a good way to build a positive image of you and your company. Also, always deal in facts and information that you can easily back up. Expressing opinions, without the facts, or exaggeration or too much enthusiasm can make you suspect.

The Social Type.

This is the individual to whom the sales process is a social event. If left uncontrolled, such a person will talk your ear off and will stretch out the sales cycle as long as possible. The best way to deal with the Social Type is to realize that he or she probably leads a lonely life and you’re the first person they’ve had a real excuse to talk to in a long while. So, politeness is the key, along with gently but firmly extracting yourself when the sales cycle is over.

The Uncommitted Type.

These are simply people who may or may not want to buy what you are selling. They aren’t detail obsessed. They don’t need to control the entire sales process and they aren’t lonely or out to cause trouble. Thankfully this is the largest category. And we can also be grateful that standard sales and customer service techniques work just fine on them. No unusual solutions are required.