By Steve Weinberg
Salespeople, unfortunately, often treat their buyers as one monolithic group of people. We prepare marketing material and messages that are often identical and utilize them across the universe of buyers, sometimes only varying them by vertical market or by season. And, of course, buyers are not all the same. They work at different companies and have different goals and objectives and reasons for speaking with you.
Each buyer has a unique personality, as well as different needs and wants. They also may plan to use your product or solution differently. More importantly, their motivation or “why?” is unique to them and their circumstances. The “one size fits all approach” of marketing and sales messages needs to be sent to the sales training junkyard.
Assessing the Buyer Beforehand
Personality information is a useful data point or tool that you can utilize to understand your buyer, which is essential to be successful in sales. It will help you in your conversations with the buyer when it is important to relate to their needs, motives, and goals. And it will give you an edge over your competitors.
Have you ever noticed that some people have simple offices, while others are well decorated, perhaps with many photographs of their family or last vacation, their diplomas, or company awards? We can learn about a person’s personality by observing their behavior, as well as how they set up their office or workspace. An observant salesperson can use this information to initiate a conversation and build rapport with a prospect. It will help if you can recognize the different personalities of the people you are calling on and adapt your sales pitch accordingly.
Tailoring the Message
One way to increase your chances of closing the sale you are currently working on is to better understand the personality of your buyer. A well-prepared message that is considered too aggressive by one buyer may be perfectly acceptable to another.
I suggest preparing different messages to approach your buyers and explain your proposition value based on their perceived personality type, rather than using the standard material produced by your product marketing department. The messages should be utilized not just in the middle and end of the sales cycle, but from the start.
Think of two very different buyers and how this message will be received by them:
We have a new product being released next month. I cannot provide you with much detail on it, but we are confident that it will handle your needs and is better than anything else on the market. It utilizes the latest and greatest artificial intelligence technology.
Buyer 1, Tony, an extrovert, is very impulsive and wants to find a solution as soon as possible. He is not concerned with the details of how it will work and any difficulties in deploying it in his company. He does want something reliable that will make him look good to his manager.
Buyer 2, Marie, an introvert, is very cautious and methodical. She wants to dig into the details of your product and understand how it was engineered. She is also very concerned with the issues resulting from the transition from their current environment.
Which buyer do you think will be interested in our new product? Tony will want to move forward, and Marie will not.
Who are You Selling To?
To understand how to customize our messages, we need the means to identify buyers’ personalities to build a message that resonates with them. Finding such a tool is a difficult problem that I have struggled with throughout my sales career.
Early in my sales career, I was told that it was very important to become product knowledgeable to be successful – know its features and functions and be able to explain them succinctly. This involved spending days training with product managers, who explained the product to me in detail, including how they thought the prospect would benefit from it. I was also given a standard sales script that I was told to memorize and be able to recite, word-for-word, at sales presentations that were sometimes hours long. I did both and became very successful. So, I assumed that standard messages worked well. The reality was that I succeeded despite them.
I often found when speaking with buyers that some were more interested in various features and functions, and perhaps the latest technology, some were more than willing to chat with me for long periods and others were abrupt and wanted to immediately get down to their needs. Of course, I adapted and tried to work with them in the manner that it seemed they preferred.
Then I attended a company Myers-Briggs (MBTI) personality test training session that was offered to all managers. The mother and daughter team of Myers and Briggs developed a personality type indicator in the 1960s based on the teachings of Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung. Myers-Briggs defined eight personality preferences: Introvert (I) or Extravert (E); Sensor (S) or Intuitive (N); Thinker (T) or Feeler (F); and Judger (J) or Perceptor (P).
Identifying Personality Types
Interested persons can take a short test that will determine their MBTI personality classification. The result will be one of 16 combinations of preferences, such as ISTP, ESFJ, or ENTP. So, for example, one personality classification ISTP represents a person that is an introvert (I), a sensor (S), a thinker (T), and a preceptor (P). No personality type is better or preferable to another. It simply represents your attributes. You can learn more about MBTI at https://www.themyersbriggs.com/en-US/Products-and-Services/Myers-Briggs
There are other excellent personality preference indicator tests, such as DISC, and Enneagram. However, MBTI seemed to be the easiest for me to relate to.
Many psychiatrists and psychologists dismiss the MBTI as being unscientific (unproven research), too binary, inaccurate, and arbitrary. Some view it as “voodoo” science like astrology. I am not a social scientist and have found the information useful in learning how to customize messages to buyers.
Recognizing Personality Types
You do not need to have a degree in psychology, or be an amateur psychologist, to recognize and understand the 16 MBTI personality types. You just need to use your sense of observation to pick up on clues that are in front of you. You can confirm your suspicions by asking questions.
Your messages to buyers will be best received if they are oriented towards their specific personality. Since sometimes their personality is quite apparent, but often it is not, you need to make assumptions to identify who they may be. Fortunately, some clues will help disclose their type to you. These clues are revealed visually, by conversation, by how they interact with others, their plans, how they make decisions, and even by how they organize (or do not organize) their workspace. Identification has become more difficult because of limited in-person interaction with buyers, but it is possible to obtain some of this information through videoconferencing.
I am not suggesting that salespeople should ask buyers to take a personality assessment quiz, then depending upon the result, adapt to a style, like a chameleon, that is most compatible with them.
So how can we determine their personality and then customize our message? It may not be as difficult as it seems.
Using the example of an ENFJ (extrovert, intuitive, feeling, judger) personality type, we know that this personality type is usually a compassionate facilitator.
ENFJs are born leaders, humanitarians, and usually very optimistic. They are natural extraverts and appreciate other people. They prefer their lives to be structured, scheduled, and orderly. They have exceptionally good communication skills and a tendency to inspire others. Their office would probably have a large conference table in it so there is room for discussions and coloration. They might demonstrate their enthusiasm for life and people, perhaps with personal photographs on the wall.
When selling to an ENFJ understand that feelings and values are important to them, so they will be empathetic to a well thought out proposal. They are friendly, excellent communicators, and should be willing to discuss the pros and cons of purchasing from you or others. As humanitarians, they would be interested in how your product contributes to the betterment of society. Be sure to explain the benefits of your solution in order of importance.
If there are many people on the buying team, it would be impractical to customize messages for each person. However, it is prudent to try to determine the personalities of the key decision makers, including the economic buyer, and prepare your messaging in a manner that will be best received by them.
By recognizing buyers’ different personalities and by applying this information, you can gain an advantage in closing the sale by approaching each in a more tailored, compatible manner. Using personality type methodologies such as MBTI to recognize each type and improve your messaging could be the edge you need to close your sale.
Steve Weinberg has spent his life selling and helping others sell better, sell faster, and sell more. He is an expert at building, guiding, and sustaining high caliber sales teams, and creating exemplary standards in account management. He has over three decades of leadership experience in sales, including Vice Presidencies at Dun & Bradstreet Software, AC Nielsen, Solcorp (then part of EDS, now HP), and Deloitte and Touche. Steve earned a B.A. in Economics / Business Administration from North Park University, and an MBA from Loyola University of Chicago. He is also a CPA and has experience in accounting, consulting, and as a graduate-level Economics instructor. He is married and has two adult children. He is the author of Above Quota Performance (Armin Lear Press, 9/20/2022). Learn more at https://www.steveweinbergsales.com/.