Around mid-2013, I was tendering the biggest deal that had ever come across my way. It was a potential six-figure contract for one of the largest real-estate companies in Australia. I was up against another company, but the client was unimpressed by their previous services. The decision maker for this contract was someone that I had known for years and had done business with previously. We had a solid working relationship, and he even told me repeatedly that he really wanted to work with us on this project moving forward. The table was set up for me to win the contract.

However, it didn’t happen.

They went with the other company, and I was initially left scratching my head about why this happened.

It was only until I came across DISC that I truly understood why I lost the contract when everything seemed to be in the bag. Once I had understood and implemented these changes to my sales process, I managed to almost treble Web3 first 12 months of revenue from a five to six figure income in the space of 6 months.

This post outlines the changes that I made to achieve consistency in sales and improve my overall conversion rate. You will also find out how you can integrate these changes into your sales process to help you win more business to business sales.

Understanding resistance to sales

Let’s face it, people hate being sold to. The Wolf of Wall Street style hard-selling that dominated the 80s and 90s have left business owners and consumers with a banging hangover. When you see a bright-eyed teen looking like a walking company billboard clutching a set of flyers in the middle of a busy city walkway, your immediate gut feeling most likely is to:

  • Cross the street
  • Avoid all eye contact
  • Increase walking speed to an almost light jog so you can get past them as quickly as possible

Why is this so? Well, you know that they will stop you to engage in fake rapport-building conversation fluff, making you even more late to the place you needed to be 5 minutes ago. You know they are probably going to sell you something that you do not need at all. You know that you’re going to have to make some awkward excuse to reject them, or feel a bit like an arsehole by simply saying “no”. Overall, your resistance to buy whatever the street-hustling teen is hustling is through the roof.

On the contrary, think back to the last time you bought something and felt really good about it. As an example, I’ve been in and out of bed for the past week with a stubborn cold. A few days ago, I had a killer headache that was causing me pain. The pain was so much that I decided to roll out of bed and march down to the local chemist to get something that would fix it. I told the chemist exactly how I was feeling. She listened and understood, then asked me a few questions to make sure that she could prescribe me the best solution that would relieve my pain in the quickest and most effective way possible. I felt that she understood my symptoms better than I did. I trusted her when she prescribed me medicine that I have never used before, which I then bought without even looking at the price. A few days later, I’m writing out this guide in a fully recovered state feeling great about myself and glad that I bought the medicine when I did.

So, what are the key differences between this example and the previous?

  • I had an immediate and apparent pain, which motivated me enough to find a solution
  • Although my resistance to buy was already low, the chemist took time to listen to my situation.
  • She asking me a few questions so she could provide me a solution that would fix my pain in the quickest way possible.
  • Because she took time to understand symptoms, I trusted her recommended solution.

With the combination of these points above, my resistance to buy was so low that I didn’t even look at the price when buying the medication.

Above all, the most important difference is that not once did I feel like the chemist was trying to sell me something.

If you took away only one thing from this article, it would be this:

Stop selling. Period.

You’re probably thinking right now, aside from that I’m completely nuts, is: “Right, so if I stop selling, how am I supposed to make any money from my product/service?”

Well, one of the things the consumerist society we live in is this: people love to buy.

Every single lead, enquiry & potential customer who shows interest in your product or service deep down would love to buy from you. If your product or service solves an existing pain or adds pleasure to a person’s life, then people will love to buy whatever it is from you. However, that love will soon turn into hate and ultimately a lost sales opportunity if you come across as a pushy salesperson. The key to succeeding in sales is to truly understand your potential customer’s pains and pleasures better than they do, and present to them a solution that is conductive to the potential customer’s buying behaviour. That’s why identifying a customer’s buying behaviour as early on in the sales process as possible is important, which you can do by understanding and applying DISC.

Introduction to DISC profiling

DISC is a behaviour assessment model used by 70% of all Fortune 500 companies. Put simply, DISC helps managers better understand the behaviour types of their employees so they can be better managers. In sales, it can help the person selling better understand the different behaviours of potential customers, so they can tailor the sales process to lower the resistance to sales as much as possible.

DISC stands for Dominant, Influential, Steady and Cautious which are the four primary behaviour characteristics that each person possesses.

How to identify a potential customer’s DISC behaviour type

Dominant

The confident, results-focused decision maker

  • Often directive and decisive in speech. Tells you what to do in short, sharp statements rather than asks.
  • Wants things done quickly and is not interested in the details related to completing the task.
  • Hates waiting and idle chit-chat
  • Exudes confidence and self-assurance
  • Strong body language and often has a loud, deeper than normal voice
  • Fiercely competitive. Usually will challenge you, or ask you for a discount/bonus on top of what you are selling.
  • Tends to walk and speak quickly
  • Generally perceived as an arsehole

Influential

The open, friendly, energetic and highly sociable personality

  • Loves to talk. Will reply to a question with a story rather than a short, sharp answer
  • Loves to be around people & enjoys socialising
  • Is very emotive in conversation. Will often talk about how something makes them feel/how they feel about something.
  • Overall optimistic and positive in mood, especially when around other people
  • Often struggles to listen and sit still over long periods
  • Tends to procrastinate
  • Cries during movies

Steady

The calm, cool headed and patient character

  • Is patient, cool headed and easy going
  • Tends to speak, move and react slowly
  • Is often in-between decisive or cautious when making decisions
  • Modest and sincere in conversation. Usually not opinionated
  • Similar to Dominant character traits, but in slow-motion
  • Walks away from explosions

Cautious

The detailed-focused, thorough and quality driven type

  • Detail orientated. Wants to know as much detail as possible before making a decision.
  • Doesn’t like being rushed into things. Wants to know all the details upfront first
  • Speaks logically, analytically using precise terms
  • Tends to be perfectionists and strives for consistency.
  • Often won’t talk much during conversation as their focus is on thought
  • Tends to feel cold and emotionless when speaking to
  • Um’s and Ar’s a lot
  • Never forgets to dot the i’s and cross the t’s

So how is all this behavioural science stuff actually useful in a sales situation? I’ll use my example from this article’s introduction where I lost out on a deal that looked like everything was sealed in the bag to explain.

