Selling to Different Personalities

Sam Harrison explains in his book IdeaSelling how to successfully pitch creative ideas. He starts off by emphasizing the importance of knowing the decision-maker; not just her formal position and role, but also her personality.

Harrison has found it helpful, on an admittedly elementary level, to use the DISC model that Dr. William Marston developed in the 1920s. Harrison writes that by observing the work styles and personal traits of decision-makers, you can use DISC to loosely peg basic personality types. He admits that his use of the method is hardly scientific, but it helps in finding clues on how to present and interact with the four types of personality.

DISC is an acronym for Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, and Compliance. The DISC quadrant shows the basis of the typification.

D-Type decision-makers are extroverted, active, demanding, forceful, egocentric, aggressive, and decisive. CEOs often fall into this quadrant.

When selling to D-Types let them know that they are important and that you value their time. Link emotional elements directly to strategy and benefits. Be prepared for blunt questions and quick decisions, Harrison writes.

I-Type decision-makers are extroverted, active, social, talkative, emotional, optimistic, warm, convincing, magnetic, and trusting. Sales and marketing people are often I-Types, as Harrison points out.

Involve I-Type clients in your presentation, conversations, and questions. Use storytelling and emotional tugs. You should stay positive and upbeat. I-Types like to interrupt, ask questions, and comment on your presentation.

S-Type decision-makers are introverted, calm, relaxed, deliberate, and consistent. They are concerned about employees and family, and uncomfortable with sudden change. According to Harrison, human resources people are often in this quadrant.

Selling radical ideas to S-Types requires reassurance. Show how the idea will benefit employees and other stakeholders. Demonstrate how your solution will be painlessly rolled out to those audiences.

C-Type decision-makers are introverted, cautious, systematic, accurate, and comfortable with rules, regulations, and structure. Purchasing people and those in administrative positions are often C-Types.

When you want to convince a C-Type personality stay close to the facts. Limit the fluff, as Harrison puts it. Emotional elements must directly relate to strategy, process, revenue gains, and cost savings. Let them know you appreciate quality work and doing things right the first time. Give them details and emphasize follow-up.

Harrison warns not to overplay the significance of DISC. He reminds us that few people fit completely into any one quadrant. He suggests that you pay attention to all traits when preparing presentations. Still, I find this method very useful when preparing proposals and presentations.