You don’t need a degree in psychology to perform in sales, but knowing customer personalities can make all the difference between sealing the deal and walking away empty-handed.
Understanding your customers is a huge asset – in negotiations, especially, but right across all of your engagements. To help you build your insights, there are a number of different personality and behaviour assessment tools available.
To be clear, I’m not suggesting that you should put your customers through the third degree of questioning – but an in-depth appreciation of key personality and behavioural characteristics allows you to see things from their perspective and thus better to meet their needs. That’s why I encourage all salespeople to become familiar with these assessments and get a sense of key personality traits and how best to address them.
Why It Matters
Understanding how different personalities process and respond to information is extremely helpful for choosing the most effective and persuasive sales strategy. For example, if you know that an introverted customer is more likely to need time to mull over their options and may be put off by an aggressive sales strategy, you can anticipate their needs and pace your pitch to match their natural style.
Similarly, an easy going customer may surprise you by being meticulous about the process involved in approving a sale. Understanding these personality types and preferences can help salespeople avoid making mistakes that might upset positive relationships (e.g., pressuring a customer into moving more quickly than is comfortable for them ).
Two of the most relevant and widely used in sales and business are:
This system looks at four core aspects of personality: decision-making, learning style, interactions with others, and outer life. Individuals are described in terms of their tendency to be Extroverted or Introverted, Sensing or Intuiting, Thinking or Feeling, and Judging or Perceiving. Understanding these terms – what they mean, and what “tells” give them away – allows salespeople to understand how their customers process information, so they can develop and deliver the most effective sales approach.
An introverted customer, for example, may feel pressured by an aggressive sales pitch, or may be turned off by feeling pressured. A Thinking customer may want concrete facts and data about efficiency, value, business case etc., while a Feeling customer would be more likely persuaded by a direct and emotional pitch that illustrates how your product or service would make them a hero. Training your sales team to spot these personality types, and teaching them how to adapt their approaches to match customers’ styles is a straightforward way to “teach” the acumen that distinguishes top-performing salespeople.
89 of Fortune 100 companies, and many educational institutions, use Myers-Briggs to maximise their sales team’s effectiveness because these personality metrics are easy for salespeople to assimilate and employ in interpersonal engagements.
This assessment tool is used by over a million people annually to improve communication, teamwork and productivity. Unlike personality assessments, a DiSC profile provides insight into how people respond in given circumstances. Most of us behave slightly differently around work colleagues or on a sales call than at home. DiSC picks up on these variances by examining how the same person (i.e., same personality) behaves differently in varying contexts.
DiSC examines four core behavioural traits: dominance, inducement, submission and compliance. Understanding these can helps salespeople better understand how to adapt their behaviour for improved interactions with current and potential customers. Again, you don’t need to ask your clients to complete an assessment to be able to use these insights; just understanding the key behavioural patterns can help sales teams understand what signs to look for so they know how to target their approach.
How to Choose
Depending on your business needs and priorities, one or another system may be most effective. Adopt the one that best matches your business mission and priorities, and go with it. Having one consistent reference will provide more clarity when disseminating new information.
How to Teach it
Use exercises that describe different personality types and outline their core features. Have salespeople complete their own assessment to see where their behaviours and personality traits fit into the spectrum. Teach them to understand the key aspects of certain personalities, and to know what signs to look for when engaging with others. This makes it easier for salespeople to identify behavioural features when they encounter them in their customers.
Role-playing is an essential ingredient – especially after the team has been introduced to key personality assessment vocabulary and concepts. For example, demonstrate how to approach a difficult customer, and then ask them to identify the personality clues that could guide the sales approach to overcome those challenges.
If you have sales teams perform their own role-playing scenarios to put these insights into practice, use a smartphone to record them so that you (and they) can review their approach afterwards, and reflect further on what could have been done differently.
Understanding how different customers behave and respond in different situations is integral for picking up on subtle cues and providing a persuasive sales approach designed for each customer. Is your sales team getting the message?