Personality is critical to sales. The common theory goes that extroverts are good at sales (even if it’s not really that simple), while Susan Cain has spoken and written at length about the power of introverts in business.
The problem with this discussion, however is that it focuses on the personality of the person doing the selling and not the person being sold to. The real secret to sales success is realising it’s not all about you.
To sell well you need to be able to quickly analyse your counterparty and then craft your message into the perfect pitch for their personality.
How to identify a personality type in 30 seconds
Humans are complex creatures. None of us fit perfectly into a personality profile, and even those who do will have unexpected strengths and weaknesses. That said, there are identifiable trends around where we get our energy from and whether we are people or task orientated. These can guide us towards how a person likes to be sold to.
This is the basis for the 1947 personality model known as DiSC. Each letter refers to one of four core personality types, each of which needs a different pitch. The trick is being able to spot who’s in your meeting and then structuring your pitch for different personalities.
These people are task-orientated extroverts. They are the classic alpha, assertive type and can come across as abrupt. You’ll notice they also tend to power dress and certainly don’t have to time for too much small talk; they want to get to the point.
The pitch: These types know what they want so be direct and bold. Present a few key facts to support your point, use a memorable story or anecdote, summarise and then shut up. Don’t engage in chitchat and don’t try to change their mind once they’ve made a decision.
Extroverted and people-orientated, this type is much more chatty. They are consultative, compassionate and charismatic. They mean it when they ask how you are and often have a more expressive, colourful style when it comes to clothes.
The pitch: Personal service and attention means a lot to these people. They might be 70 percent decided, but they want you to convince them the rest of the way. By pushing for this extra attention they are also testing your expertise and conviction in what you’re saying. Beware though, since they’re such good communicators they can also be very good at hiding what they’re really thinking.
This amiable, team player is people-orientated but more of an introvert; so while they feel secure being involved in the action, they don’t want to stand out or cause a fuss. Other character types see them as indecisive, which isn’t always fair. They can often have strong opinions, but just don’t want to push them on others.
The pitch: You’ll need to tread softly with this person and match their language so as not to put them off. They won’t respond well to high-risk or flashy ideas. They also tend to avoid one-on-one situations, so you’ll likely end up pitching to a group. It won’t always be clear who the decision maker is, so respond to each personality as you find it, and don’t ignore the ‘S’ type just because they’re quiet.
Finally, these people are task-orientated introverts. They like data, facts and detail: this is how they process the world. Because of this, people sometimes see them as nerdy or cold. Fashion tends not to be a high priority for them.
The pitch: Don’t try and blind these people with style over substance – they’ll see right through you. They’ll have likely researched you and your product before you arrive, so be prepared to back up what you have to say. And if you can’t answer their questions, find someone who can. They’ll appreciate you respecting their diligence.
Don’t just pitch for different personalities
Identifying personality types is useful for structuring your approach in a pitch, but keep in mind that it’s not everything. As we said, humans are complex and won’t fit any model perfectly.
Use personality types as a guide, but also remember these three golden rules of sales meetings:
- Planning and preparation. Go beyond job titles and responsibilities to find out what they’re like as a human being. What kind of stories will resonate with them? What kind of person are they? What’s important to them?
- Making the connection. Research and conversation is about finding a way to connect on a human level. If you’ve taken no interest and fail to spot a mutual passion for, let’s say angling, you are missing a trick.
- Closing and execution. Likability is an important lever for persuasion and significantly impacts a person’s buying decision. So be likable and don’t treat a sales meeting like a tick-box exercise.