Mother Teresa vs. King Kong: Connecting with Different Personality Types

Guest post by Andrea Nierenberg
Author of Million Dollar Networking: The Sure Way to Find, Grow, and Keep Your Business
Watch her interview on The Woman's Connection YouTube Vlog

It's almost impossible to like all the prospects and clients we need to connect with. However, it's possible to make the effort to network with people by adjusting our approach, no matter how sweet or sour their personality.

Communication Styles and Personality Types
Effective salespeople need to be aware of the communication styles and personality types of their potential customers. Whether you find other people's styles welcoming or offensive, it's your responsibility to adjust accordingly to make a positive connection. The sales people who are the best at this skill, know their own style, with its strengths and weaknesses, and have learned to recognize and honor other people's styles of communication. Refining this talent is especially important when it comes to networking because often you need to have little time to decide how the other person wants to be approached. However, a good place to start it to reassess your communication style. 

You Have to Take the Lead When Meeting New Prospects
Sometimes trying to commune with someone who communicates differently from the way we do is like two ships passing in the night. We don't understand them, and they don't understand us. 

To communicate effectively, you need to be the first one who is ready to alter the way you communicate. Once I was in France and was trying to communicate with a shopkeeper. I thought that if I spoke louder and more slowly in English, she would understand me. Of course, there was no way she could. The louder and more slowly I talked, the more frustrating it was for both of us. I needed to alter my style (talking at a regular volume in English) and try something else she could understand, such as pointing, gesturing, and smiling. 
The frustration I felt before I altered my style is exactly the same feeling we have when we many of us don't connect with a prospect or client. We may be in our own country and speaking the same language, yet our communication styles are so different that we have a hard time making a connection. We need to understand and adapt our style to communicate effectively. I am a bottom-line person. Often I see the big picture first and then find a way to go for it.

Think about how you like to give and get information. What is your preferred communication style? How has your boss, various co-workers, your subordinates, even your spouse reacted to your style? Has more than one person said that you are clear, sometime confusing, too soft spoken or aggressive? If you've ever been frustrated trying to communicate something when the other person just didn't get it, could it be something you are doing? In order to decide where you'll need to adapt will require discovering the other person style. Keep in mind, people won't tell you their style. 

Recognizing Personality Types
In addition to being aware of your communication style, a good sales professional adjusts to other people's personality types. Some people are more sensitive, to the concerns and feeling of others; others are more bottom line- or results-oriented. Still others are interested in and concerned with details and the way things work. 

There are ways to identify personality and temperamental categories that predict how people react and relate to each other. One very popular personality style indicator used by many companies is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. I also use the DISC® profile, which explores behavioral issues. It is an effective tool for understanding personality traits and styles. However, most interactions won't give you the luxury of such elaborate tests. Therefore, a shortcut is to be a careful listener and observe behaviors (mostly body language). Like anything else to do this faster, takes practice.

For example, I once walked into a corporate conference room and found myself giving three different presentations at the same time! I was there to present a training proposal to three top level executives in the company. Having met them all and through careful observation and listening, I knew each had a very different personality style. My main goal (besides selling my program) was to speak to their needs and convey the benefits to each one. Therefore, I needed to adjust my presentation to each one individually. As I spoke with each one, I
switched the way I conveyed the information I was giving to match his or her personality. 

Here's my research and how I used it to make a better sales presentation with those three very different personality types at the same meeting:

The head of human resources and training was amiable in her approach. What I remembered most about her was her comment to me about being sure to "get everyone involved" and her obvious caring and concern for all the employees. Clearly, I had to focus my presentation to her on the personal benefits for her employees and to make sure she felt that the time her employees spent in training would be worthwhile for their growth and development. 
The chief financial officer, however, was interested in the return on investment he expected from my program. In addition, he wanted details and numbers. I decided to give him the same proposal that I had given to the head of human resources but to include a specific outline for each module, with costs clearly defined. The more data I presented to him, the better! 
The CEO told me he had only six minutes to hear me out. (I actually clocked how long he was in the room, and it was exactly six minutes!) All he wanted to know was, "What are my people going to learn?" and "How much will it cost?" I was prepared with the same presentation (in case he had questions), but I gave him only the executive summary: a brief, succinct paragraph followed by bullet points and the bottom line. 
These were three very different people-all wanting the same thing yet needing it delivered in three very different ways. To succeed, I had to read each person carefully and provide him or her with exactly what that person wanted to hear. 

Later, after I had done several programs with this firm, each person told me separately how much he or she enjoyed our working relationship because, "We communicate in exactly the same way." I smiled to myself, knowing that my extra work and effort to understand each personality type was well worth it!

Traits of Common Personality Types (based on the DISC® personality indicator system)

Dominant: Bottom line-oriented, competitive, direct
Makes decisions quickly
Best approach to use: 
-Focus on the "what"
-Be efficient
Influencer: Persuasive, animated, expressive, emotional
Enjoys helping others
Best approach to use:
- Focus on the "who" 
- Be empathetic
Steady: Patient, agreeable, amiable, quiet
Is very dependable
Best approach to use:
-Focus on the "how"
-Be supportive
Conscientious: Compliant, cautious, accurate, analytical
Likes lots of details
Best approach to use:
-Focus on the "why"
- Be logical

Not a Chameleon
As a sales professional, you often have no control whether your prospects or clients will be a "Mother Teresa" or a "King Kong." And if you simply mimic the other person's style you'll come across as manipulative and insincere. (Besides, people who know you might this you're a little "crazy" when they see you change personalities). Therefore, my advice does not advocate constantly changing your personality. Rather, I'm recommending a positive, sincere, and proactive approach to understanding a client's or prospect's feelings and traits. You want to appear empathetic not opportunistic. The dictionary definition of empathy is "the action or understanding, being aware of…the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another…" Therefore, to become empathetic, just be aware of communication styles and personality types. Who knows, you may be making a sales call on Donald Trump or Martha Stewart. Will you be ready to connect?