Proactive, Reactive, and Reason Filters

By Christopher Zoukis

Proactive vs. Reactive

Another way of categorizing buyers is as proactive or reactive.  Proactive people are self-starters eager to get going.  Reactive people or buyers like to sit back, take their time, and thoroughly analyze any situation before they do anything.  Identifying a buyer as either proactive or reactive is accomplished by listening for verbal cues and by watching body language. Image courtesy of

Proactive buyers tend to focus on goals and their attainment.  Their body language reflects impatience, constant movement.  They speak in short sentences, using active verbs.  For example, “we’re going to take care of this quickly.”  Encouraging proactive buyers to take the next step is as simple as saying, “Let’s do this.  Then you can move on to the next project.” 

Reactive buyers, on the other hand, take their cues from those around them and their environment.  Their movements are deliberate, and they speak only after much thought.  A reactive buyer might say something such as:  “Once we have all the details, we can start to put together a chart to identify which vendors we should talk to.”  Sales people should assist reactive buyers to the next step by pointing out that the analysis is complete, and all that remains is implementation.

When making a presentation to a group of buyers, a combination of both motivational techniques usually works best.  The sales person can point out that they have gathered the pertinent data, allowing them to come to an informed decision before outside factors change.

Reason Filters

Seidman goes on to state that there are buyers who depend more on their own inner feelings and thought processes, called internal types, along with buyers who depend on outside information to make decisions, called external types.  Internal buyers resist other people’s opinions and advice.  External buyers are influenced by outside sources.  Sales people can discriminate between the two types by asking the following question:  “How do you know you’ve made a good decision?”  Once that is done, the sales person should speak to the internal buyer’s inner voice, encouraging them to “make the call.”  To sell to external buyers, the sales person relies on outside evidence to lend support, citing testimonials and data.  Sales people should be prepared to sell to both types.

In contrast to the aforementioned types of buyers, there are what the author refers to as Option types and Procedure types.  Seidman likens the Option types to artists, because of their creativity and willingness to fly by the seat of their pants.  Option buyers focus on freedom of choice and variety to resolve problems.  The Procedure types are more akin to accountants, depending on a tried and true methodology.  This type of buyer wants a solution built to fit the problem. 

To differentiate between an Option buyer and a Procedure buyer, Seidman suggests this question:  “Why did you choose to X?”  X refers to the person’s job.  The question is a “reason filter.”  It explains whether the buyer prefers creativity or methodology.  Procedure buyers usually work in structured environments, such as accounting or office management, while Option buyers work in creative roles, such as the arts.  The answer to the question provides the seller with insight about the buyer’s decision making process.  The seller may then fine tune their approach to the buyer’s psychology.