How to Recognize and Sell to the Four Personality Types

As a salesperson, you may or may not be aware that people have certain traits that tend to allow us to be identified as a particular type of personality. But, the more experience you get the more you will come to realize that certain styles have their own way of communicating with the world, and more importantly with salespeople.

Dr. William Moulton Marston (1893–1947) graduated from doctoral studies at Harvard in the newly developing field of psychology. His research found that characteristics of behavior can be grouped into these four major “personality styles” and they tend to exhibit specific characteristics common to that particular style. All individuals possess all four, but what differs from one to another is the extent of each.

Over the years I have heard these four styles given names like Doer, Plodder, Controller, and Talker, or Driver, Expressive, Amiable, and Analytic. An instrument for assessing styles was developed upon the work of Marston and it is called DISC which is an acronym for:

  • Dominance – relating to control, power and assertiveness
  • Influence – relating to social situations and communication
  • Steadiness (submission in Marston’s time) – relating to patience, persistence, and thoughtfulness
  • Compliance– relating to structure and organization

Why is this important to you as a salesperson? Well, good fishermen know that different fish respond to different kinds of bait fished at different levels. You don’t catch Bass by dragging smelly, stinky chicken livers along the bottom of a river. That’s how you catch Catfish. Bass respond to lures totally differently than a catfish. People are the same way. Depending on their personality type they respond to how, why, what or who questions, and exact answers, facts, stories or emotion. If you want to sell to anyone, you need to understand everyone.

That’s not as difficult as it sounds, but it does take some practice. Each personality type – and we’ll call them driver, analytic, amiable, or expressive for our purposes – is easily recognized once you know what to look for.

Drivers want to know what you or the product will do. They measure everything by their accomplishments, are extroverted, show little emotion, and are often perceived as abrupt or controlling.

Amiables are driven by kindness. They want to know why they should buy your product. Mostly introverted, amiables value your suggestions and advice. They love being part of something and display lots of emotion.

Expressives are driven by emotions. They want to know who else is using or buying your product. The life of the party, fun, and extroverted, expressives want to be unique, understood and appreciated.

Analytics want to know how things work. They are driven by numbers. They like facts, statistics, details and exact answers, not stories. When you learn what your preferred or dominant style is, and how you can best interact with the others, you can totally change your success rates.  This week we’ll cover each of the different styles, starting tomorrow with the driver.

“People are different, not difficult.”
~Peter Urs Bender

2 thoughts on “How to Recognize and Sell to the Four Personality Types”

  1. Hey Bob, just finished reading all the posts in this series. As always, great stuff. Made me wonder about something. We who are doing the selling also fall into one of the four identified types. I know that I have found it difficult to sell to people who are not the same type as me. I can do it. It’s just that it’s a lot harder because I keep thinking about how they are perceiving me. I guess that’s why being a good salesperson isn’t easy eh?

    1. You are correct, Marvin, that it is more difficult to sell what we would call the opposite type from our personality. That’s why it is important to identify the customer’s type so you can adapt to the way they like to communicate. I have a 16 hour workshop for styles so I was a bit hesitate to try an cover enough in the Doughnuts. I’m glad you’re enjoying them and I hope they help you and other readers. Thanks for dropping by.

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