Note: this post was written in collaboration with John “Small Mountain” Hill, a renowned sales coach and a customer of Sybill. He is the founder of https://adaptedgrowth.com/, and an amazing guy to chat and learn from.
My roommate and I went to a car showroom a couple of years ago.
He wanted to buy a new car, and I was giving him company.
Minutes after entering, we found ourselves in a conversation with a salesman in a black jacket and white shirt.
The guy talked to my friend about the best car they had within his budget. He spoke at length about its features and specs that were superior to the competition.
After five minutes, he left us to ourselves after handing over a one-pager to my friend that showed the feature comparison of his company’s car with its competitors. The one-pager was quite detailed and had plenty of numbers, ticks, and crosses.
While roaming around the showroom, I noticed another salesperson talking to another buyer. I heard bits and pieces of the conversation, and it seemed like something entirely different was being sold there.
The salesperson wasn’t talking about the specifications of the car at all. He was having an intriguing conversation with the buyer about his recent camping trip with his family.
The salesperson was asking him questions about his kids, the drive, and a lot of other things that didn’t have anything to do with the car directly.
After a couple of minutes, he just asked the buyer if he’d like a test drive.
A few more minutes later, my friend came up to me and said, “This car seems like a better value for money than the competition. I’ll take a test drive.”
Clearly, all buyers are not the same.
What are personality types?
We’ve all heard of personality tests. They tend to put people in neat categories, called personality types, and they are supposed to help you determine fit.
Fit as a member of your team (for recruiters)
Fit as a buyer (for salespeople)
And in many other contexts in team-building and interactions.
There are quite a handful of popular personality type frameworks: DISC, Myers Briggs, Big Five. Why are they important?
- Knowing someone’s personality type can help you understand their way of expressing themselves and consuming information. You can communicate better with them.
Used constructively, knowledge and understanding of personality types can help you be more empathetic in your interactions to drive better outcomes, build better relationships, and solve problems for others.
- It’s not an exact science, nor do personality systems cover all human traits or can neatly fit every single person in the world. It shouldn’t be a basis for positive or negative judgment of a person’s character or skill.
It’s a helpful framework to think through when interacting, persuading, influencing and understanding others, especially in professional settings.
Why does buyer personality type matter?
Personality traits play into your sales conversations all the time, whether or not you explicitly label them.
A personality type is a combination of personality traits that typically occur together. Thus, if a buyer roughly belongs to a certain personality type, there’s a certain way in which they like to buy things.
Your buyer’s personality type sheds light on how they would typically buy stuff -
Are they suckers for feature comparisons and ROI calculations?
Do they like simple processes and installations and minimal time investment into the process?
Do they like to build a strong relationship with the salesperson before making a purchase?
You can better direct your energy in each sales cycle if you understand what motivates your buyer.
Your follow-ups, the collateral you share, the approach you take during a demo call - each of these elements must vary depending on how the buyer likes to buy and how their mind works.
Note: It’s important not to project your own buying style onto your buyers. The way you buy things and evaluate alternatives is just one way of looking at the world, and it’s definitely not the only way.
The 4 buyer personality types and how to communicate with them
There are many ways to classify people’s personalities.
Here, I am sticking to the most popular one since it captures a lot of the nuance of buying decisions.
These 4 personality types map to the extremes of the DISC personality categorization.
- Assertive: Roughly corresponding to the D(ominant) profile, assertive types typically like to control the conversation and don’t want you wasting their time. Once you determine that someone is assertive, get straight to the point and stand up for yourself and your solution.
They are goal-oriented, competitive, and decisive. You need to be professional, efficient, and straightforward with them.
- Expressive: Roughly corresponding to the I(nfluential) profile, expressive types typically like to speak more and often, build relationships, and care about how their decisions affect others around them.
They would like constant affirmations of how your product alleviates their pain. Don’t hesitate to share customer testimonials and case studies. If you have excellent customer support, it would be great to emphasize that.
Respect and loyalty mean a lot to them, so invest in building a relationship with the expressive buyer and show that you mean what you say.
- Collaborative: People who are collaborative value personal relationships, empathy, and trust in the sales process. This type corresponds to S in the DISC profiles. They might spend quite a bit of time engaging with you on various topics to get to know you better and establish rapport.
If they can’t establish rapport with you, they may decide not to buy from you. They would expect you to care about them and their business needs. They would typically involve multiple stakeholders in their organization to make buying decisions. This might lead to longer and more complex sales cycles.
Invest in building a relationship with them and get them to act quicker. Also, it’s a good idea to ask direct questions and get them to tell you if they will not buy your solution. A collaborative person might not communicate a rejection easily to you, and ghosting is a likely course of action for them.
- Analytical: An analytical buyer would expect to know the nitty-gritty of your solution, its implementation, and the business case. They correspond to C in the DISC spectrum.
Imagine an analytical buyer as one who would draw up a list of pros and cons after understanding the product in detail. They would re-do the ROI calculations to make sure that the product makes business sense before buying it.
Don’t place emphasis on hype - it won’t fly with an analytical person. Show familiarity with their business context and make a compelling argument with numbers to support it.
How to figure out what kind of buyer you are dealing with?
All of the above wouldn’t matter if you couldn’t find out what kind of a buyer you have on the other side of the conversation.
John Hill, a sales coach, the founder of Adapted Growth, and the author of “Selling from Scratch,” uses the first few minutes of a call to initiate small talk and observes how his prospect reacts to it.
A collaborative person might lean into it and discuss it further - they appreciate the effort to build a relationship.
An assertive person would likely not respond very well to it - they might only give a curt response and get impatient. They want to get to business ASAP.
At this point, I recommend reading “Selling from Scratch” by John Hill. In chapter 4, “Personality types in sales”, he talks at length about the four personality types and how he figures out which one he is talking to.
But don’t be too quick to put people in a box!
The most important thing to remember when trying to figure out a buyer’s personality type is that personality exists on a spectrum.
Almost everyone has one primary personality type. But it can shift depending on certain situations.
For example, if you’re meeting with an expressive type of person who just lost their dog, they might not be as friendly and open as they typically would be.
Or, an analytical person might become much more animated than usual when discussing something they are passionate about.
Finally, collaborative people are brilliant chameleons! Many of them can quickly shift their communication type to match yours, making it more challenging to uncover their inner collaborative personality.
The trick to figuring out who people are when they aren’t acting within their natural parameters is to keep asking questions. If their responses seem off-base from previous conversations or uncomfortable for them, they might be shifting to a personality type that doesn’t come to them as easily.
Asking questions to uncover somebody’s most natural personality takes practice, but it’s worth it.
Conclusion: identify, adapt and improve
Identifying your buyer’s personality type and adapting your approach to suit their buying style are learnable skills.
I hope this post helps you understand if it’s worth your time investment or not.
To start, you can record your sales discovery calls with Zoom/Teams or with tools like Sybill togo back and watch the recordings in your spare time. While watching the call, keep hunting for clues to figure out what type of buyer you just talked to.
With practice, this would become second nature to you, and you would feel comfortable with the different styles as they suit you.
Do you have stories on how identifying buyer personality helped you take the deal forward in a more positive way? I’d love to hear more about it.