How to Sell to the 4 Different Personalities Found in the C-Suite

February 24, 2015 Jeffrey Hayzlett

Have you prepared for the executive — I mean, really prepared? Do you know how they take their coffee, or if they take coffee at all? What is their favorite sport, and what is their favorite team? Do they have children?

Remember, C-suite executives are humans, too. And as such, one of the key things to remember when selling to a C-suiter is to understand what officer you’re dealing with and the personality type that comes along with each individual. There are four basic personality types that we sell to, and sales pitches should be tailored according to each person using visual cues—a simple task once you know what to look for.

An example of a visual cue you can work from is the appearance of a person’s office. Some people have neat offices, while others are messy. Some have artistically styled offices, while others have workspaces that are strictly for show or power — that say, “I’ll either seduce you or overpower you.”

Another good way to differentiate personality types is by picking up on visual cues like how a person dresses, sits, walks, and talks. These are all signs of ways in which you can talk or sell to an Attila the Hun, or, in this case, the C-suite. Once you know which personality type you’re dealing with, you can begin to customize proposals or closes based on each individual. Remember, if you want to make a sale, it’s important that you alter your presentation styles based on who you’re dealing with. 

1. Driver 

The first personality type seen in the C-suite is the Driver. This is typically the CEO — or, less often, the CFO or CMO. They usually have two modes of operation: to seduce you or to overpower you. You can tell when someone is a driver by what you see when you walk into his or her office — usually dead animals on the wall or certificates in frames. Their offices are filled with things they’ve killed or captured, things they’ve done, such as good deeds or certificates earned, and examples of anything they’ve accomplished or overcome in their careers.

The way in which you sell to a Driver is specific to their personality type. Remember, they’re trying to seduce you or overpower you. Because of this, you should give them multiple proposal choices rather than just one, because their other alternative is to say no — and trust me, they’ll say no 95 percent of the time. However, if you give them a two-option or three-option close — and, by the way, you have to be very formal with them and put everything in writing — then they exude the power to choose.

2. Amiable

The second personality type you’ll find in the C-suite is the Amiable. This leader usually has more traditional values, and approaches you in a similar manner to how they would approach  friends or family. Amiable people tend to ask you a lot of questions, and they get along with practically everybody. Salespeople or chief sales officers typically fall into this category. 

When you’re selling to an Amiable, you don’t want to give them too many options because it will take them forever to decide. In other words, focus their attention around one particular choice that’s the optimal fit for them.  

3. Analytical

The third personality type is the Analytical. These people are usually the bottom line, bottom numbers kind of person, like the CFO or the CTO. They can easily spend an hour and a half looking for a 25 percent mistake on an expense statement. You know you’re in the office of an analytical person because it’s very neat and organized. You’ll open the left-hand drawer of their desk and find sugar, ketchup, and soy sauce packets and anything else they’ve taken from the cafeteria as a way to save money.

For an analytical person, you want to use what I like to call a “sermon close.” Your goal is to reinforce all of the key benefits of a proposal, and address the different things they’ve raised as part of the decision-making process. Then give them a summary close based on a very logical progression. You want to have a very structured and formal approach with them.

4. Expressive

The final personality type is the Expressive. This person is very outgoing and can find it difficult to make decisions. They’re often artistic and have messy desks covered in stacks of different things. They couldn’t carry on a conversation without waving their arms around or telling you three different aspects before getting to the point.

For Expressives, don’t try to sell them anything. Never present them anything because they’ll never make a decision. If you invite them to dinner, they’re the ones that order the special, and they’re usually the last to make up their minds. You can see these people when you go out to dinner because the waiter will turn to them and ask what they’d like, but they’ll want to hear what everyone else is ordering first. And in the end they’ll just order the special.

Now, tell me what are some visual cues you use to differentiate personality types in the C-suite? 

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