The client that I was tending the deal with demonstrated a strong Dominant behaviour style. Because this was such a big contract for me at the time, I took a lot of time gathering the project’s details to make sure that the proposal I presented had the best chance of converting to a sale. My meticulous approach frustrated the client and raised his resistance to the sale, as he really wanted a solution delivered to him quickly.

This was confirmed a few months later when the client told me that the only reason why they went with the other company was because they wanted to make a decision quickly and could not afford to wait any longer for my solution. If I had tailored my sales process to allow me to get a solution to him as quickly as possible therefore keeping his resistance to the sale low, I know from my experience that there would have been a very high chance that I would have won the six-figure sale.

This is the power of profiling your potential customers using DISC. You want to do this as early on as you can in the sales process. Once you get comfortable and understand DISC, you can easily profile a potential customer after the initial message/phone call/conversation with them and tailor your sales process from that point forward.

Reduce resistance to sales by tailoring your sales process to the potential customer’s behavioural type

Here are a few ways on how to tailor your sales process based upon your potential customer’s DISC behaviour type:

Dominant

The confident, results-focused decision maker

  • Don’t try to build a lot of rapport. Aside from the courteous “Hi, how are you going?”, customers with dominant personalities do not want to waste time talking about their day, what they are doing on the weekend and general small talk etc. Instead, get straight to business.
  • Avoid replying in long-winded stories. Be short, sharp and to the point in your responses.
  • Speed is of the essence. If they send you an email or leave you a phone message, reply quickly. They’ll love you more than the average customer in your speediness to serve them.
  • If you’re writing a proposal, cut out all but the utmost necessary items from it.
  • Focus your conversations, proposals and questions on outcomes. Dominant customers are more outcome-focused than the average customer, so make sure you frame your conversation in this way.
  • Don’t agree with their opinion? Challenge them on it. Most people are intimidated by the strong characteristics of a dominant customer and will rarely ever do this. However, people who possess a dominant behaviour love to be challenged, and will respect and like you more for challenging them.

Influential

The open, friendly, energetic and highly sociable personality

  • Build lots of rapport. Talk about their weekend, about recent movies, about their pets, about the people they love, about themselves. Sit back and watch them overflow with happiness and joy.
  • If you’re selling an emotionally sterile product/service like say, website hosting, explain it to them in a story and avoid boring technical mumbo-jumbo.
  • Overall, focus on the feeling and emotional benefit when in conversation, writing your proposals and asking questions. Influential customers will thrive on this more than your average customer
  • Meet with them in a social atmosphere like a cafe. Influential customers naturally gravitate towards social gatherings, and will feel most comfortable in this environment.
  • If you’re doing a sales presentation to an influential customer, try to tie in as much imagery, visuals, sound and motion to the content that you are presenting. Influential customers will connect better with information presented to them in an emotive format such as video.
  • Follow them up more than you would an average customer during the sales process. Influential customers tend to get distracted more easily than other personality types. Keep reminding them that you still exist so they do not forget about you.

Steady

The calm, cool headed and patient character

  • Follow the tips listed under the dominant trait, but do, see, act & speak in slow motion.
  • Tend to want to be lead and seek direction more than the dominant customers. Make sure that you give them clear guidance through each step of your sales process and in explaining your product/service.
  • Try not to come across as too overly-energetic and enthusiastic without being aloof.

Cautious

The detailed-focused, thorough and quality driven type

  • Be detailed, analytical and methodological when in conversation, writing proposals and answering questions/making statements.
  • Add more detail and explanation in your proposals/sales presentations than you would with an average customer.
  • They will naturally be more suspicious and untrustworthy of you compared to the other behaviour types. Focus on building trust by showing them examples of previous work, testimonials, businesses’ that you’ve worked with before etc.
  • Focus on communicating with them in writing over emotive mediums like audible (over the phone) and visual (over skype). Cautious people can analyse, re-read and extract the details out of written communication much more easily compared to audible and visual mediums.
  • Be prepared for them to take more time on average to make a decision. Cautious customers will most likely seek 2nd and 3rd opinions before committing to your product/service.

If you’ve never done a DISC test before and you think that this is all pseudo-behavioural science BS, then stop reading this guide and spend a quick 5 minutes completing this DISC test yourself. Then, get your team to fill it out. You’d be surprised (and entertained) by the results.

Here’s what my completed one looks like:

Screen Shot 2014-11-07 at 2.36.13 pm

Tailoring my sales process based upon the potential customer’s DISC behaviour type is one of the biggest improvements that I’ve made in sales. It was a key factor that allowed me to almost treble my business’s revenue in the space of 6 months. However, the biggest improvement was that I was now able to win sales consistently at a 75% closure rate. The ones that I did not win, 9 times out of 10 I knew the reason why, which stopped me from being embarrassed, confused and frustrated by taking sales rejections personally.

Key action items

  • Complete the DISC behavioural test for yourself
  • Get your staff to complete the DISC test as well. Share your results with each other.
  • Make a conscious effort to profile the behaviour type of your incoming leads as soon as you can.
  • Make a note in your CRM about what behaviour type the prospective customer is.
  • Tailor your sales process for your prospective customers based upon their behavioural type.

Further resources on DISC:

  1. Using DISC to be a better manager
  2. Human motivations and fears of each DISC type
  3. Slidedeck covering the differences between dual dominant DISC types
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