Five Psychological Studies to Help You Shape Your Buyer Personas

Article by | April 11, 2019 Positioning and Messaging

Sales is hard and getting harder all the time. The B2B market is flooded with competition. The number of decision-makers in the buying process is increasing; they all want different things, they’re getting younger, and your marketing strategy must cover all the bases. It’s easy to ignore the current state of the market and keep forging ahead following the same game plan. But you want to grow sales; you want to really reach your buyers and thrive in the new sales arena. To do that, you need to understand the psychology of your buyers.

Have you felt the elation of instantly connecting with a prospective client? It feels like the beginning of a lifelong friendship. The conversation flows. You each understand each other’s concerns and how to address them. The buyer is comfortable moving forward as soon as you make the pitch. Deal closed!

But how often has that happened? Most of the time, the instant connection is a fairytale.

Today’s market is too volatile to hope that your approach will mesh seamlessly with each and every buyer’s personality with no effort. More often than not, it doesn’t happen that way. It’s a shame to take all of your passion and knowledge about your great product and have the sales relationship dissolve.

What if you knew that your potential buyer is concerned about the needs and buy-in of everyone in the organization and fears making a bad decision that upsets others? You could then approach the call in a personal manner, putting the contact at ease with a reassuring message rather than quick, cold facts. It’s possible.

Understanding the psychology of your buyers allows you to customize your strategy, hitting the points that are important to each decision-maker, avoiding turn offs, and closing the sales cycle efficiently.

Psychology experts tell us that understanding our own communication strengths and weaknesses — and being willing to accommodate the communication traits of others — can benefit all associations, including the all-important buying relationship. The more we understand about buyer behavior, the more likely we can adapt our own behavior in online and in-person interactions.

You’ll gain an increased comfort level for the buyer, creating open and effective communication, which can lead to increased sales.

These five psychological studies can help you engage your buyers in their preferred styles, putting you in charge of the deal.

DiSC: Behaviors and Affinities

The oldest of the major psychological studies with buyer implications, DiSC theory is rooted in mid-20th century psychology and breaks personality down into four main types:

  • Dominant
  • Influential
  • Steady
  • Compliant

Each of these main personality types is associated with preferred communication styles. The personality test graphs the tendencies of these four categories above or below a midline. The highest of the four is considered the high and becomes the primary distinguishing characteristic.

GS - DISC i.01 smHigh Ds, or Dominants, like facts and brevity. They charge ahead. They make decisions. Consider them fast-paced and task-oriented.

High Is, or Influentials, appreciate the small talk and need discussion summaries. They are often extroverts and the life of the party. They bring people together. Consider them fast-paced and people-oriented.

High Ss, or Steadys, need the personal touch without too much pressure. They are compliant and patient and carry a gentle openness about them. Consider them slow-paced and people-oriented.

High Cs, or Compliants, want lots of information to substantiate the purchase. They are meticulous and exacting. They see fine detail and are prone to analysis paralysis. Consider them slow-paced and task-oriented.

No one is 100% one type, but each person’s dominant style shows up in stressful situations—like making a buying decision. Knowing which type your client gravitates towards can help you get the initial approach just right.

Crystal Knows: Custom Communication

Crystal exampleBased on the DiSC model, Nashville-based Crystal analyzes social media information, from Twitter to LinkedIn, to determine personality profiles for anyone—including you and your prospective clients. Although you can follow the tests on their website, it’s not necessary; Crystal automatically analyzes anyone who hasn’t opted out. Figuring out your client’s personality type may be as simple as visiting their LinkedIn page; Install the free Chrome extension and you can profile anyone on LinkedIn in seconds.

With a focus on written communication, Crystal takes the analysis one step further and makes specific recommendations for crafting effective emails for each recipient. A Gmail plugin provides prompts, criticism, and suggestions for emails.

