Design/build remodeler Chris Repp, in Buffalo, N.Y., had the feeling that something wasn't quite right. The selections stage of a large job was running too smoothly. “I eventually said to the client, ‘You don't seem to understand what we're talking about here,' and she nodded timidly. When I recognized that she was a kinesthetic person, we went back through the process.”
Repp had intuited that his client had a different learning style. She needed to process information by touch and feel — kinesthetically. “Everyone has the capacity to take in information through all their senses,” says Marcia Conner, author of Learn More Now. “But each of us prefers to take in information in certain ways.”
Conner, who studies learning as the managing director of Staunton, Va.–based Ageless Learner, says that there are a variety of learning styles or perceptual modalities. Repp is familiar with one learning style theory, VAK, which has three main categories: visual, audio, and kinesthetic learners. (To learn more and to find out your learning style visit Conner's Web site, www.AgelessLearner.com.)
PERCEPTION CONNECTION Simply put, visual learners learn through seeing; auditory learners through listening; and kinesthetic or tactile learners through moving, doing, and touching. “We're talking about how people perceive the world around them,” Conner says.
But how can you know what kind of prospective client you have? “It sounds simplistic, but pay attention,” she advises. “Are they animated in their movements? Walking around, rubbing their hands on a wall [to feel the texture]?” If so, they're kinesthetic, and, Conner says, “I'd create an experience … something for them to hold, to feel the weight of.”
If the prospect is talking about appearances, they're probably more visual and can connect more easily through what they see versus what they hear. Bring drawings, plans, and products for these clients; make your presentations attractive and compelling to look at.
In a remodeler's case, “an auditory learner would be a challenge to some extent,” Conner says. “There are those auditory learners who like listening, writing, and reading, and those who are oral processors,” she points out, adding that “frequently salespeople are oral processors. But, by doing a lot of talking they may inhibit [a prospect] from being a participant in the process.” She suggests writing things down for such clients or appealing to their “secondary perceptual modality,” a sort of backup learning mode that everyone has.
As for Repp, he says he showed his kinesthetic client products one by one and had her touch them. “She became really vocal and changed her mind on 80% of her decisions,” he says. Repp has learned to size up his clients by attending seminars about learning styles. “I'm sure I've made my fair share of mistakes. It's not easy to read people. If you move too fast with the wrong personalities, that's where you encounter challenges.”
Stacey Freed is a senior editor at REMODELING.