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Tailoring Your Sales Pitch to Your Customer's Personality Once you recognize and tailor your pitch to your customer's dominant type, among the four types, you'll see positive results.

By Doug and Polly White Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


A few years ago, Polly gave a speech to a Fortune 500 company's national sales force. Her topic was how to tailor your sales pitch to the personality type of your prospective customer. The technique she described was, and is, a powerful one once you get the basics down.

Related: 6 Strategies For Overcoming Buyer Hesitation in B2B Sales

The technique focuses on the personality type you're dealing with. Here, we use the model that David Merrill and Roger Reid outline in their book, Personal Styles & Effective Performance. The book was originally published three-plus decades ago (and republished) but still applies today. In it, the authors used two dimensions, assertiveness and self-disclosure, to create a four-box matrix.

Here are the four types, a method for identifying each and tips for optimizing your pitch.

1. 'Drivers' -- assertive, but not self-disclosing

Drivers get things done quickly, take charge and make most, if not all, of the decisions. They won't let things stand in the way.

To identify a Driver, look for a focus on the present. Drivers have less concern with learning from the past or predicting the implications for the future. Instead, facts and data are important to Drivers; they don't need a lot of analysis to make decisions. They are competitive, and focused on the bottom line.

They may speak quickly and loudly, and be opinionated. They likely won't ask many questions. Instead, they'll make statements. They make direct eye contact; and when they use hand gestures, those gestures are sharp and pointed and no nonsense. Drivers take calculated risks.

If you're dealing with a Driver, keep your presentation concise and to the point. Be prepared to back up your assertions with facts -- not opinions -- and only if the Driver asks. Provide a list of choices. Drivers like to make the decisions. Ask them questions and listen carefully. Don't get personal. These are people who like to keep things professional.

Finally, end your presentation early if possible. Giving a Driver a few minutes to put back into his or her schedule will send you off -- in the Driver's view -- in a positive light.

Related: The 5 Types of Customers Fatal to Startups and How Employees Attract Them

2. 'Expressives' -- assertive and self-disclosing

Expressives are outgoing and personable and appear to be very friendly. But don't be fooled by their charm. Expressives are very competitive. They love the spotlight and are intuitive, creative and flexible. They tend to be more visionary than other styles.

Identify Expressives by their animation. They often speak loudly and quickly, with hand gestures. You'll get direct eye contact and a lot of personal information. They like to talk about themselves and their plans for the future. They often process information aloud, allowing you to hear their thinking.

Schedule enough time for a pleasant, personal conversation. Ask them questions to keep them engaged, but understand that Expressives often go off topic. You'll need to let them wander a bit, but gently lead them back to your agenda. Use endorsements from individuals or organizations that the Expressive might admire, in order to gain credibility. Name-dropping is completely acceptable to an Expressive. So is flattery, as long as it is justified.

3. 'Amiables' -- self-disclosing, but not assertive

Amiables are relationship-oriented and focus on getting along with and helping others. Amiables are good listeners, and they tend to be loyal.

Identify Amiables by their polite and respectful demeanor. They won't be too talkative with those they have just met and will reserve their opinions, not wanting to offend. They are low-risk individuals who delay decision-making. They're pleasant, but somewhat aloof. Consequently, they don't give you much feedback.

To interest an Amiable, create a rapport. Most Amiables are quiet and fairly passive unless severely provoked. Aggressive sales tactics may win short-term gains, but will not create a long-term customer. Instead, engage in personal conversation. Create a connection and generate trust. Offer personal guarantees and make your service/product as low risk as possible. Draw out Amiables by asking open-ended questions. Be patient. If you gain his or her trust, this Amiable will be a loyal customer.

4. 'Analytics' -- neither assertive nor self-disclosing

Analytics focus on the past to get information they need to make decisions. Detailed-oriented as people, Analytics rely on facts and data for direction. They are not risk-takers and are slow to trust.

Analytics have a quiet demeanor. They give little feedback, but listen carefully and may even take notes. They use few hand gestures. They can seem a bit cold at first, not because they dislike people, but because they are slow to trust. They will ask questions and listen carefully to your answer. They'll be testing you.

Use charts, diagram and bullet points to illustrate your message. Be completely buttoned-up. Be exact and do not embellish. Mistakes will kill your chances. Give additional information that the Analytic you're presenting to can read and study later at his or her pace. Don't ask for a quick decision. Analytics will delay until they can fully analyze a decision -- they'll resent you for trying to push them. Offer guarantees to minimize risk.

This has been a quick synopsis of a complicated topic. No one will fit the stereotypes perfectly; however, with practice, you will be able to discern your potential customer's dominant style.

Related: 4 Customer Personalities Your Sales Team Wants to Reach

Many customers will show characteristics of more than one style; and most will combine features of two of the profiles. However, once you can recognize a dominant type and tailor your pitch using these tips, you will get positive results.

Doug and Polly White own Whitestone Partners Inc., a management-consulting firm that specializes in helping small businesses grow profitably. They are also co-authors of Let Go to GROW, a bestselling book on why some businesses thrive and others fail to reach their potential.

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