Be A Chameleon: How Knowing Your Style (And THEIRS) Can Help You Sell More

As a business coach, I work with all types of business owners and leaders. Some are incredibly direct and assertive. Others are more coolly analytical. Some are quite friendly and relationship-oriented. Still others are laid back and mellow. Being able to assess a client’s, prospect’s, employee’s, or colleague’s behavior style is critically important for me to be able to make sure I can get through to my client, being effective with my communications and persuasive when I’m trying to inspire action. At FocalPoint, we use a methodology called DISC, which has been around for decades, that enables me to quickly and simply “read” someone’s style, and react and adapt accordingly.

But how can you use the same method to improve your communications and increase sales? The first step is recognizing your own style and knowing what your default patterns are. Then, you can start to pinpoint key characteristics in the people with whom you interact, which will enable you to place them at ease and focus on what information will be important to share with your potential client.

The reason that I start practically any coaching engagement with a behavioral assessment, and specifically a DISC behavioral assessment, is that we are all wired differently -- we all communicate differently, we all think differently, and we have different priorities. But ultimately, there are four main styles, labelled “D”, “I”, “S”, and "C", hence the “DISC” acronym. Some of us are very Direct, some of us are more Influencers, some of us appreciate Steadiness, and some of us are Compliance and analytical oriented. Depending on what behavior style you are, you're looking at the world through a different filter. Your style dictates how you tend to communicate, as well as how you tend to interpret signals from others.

So, in order for me to be a good business coach, effective leadership expert, or marketing strategy consultant, I need to know how I'm going to get through to you, and how you're wired. But more importantly, when I debrief clients on their style, I spend only about half of the time helping them understand their own behavior style, and what their strengths and what their potential pitfalls are. The other half is focused on the question ‘how do we apply this to others in a real-world business sense’? ‘How do I speed-read what somebody else's behavior style is so that I can tailor my communications to be a better fit for what they're looking for, and the way they need to process communications’? What a great fit for the world of marketing!

In my business coaching practice, I have personally witnessed powerful breakthrough communication with the DISC assessment tool. While the assessment itself is a quick and simple process to complete, the debrief and actions to put in place can drive significant results breakthroughs. Upon reviewing an assessment, I work with my client on integration strategies to improve their sales and communication results. There's a process behind it, which is what I love, because it all just makes sense.

Let’s walk through the four main styles of the DISC methodology.

We are all truly combinations of all four styles, but we do tend to gravitate towards one area where we're most comfortable. That's kind of our default. So, if your “D” dimension is highest, that means you're more about dominance. You kind of like to dominate a conversation. You're pretty assertive. You like to get in there and tend to like to control the flow of a conversation. You’re very, very down to business, very, very on task and task-oriented. The world needs to understand that and address you as such if they want to be persuasive and influential with you.

Influencer style, the “I”, is all about the relationship, and all about creating that personal comfort level first before we get into business. So, someone with a high “I” orientation would certainly want to talk with you a little bit about “the ball game” (or something) before you get down to business, even if just briefly, to create some kind of a personal rapport before launching headlong into tasks.

Going around the horn to the “S” dimension, steadiness, these are people that are also warm, but a little bit quieter, a little bit more laid back. (I don't want to use the word ‘introverted’, because that really takes you to a very different type of assessment. But this is someone who is not necessarily going to be the initiator of a conversation. Someone who needs to be drawn out.) S-types value steadiness. They value stability. They don't like to rushed into decisions. They don't like to be kind of harangued into doing something. You'll turn them off quickly if you give them a hard sell.

Lastly, “C” stands for compliance. (I think that's a bit of a misnomer.) They are incredibly analytical. They are data driven, to an extreme. They want to see facts and figures on just about everything. They don't mind getting deep into the detail, and they want you to prove it to them. Don't make an assertion that you're not willing to go back and prove. If you do they're going to ask you for proof. Obviously, the selling strategy, the marketing communication strategy, that would be ideal for one of these types might be the polar opposite of what some of the others are looking for.

If you want to be effective and persuasive in communication, you need to be responsible for identifying and adapting to their style, not expecting them to adapt to you.

I mean, if you’re a “C”, and you start a dialogue with someone who is an “I”, you can’t treat them like they’re a “C”. When you start a conversation with someone who's an “I”, all they want to do at first is get to know you a little bit, before they can trust you. They want to know how your kids are doing. They want to know, again like I said ‘how'd you like the ball game last night?’ They want to have a little bit of small talk first. If you treat them like a “C”, you're going to ignore that and jump straight into business. You're going to throw a ton of detail at them, facts and figures, that frankly are too much for them. They don't really want it. They don't necessarily care about it. So, if you're in a selling situation, or even just at the top of a marketing funnel and trying to interest them, you'd be going at it the completely wrong way.

Remain customer-centric. You must not only start with the end in mind, but you should start with the customer in the forefront.

Another example would be if you are a “D” person – if that's your primary dimension. If you approach the whole world in the same direct, brutally honest way, you're going to turn off a lot of people. “D's”, statistically, are only about 19% of the population. So, if you're treating everybody like a D, you're going to be alienating about 80% of the people that you're talking to.

That's what I find most appealing about DISC. There are certainly plenty of other assessments that many of us are familiar with (Meyers-Briggs comes to mind) -- we all hear about these things, and many of us have taken them. The great thing about DISC is that it is very simple to apply. I can very easily, with just a little bit of training, enable you to identify someone as a particular behavior style, with a high degree of accuracy.

Here’s a great example of how that skill can really help your business: I was working with a sales manager and his boss, who was the CEO of a medium-sized business. We completed some sales training, and we included DISC training as part of that. When the session ended, we started talking about a specific example, about a customer that these guys had been trying to close the deal with for months. They had it almost to the point of closing the deal, but for some reason, they couldn't get it over the finish line.

"We've been trying to set up a lunch with this guy,” they said. “He keeps blowing us off. We can't even get them to schedule a lunch, so we can talk to him and finally get this deal closed." I said to them, "Well what's his behavior style?" We tried to figure it out for a second, and we determined he was a “D”. I said, "Guys if he's a ‘D’, does he want to have lunch with you?" The light bulbs just went off. There were looks of sudden comprehension on their faces. No of course not, this guy doesn't want to go to lunch with salespeople ... He has plenty of friends. He wants to have lunch with them, he doesn't want to have lunch with you. He wants to do business with you, but he wants to do it as quickly and efficiently as possible.

So literally, they made a phone call right after our session. They called him up and said, "Hey, can we come to your office and spend about 15 minutes signing some papers so we can get done with this?" He said, "Sure. Come on by, 3:30." They swung by, papers got signed, and the deal was finally closed. They had been trying to have lunch with him for months, but the guy didn't want to have lunch. He just wanted to sign the papers. He was ready to go.

In typical sales training, they might have learned “you got to schmooze them”. You’ve got to “know, like, and trust” someone. You got to make sure that you “get to know” them. That's true to an extent, but getting to know you “socially” is not exactly what a high “D” wants – same, perhaps, with a high “C”. If you want to be truly effective, you need to understand your own behavior style and determine your customer’s behavior style. . . and then, you can figure out how to best bridge the gap.

To learn more about how the power of DISC can grow your business, you can do one of two things:

  1. Listen to this radio show (“Hot Dog Marketing”), where I was interviewed extensively about DISC and how to apply it to your marketing.
  2. Book a no-cost 20-minute coaching call with me via my online calendar, where we can talk about how to apply this concept to YOUR business today.

And remember: Whatever You’re Going To Be. . . BE OUSTANDING!


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