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The Alternative Board Blog

The Key to Selling to Different C-Level Personalities

Jan. 11, 2017 | Posted by The Alternative Board Worldwide
selling to different c-level personalities

According to conventional wisdom, effective selling is all about forging relationships between a business and its customers. But relationships can only be established when you identify the customer’s personality type—particularly among those inhabiting C-level offices. Sales prospects at this high level can’t be approached in the same manner as the purchasing manager in a warehouse.

To be successful, a sales team—or, as can happen in B2B and other transactions, the company’s owner—must be able to interact with individuals possessing dramatically different attitudes and behaviors.

Generally speaking, salespeople will encounter four distinct personality types among C-level executives. Each displays certain traits and characteristics and requires that the sale team be proficient in adaptive selling in order to close the deal.

Here are the four types of C-level personalities. Do you find yourself among these? What are the best ways to work with these varying individuals?

#1. The Driver (or Assertive Type)

We’re all familiar with this personality type—forceful, hard-charging business leaders who are deeply focused on a company’s long-range goals and the state of its bottom line. Unafraid of challenges, they’re quick to take action and do so in a decisive, no-regrets manner.

Look for self-assured body language, a tendency to speak in declarative sentences and a strongly competitive nature. Business expert Jeffrey Hayzlett offers a somewhat exaggerated description of the Driver’s office as “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 best sales approach with Drivers is to be direct and professional. Be ready to buttress your sales pitch with hard facts. It’s also wise to offer them multiple proposal choices because, as Hayzlett notes, “their other alternative is to say no—and trust me, they’ll say no 95 percent of the time.” Given more than one option, they revel in the power to choose.

#2. The Expressive Type

These are creative individuals with outsized personalities who enjoy bonding with the sales representative. Making high-level decisions doesn’t come naturally to them. Facts are important, but so are more intangible elements like the relevance of their individual perspectives and a concern for the welfare of employees.

With Expressives, it’s often most effective to stress a strong provider-client relationship. Share some of your own experiences (as they relate to the specific sales situation) and describe the benefits to them and their business as a result of the sale. Be patient as they work their way towards a buying decision.

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#3. The Analytical Type

Often found in positions like CFOs and CIOs, the Analytical type much prefers working with statistical and qualitative data. Before arriving at a decision, they will undertake in-depth research, verifying every sales claim you make on behalf of your product or service.

With Analyticals, a salesperson digresses from the matter under discussion at his or her peril. Be prepared for an onslaught of questions, which can be intimidating but will also demonstrate the depth of your knowledge. They will also take time arriving at a decision, so your patience (and readiness to provide more facts and figures upon request) will factor heavily in whether or not you close the deal.

#4. The Amiable Type

These individuals value being part of a team and pride themselves on their ability to get along with just about everyone. They like innovative solutions, particularly those that embody a business’ core values. Building relationships based on trust and rapport is also important.

With Amiables, it’s best to emphasize your own most likable qualities. Ask questions relating to their C-level experiences. Emphasize the collaborative nature of the sales transaction, while also focusing on how your solution involves little risk on their part. Try to avoid offering them too many options to choose from. Generally speaking, they want you to provide the most balanced, intelligent solution for them to accept.

The more you know about the prospect’s personality type, the better you can adapt your sales pitch and presentation. This approach offers a greater chance of success than any “one-size-fits-all” sales strategy.

Want more advice for your sales process, or general advice from other business owners like you? Find out if a TAB Board is right for you!

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Written by The Alternative Board Worldwide

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