Are You Alienating 75% of Your Prospects??


Tim J. Smith, PhD
Founder and CEO, Wiglaf Pricing

Published February 2, 2005

Have you ever walked into someone’s office for a meeting and noticed that he checks his watch before he even sits down? Or perhaps you’ve arrived at someone’s office for a meeting and he seems to take forever to get around to talking about business.

While I’m sure you have built a dynamite presentation for the product or service you’re selling, I’m also sure that your presentation doesn’t work the same way with every audience. The problem/opportunity here is that every prospect is different. The path they follow to reach a ‘Buy’ decision differs according to their experiences, hot buttons, attitudes, ways of using time, approaches, and filters. In short, they have different personalities.

So it makes sense to tailor your approach to the personality of your audience. The process is called Personality Typing, and it’s actually pretty easy to do.

What Is Personality Typing?

While everyone is certainly unique, a widely accepted behavior model identifies four basic personality styles. There are lots of personality typing methodologies available. Most of the business-oriented methodologies focus on four personality styles and use their own labels for them. (In 400 BC, Hippocrates identified four temperaments: Melancholic, Sanguine, Choleric, and Phlegmatic.) Specific style names are much less important than understanding the traits that characterize each one, and successful tactics for effectively dealing with them.

For the sake of this discussion, we’ll call the four types Driving, Advocating, Analyzing, and Friendly. These personalities differ in two very significant ways: how assertive they are and how outgoing they are. Driving and Advocating people are more assertive, while Analyzing and Friendly people are more flexible (less assertive). Advocating and Friendly people are more outgoing, while Driving and Analyzing people are more reserved (less outgoing).

You can use some pretty simple observations about people to determine whether they tend to be assertive or flexible, outgoing or reserved. As an example, if someone tends to accept what you say to him, he’s probably tends to be more flexible. On the other hand, if he challenges everything you say, that’s an indication of assertiveness. If someone seems most interested in details and facts, that suggests that he’s more reserved than outgoing. More outgoing people tend to be driven by concepts and opinions.

The above is clearly an over-simplification. Personality Typing methodologies take you through a series of several multiple-choice questions to more accurately assess personality. The questions can be answered pretty quickly, and they can be revisited as you get to know your prospect. People who try Personality Typing for the first time are often very surprised by the accuracy and usefulness of its results.

Many available methodologies provide descriptions of each personality style, and some methodologies also offer tactics for working with each style. For example, STARCLOSER (personality typing software for Desktop Computers and Handheld PDAs, provides a database of traits (tendencies, needs, emphasis, and common objections) and tactics (openings, areas to probe, what to appeal to, proofs to offer, objection handling, closure, how to build credibility, how to establish urgency, and even things to avoid) for each personality.

Reach More of Your Prospects!

Remember the guy who checked his watch when you walked in? You’d be well advised to open your discussion with him in a structured and concise way, and avoid arguing when he inevitably raises objections. The guy who takes forever to get around to talking about business? Your approach here should probably be a warm one, and your enthusiasm and creativity may win the day.

If you’re making your dynamite presentation exactly the same way to every prospect, then you’re not taking personality differences into account. At best, your presentation will effectively target one of the four personality styles. If your prospect is one of the other three styles, you may be unintentionally (and unknowingly) lowering your chances of success. Why alientate 75% of your prospects??

So try Personality Typing with your next sales-related encounter! While the details are a bit too lengthy for this brief article, books have been written about the technique, and easy-to-use tools are readily available on the Internet.

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About The Author

Tim J. Smith, PhD, is the founder and CEO of Wiglaf Pricing, an Adjunct Professor of Marketing and Economics at DePaul University, and the author of Pricing Done Right (Wiley 2016) and Pricing Strategy (Cengage 2012). At Wiglaf Pricing, Tim leads client engagements. Smith’s popular business book, Pricing Done Right: The Pricing Framework Proven Successful by the World’s Most Profitable Companies, was noted by Dennis Stone, CEO of Overhead Door Corp, as "Essential reading… While many books cover the concepts of pricing, Pricing Done Right goes the additional step of applying the concepts in the real world." Tim’s textbook, Pricing Strategy: Setting Price Levels, Managing Price Discounts, & Establishing Price Structures, has been described by independent reviewers as “the most comprehensive pricing strategy book” on the market. As well as serving as the Academic Advisor to the Professional Pricing Society’s Certified Pricing Professional program, Tim is a member of the American Marketing Association and American Physical Society. He holds a BS in Physics and Chemistry from Southern Methodist University, a BA in Mathematics from Southern Methodist University, a PhD in Physical Chemistry from the University of Chicago, and an MBA with high honors in Strategy and Marketing from the University of Chicago GSB.