Matching your communication style to that of your customer will profoundly affect your ability to close sales. Dennis Zink and Fred Dunayer chat with Mike Lewis, author of The Sales Bridge and a SCORE mentor, to understand the various personality types and communication styles that can improve your ability to sell your products and services.
Published: Monday, March 7, 2016
One of the most popular self-awareness tools used for business over the past several decades has been DISC. The registered name is the DISC Personality Test, by Wiley.
DISC’s profiles educate and identify different styles of behavior. The D stands for Dominance, I for Influence, S for Steadiness and C for Compliance. The objective of the test is to better understand your behavioral work style and how you can build more effective relationships with others.
This test has been widely given and has been used by notable companies, including Bank of America, Shell, Cisco, Lowe’s, Princeton University, Honeywell, Boeing and the FDA.
Assessment-test prices generally range from around $33 to over $1,000, depending on the test variant and type and number of kits purchased.
One specialized program for DISC sales is designed to increase effective selling by first recognizing and then adapting to customers’ behavioral styles.
DISC philosophy is based on a theory of psychologist William Moulton Marston, which centered on the four aforementioned behavioral traits. Psychologist William Vernon Clarke developed the test into a behavioral assessment tool. Some versions of the test date back to the 1940s.
The test is based on either 24 or 28 forced-choice questions, which are used to identify 15 different patterns of behavior. Other well-known, respected tests, such as Myers-Briggs, are based on typological theory proposed by Carl Jung and offer an alternative. Myers-Briggs focuses on the four ways humans experience the world: through sensation, intuition, feeling and thinking.
In my syndicated podcast series, “Been There, Done That! with Dennis Zink,” Episode No. 35 (available on iTunes), I interview Mike Lewis, author of The Sales Bridge.
According to Lewis, “It’s critical to understand your customer and who you’re selling to. All too often, a salesman approaches a prospective client and starts to talk, talk, talk. He isn’t aware of his own personality style, nor does he analyze his customer’s personality. You have to build rapport. There’s an old adage: People buy from people they like and trust.”
More from that interview:
Q. How do you build rapport with prospective customers?
A. First, you must understand your own personality style. Then use blueprinting to observe what your prospect likes. For example, what plaques do they have on their wall? Can you guess their interests from their displayed art, photos or desk accessories? Is their desk neat, or are folders piled a foot high. There are different indicators you can look for that enable you to adapt or align your behavior to the other person. People sell differently, and they buy differently. It’s up to the salesperson to recognize those indicators and adapt to the customer’s traits.
Q. It appears that you are suggesting to adapt your behavior in an attempt to try to be more successful with the goal, which is to walk out with an order and establish a relationship.
A. That’s absolutely correct. We all have comfort zones. Your comfort zone might be to give me the facts, be very direct, and that’s what satisfies you. My personality may be more talkative, that’s what turns me on. If I don’t understand that you need me to be very direct, I’m going to miss the point. You’re going to start thinking, “You know what, this guy is just wasting my time,” and you never get to selling skills, you never get to ask probing questions because the customer is turned off.
Q. What if you’re not in the prospect’s office? What cues can you pick up?
A. There are various indicators that you can look for. How do they stand? Do they speak fast or slow? Do they ask specific questions? Who else is using this product? Give me some data on the product. Those are all indicators that the sale representative has to interpret.
The personality types
I thought about what personality types tended to sell the best, or buy the fastest.
The sub-styles of the four main profiles are:
D = Developer, results oriented, inspirational creative.
I = Promoter, persuader, counselor, appraiser
S = Specialist, achiever, agent, investigator
C = Objective thinker, perfectionist, practitioner
D types are self-reliant, calculated risk-takers. They are introspective, realistic and good problem solvers. They focus on accepting challenges and immediate results. In my opinion, D’s are usually good at running companies.
I types focus on shaping their environment by influencing or persuading others. They seek social recognition, enjoy contact with all types of people and making favorable impressions. I’s tend to steer clear of details. They can articulate their ideas, and they enjoy engaging others in conversation. In my experience, I’s tend to excel in sales and partying. Your best salespeople will be I’s.
S types are outgoing, alert and good trouble-shooters. They are eager, enthusiastic and impetuous. They are also good at multi-tasking and being team players. In my opinion, S’s are very good at customer service.
C types tend to be restrained, yet set high quality standards. They are analytical and favor reason over gut instinct. They ensure quality control and accuracy. C types tend to be your bean counters.
DISC provides self-awareness and strategies to become more effective in your work and in your life. By understanding your personal style, you can become more aware of your strengths and weaknesses and learn how to get along better with others who speak in a different style than you do.
No DISC pattern is better or worse than another. In fact, it takes a DISC to operate a company.