The most basic principle of inbound marketing is that the focus shouldn’t be on you, the vendor—it should be on the customer. So, instead of ads or digital content emphasizing how great your company is, or how great your products are, you should create content that helps your potential customers make an informed decision about what to buy and who to buy it from. This focus on the customer extends to the sales process as well—even to the point of using whatever communication style that customer prefers.
In this week’s episode of Tech Club, James and I interview Business Development Manager (though he’s fine with being called a salesman) Scott Howard about how the DISC typology of communication styles is used in the Inbound Sales process. DISC divides people into the categories: Dominant, Influential, Steady, and Conscientious. The idea is that knowing which category someone belongs to helps you communicate more effectively. DISC was originally created by William Marston, the psychologist who created Wonder Woman and whose work also contributed to the invention of the lie detector test.
Scott guides us through topics including:
- Why communication styles are important for Inbound Sales
- What distinguishes people with each of the profile types from others
- Some tricks for identifying someone of each profile type
- What type salespeople tend to be
- How to mirror a prospect’s communication style
- Whether people buy from people they like or from people who are like them
- What role birth order plays in the profile types
- How easy it is to categorize people you’re just meeting
- What role context plays in our communication styles
- Whether using DISC is manipulative
- How to communicate genuinely while using a style other than your own
- How Scott communicates with a particular S who’s very close to his heart
- How DISC assessments have helped Scott in some actual sales scenarios
- What it looks like when you bring two high-Ds together
Personally, I think DISC sounds like pretty standard corporate pseudoscience. (No one’s ever gone broke from overestimating how much people love categorizing themselves and their loved ones based on make-believe criteria.) The only studies of DISC’s reliability and validity I could find were published by companies who sell the tests. (I can hear Scott saying it’s typical of a C to look for such studies.) If I had to guess, I’d say DISC often seems to work because the types roughly overlap with a few of the Big Five personality traits—a typology with far more empirical support.
But, while I certainly recommend against ever spending money on any of these personality assessments, there is a kernel of truth to the underlying idea. We’re all far too eager to interpret what others’ say based on what it would mean if we were to say something similar ourselves. And we’re too reluctant to even try to communicate with others the way they like to communicate. As many of Scott’s examples illustrate, you can overcome a lot of barriers to getting your message across by listening to your clients and tailoring your presentations to fit their preferred styles.
And as always, we'd like to know what you think. Let us know in the comment section below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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