For example, using the contact’s first name only, without a greeting, is exactly what a High D personality likes, but it’s a turn off for a High I Influential. Follow similar styles with the closings. While you can figure these email preferences out on your own, Crystal automates them so you can spend less time focused on personality assessments and more time on other aspects of selling. In an interesting collaboration, HubSpot has been working with Crystal Knows to integrate personality types into their CRM.

Cybernetic Big Five Theory (CB5T): OCEAN

In 2014, Colin DeYoung isolated five key components of personality: Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism.

The main five traits, which also go by the acronym OCEAN, have been expanded upon to include sub- and super-traits, and many psychological studies are based on this Five Factor Model.

GS - Chart i.02 smYour marketing strategy should of course include buyer personas, which can really help pinpoint your target audience, but StormID delved deeper to include the most likely Big Five traits for their buyer personas. The more specific you can be with your personas, the more empathetic your proposed solutions can be.

Interestingly, many qualities of a Conscientious person align with the Dominant traits from DiSC; while not always your decision-makers, many organizational leaders exhibit these traits as well so be sure to include them in your buyer personas.

Enneagram: All About Relationships

By definition, an enneagram has nine points, which correlate to personality types. The Enneagram Institute expands these basic — and according to them, unalterable — personal strengths to include secondary traits, called wings. Wings are secondary characteristics or preferences.

GS - Enneagram i.01 smEach Enneagram type also has perceived weaknesses, which can influence your natural communications. Knowing your own interpersonal style can help you play up your talents and alter your behavior to minimize the impact saying too much or too little may have on your clients.

Understanding how each type approaches decisions, for example, may mean modifying your approach to better reach a buyer. The drawback is using the Enneagram to identify others’ personality types, so this study is more about recognizing what you’re bringing to the table—and what you might want to leave behind.

Myers-Briggs Type Inventory

You’re probably familiar with the Myers-Briggs Type Inventory (MBTI) which profiles individuals using 16 personality types, a 4-part combination of four main functions:

  • * Introvert/Extrovert
  • * Sensor/Intuitive
  • * Thinker/Feeler
  • * Judger/Perceiver

While you can take a full-scale personality profile to determine your own personality type, it’s not too difficult to review prior interactions with prospective clients to assess their types. As with all of these studies, the more you know about yourself and who you’re facing on the buyer end, the better prepared you can be for choosing the right engagement techniques, solution messages, and decision pressure.

Schools, employers, and self-analysis workshops still rely on MBTI to build teams and teach personal insight. Both Artesian and HubSpot , using MBTI as a basis, created four key buyer personas: Assertive, Analytical, Amiable, and Expressive.

Two Bonus Studies

We’ve given you the big five psychology studies to help you understand buyers. Here are two noteworthy buyer personality researches that may prove helpful.

1. Forrester’s Customer Personalities

Forrester emphasizes focusing on selling to the advocates first, banking that every other person on the decision-making team will follow. They identify four advocate personalities: Educators, Validators, Status Seekers, and Collaborators.

2. CliftonStrengths

Formerly known as StrengthsFinder, CliftonStrengths identifies 34 talent themes, with the idea that investing in your strengths maximizes your talents and managing your weaknesses helps you continue to do what you do best while improving where you struggle.

Amy Cooney of Atlanta-based AC Talent Consulting is a Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach who uses CliftonStrengths for organizational teams. “Sales team talent can be maximized by identifying strengths. If you’re focused on the sales cycle, understanding the impact our current emotional economy has on customer behavior can provide insight into the customer relationship.”

Key Takeaway

The 2018 B2B Buyers Survey Report published by Demand Gen Report shows “the importance of delivering a tailored, contextual experience for buyers,” including that 76% of participating buyers show a strong preference for customized content.

The stakes are high and sales are critical. It’s more important than ever to connect with the buying team quickly to initiate the sales process. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to determine a client’s personality type, but it does take intent. Figuring out that one contact needs personal interaction to feel comfortable, while that same approach detracts from your competence in another’s eyes, can prove invaluable to establishing a productive B2B relationship. These studies show that continuing to sell the same way you always have can stall your game, but stepping outside of your comfort zone can reap big rewards.

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