Learn These 5 Personality Strategies to Supercharge Sales


6 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


Have you ever tried to pitch someone your idea and for some reason they just didn’t seem to engage? tried to encourage his best friend, Linkletter to buy the surrounding property around . Linkletter did not see the opportunity and passed. Ironically, the Fujishige family saw the potential and bought fifty-six acres for $2500. Decades later they sold the land back to the Disney Corporation for just under $100 million. How can one person see an opportunity when another one passes on it?

This is what author Woody Woodward calls the 20/80 Rule. His newest book “D.R.I.V.E. Sales” focuses on the five distinct “buying personalities” he’s identified. Each of us inherently speaks one language (20 percent), and in doing so, accidentally alienate the other 4 buying personalities (80 percent). The process of recognizing the distinct motivations of the customer you’re pitching makes a dramatic (or even exponential) difference to your selling success. When Walt was pitching, he was not connecting with Art’s buying .

Related: Is Your Personality Permanent? New Research Says ‘No.’

I spoke to Woodward this week about his findings. In short form, the five buying personalities depend on what makes you feel most important. They are as follows:

  • Director. You like experiencing life and life’s purpose. You thrive on freedom, , performing, overcoming, and appearance.
  • Relator. You thrive on relationships, influence, service, family, friends, parents, and spirituality.
  • Intellectual. Your priorities are knowledge, learning, health, nature, moment, standards, and organization.
  • Validator. Your hot buttons are recognition, acceptance, , trust, respect, validation, and being needed.
  • Executive. Your tickets are winning, control, work, goals, security, providing, and problem-solving.

Here’s an easy exercise you can do right now. Simply rate the five personalities in the order of what makes you feel important.  The result is your buying personality profile. I had no idea what to expect for my own – but when I walked through the exercise the result was distinct.

While in actual life I’d be a Relator or an Intellectual, when it comes to making a sizeable purchase or investment, I behave like an Executive: I’d look first and hardest at the proof of return and the ways the decision would make my life better, which would mean I’d respond most strongly to reviews and third party testimonials (this is true). I’d focus on the big picture more than the details of how to achieve it. Others who fall in this model include Phil Knight, Steve Wynn, Ruth Bader Ginsberg (I’m honored), Serena Williams, and John D. Rockefeller.

In all, my profile came out as E.D.R.I.V. This is important in that every customer you present to will have both Primary and Secondary motivations for buying. To the extent you are able, it is important to understand those nuances, too.

There are myriad examples of large-ticket purchases that would have had an astonishing impact for both buyer and seller but never happened. Why? In large part because the proposition being presented didn’t meet the right buying criteria that would have resonated for them.

Related: Why You Should Embrace Your Competitive Personality

Steve Jobs offered his first boss, Nolan Bushnell, the founder of Atari, one-third of Apple for $50,000. Bushnell passed. CEO Chris DeWolfe was offered Facebook for $75 million by Mark Zuckerberg, but he too passed. This problem of pitching to the wrong D.R.I.V.E. (buying personalities) goes back for centuries, Woodward notes in the book. Western Union was offered the telephone from inventor Alexander Graham Bell for $100,000. The offer was disdainfully rejected with the pronouncement, “What use could this company make of an electrical toy.”

The first step to making your pitch more attractive to your customer base is to identify how the benefits of your product or service meet the five buying personalities. Cell phones are probably one of the most widely saturated products. However, each D.R.I.V.E. buys for a different reason. A Director benefits because they can be free and independent doing business anywhere. A Relator wants to connect to family and friends anytime. An Intellectual is buying it to be more efficient and organized. A Validator benefits from social media apps and how they encourage their relationships, while an Executive wants to be able to win and excel at their goals. 

So once you’ve identified the benefits of your product and the buying personalities for your prospective customer or customers, the way to accelerate your sales is to show, don’t tell the way your product answers their needs.

For example, Woodward recalls in the book the challenge the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) faced in alerting the public to the relative safety (or danger) of movie theater , with 30 grams of saturated fat for a medium-sized serving, as illustrated in the book “Made to Stick.” 

With an eye toward the buying personality of movie customers (“It’s a treat, it’s a part of my lifestyle and it’s how I relate with my family”) the CSPI stepped away from the scientific explanation of the danger. Instead, they created a visual that showed the average medium serving of popcorn contained more artery-clogging fat than a bacon-and-eggs breakfast, Big Mac and fries for lunch, and a steak dinner with trimmings, combined. The story was an instant sensation and not only had buyers’ attention, resulted in nearly all of the nation’s biggest theater chains announcing they would move to a healthier oil.

Related: Tailoring Your Sales Pitch to Your Customer’s Personality

Additionally, if the selling process leaves you stuck, you move to the strategy of P.I.C.K.S., an acronym that stands for Parables (stories around the proposition), Identify Needs (specific to the recipient), Calls to Action (limited time opportunities to act), Keep in Touch (persistence counts) and Surprise Them (follow up with a delightful offer they would have never anticipated).

In all, whether you’re an experienced seller or a novice, these ideas could boost your outcomes substantially. I will definitely give them heed and I suggest every current business owner consider them strongly as well.

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