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The Four Personality Types Every Salesperson Should Know

Max Freedman
Max Freedman

The sales approach that works for one customer might not work for another. This guide helps break down how to adjust your sales pitch to sell to different personality types.

Success in sales depends on a salesperson's ability to adapt their skills when selling to different types of people. A good salesperson can easily shift their selling style to best fit the prospect's personality traits – and in many cases, salespeople can turn to four common sales personality types to shape their approach.

The importance of knowing sales personality types

A sales person who knows the four sales personality types can get to know their prospects better. Knowing the four sales personality types is a sales skill often emphasized in sales training, because the personality types show sales people how they can change their approach with different personality types of prospects.

Four sales personality types and how to sell to them

Here's a look at the four major personality types you'll likely encounter when attempting to drive sales, along with advice on refining your tactics with each type. Keep in mind that not every sales skill you've learned in sales training will work well for every personality type. [See related article: Born to Sell: What Makes a Successful Sales Personality?]

1. Assertives

Assertive personalities crave relevant information, and they want it presented concisely. Generally speaking, they operate best on their own and remain keenly focused on achieving project milestones and deadlines.

Assertive men and women sometimes come across as aggressive and unfriendly, even when they don't mean to be, and they can't stand to have their time wasted.

How to sell to assertive types:

  • Be prepared for your meeting with an assertive personality. If the person gets the impression you're just winging it, the appointment's over.

  • Assertive types get the gist of your pitch right away, so abstain from repeating yourself or pacing your sales pitch to reach a "climactic moment." That's not what they're looking for.

  • Assertive types are, not surprisingly, highly competitive. If you demonstrate how your product gives them an edge on your competitors, you're well on your way to a successful sale.

  • Words they like to hear:
    • Best
    • One-of-a-kind
    • Fast
    • Powerful
    • Competitive advantage

2. Amiables

Amiable types value honesty and trust. They seek and invest in personal relationships.

Their approach to problem-solving is "touchy-feely," and they'll take more time than other personality types to research solutions and arrive at a decision. They don't thrive on conflict, preferring instead to forge consensus and take everyone's interests into consideration.

How to sell to amiable types:

  • Your foremost goal is to establish rapport with amiable types and position yourself as an expert with a powerful vision of how your product or service will benefit their company.

  • They prefer a step-by-step approach to absorbing information as opposed to an all-encompassing "data dump."

  • The same principle applies to choices: If you offer too many, they'll take ages to reach a decision.

  • Amiable types are influenced by customer testimonials – most notably, those reflecting a high degree of happiness and personal satisfaction with your product. [See related article: The 5 Types of Sales Beasts and How to Spot Them in the Wild]
  • Words they like to hear:
    • Popular
    • Reliable
    • Guaranteed
    • Proven
    • Safety
    • Security

3. Expressives

Like amiables, expressive types care about the people around them. They're also spontaneous, creative, impulsive and proud of their intuitive capabilities.

They place great stock in positive interactions, so don't get caught up in playing mind games with these individuals. By nature, these men and women are highly confident, often flamboyant and ready to move to the next thing at the blink of an eye.

How to sell to expressive types:

  • Along with their impulsive nature comes a low threshold for boredom. Avoid detailed or data-driven proposals.

  • Instead, present case studies that demonstrate a track record of success for your product. Expressive types relate to others like them and value the opinions of those they hold in high esteem.

  • They're also receptive to the idea of a long-term relationship with you and your company.

  • Words they like to hear:
    • Convenient
    • Fun
    • Inexpensive
    • Problem-free

4. Analytics

Analytics are number crunchers and problem solvers. Most likely, they'll know all about your company before you walk in the door, so be ready to answer a flurry of detailed questions.

Analytics live and die by the idea of "due diligence." Their decision-making process rests heavily on research, vetting and analysis of options.

People with this personality type make their decisions based on cold, hard facts and figures. Emotion simply doesn't enter into the equation; these prospects are purely analytical in their choices.

How to sell to analytic types:

  • Because analytic types do their own research, it's unnecessary to waste time describing product fundamentals.

  • Lay out the key benefits in a factual presentation, with lots of statistics, survey results, percentages of growth and other analytical data.

  • Don't make claims they can disprove, or you'll never hear from them again.

  • With analytic types, there's no shortcut in the sales process. They'll reach their purchasing decision when they've reviewed and digested all of the pertinent data.

  • Your patience (as well as your willingness to provide additional information upon request) will be greatly appreciated.

  • Words they like to hear:
    • Data
    • Percentage
    • Research
    • Proof
    • Results

Discover your sales personality type

While the above descriptions can help you discover your sales personality type, some experts recommend taking a personality test to be certain. The Myers-Briggs test is often used for determining sales personality types, but some say that because its application extends far beyond the business world, you may want to try a narrower personality test developed by sales experts. Other sales leaders, though, insist that people whose Meyer-Briggs test personality type is ESFJ make the best salespeople. [See related article: Myers-Briggs and Office Design: How to Satisfy the Needs of Different Personalities]

In addition to personality tests, you can refer to lists of personality traits commonly found among good salespeople. These lists are more abundant than are personality tests, but they may be more subjective than personality tests, many of which are based on science. Both options are valid for discovering your sales personality type.

As part of your sales strategy, combine your personality type with your knowledge of each type of prospect, and customize your sales proposals accordingly. You'll spend your time more efficiently, and your focused efforts will likely generate a far greater return on investment.

Additional reporting by Geoff Winthrop.

Max Freedman
Max Freedman,
business.com Writer
Max Freedman is a freelance writer who covers best business practices for business.com and culture for publications including The A.V. Club, MTV, Paste, FLOOD, and Bandcamp. He lives in Philly and doesn't miss his native New York.