Prime Movers Lab
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Prime Movers Lab

Startup Sales: The Self-Assessment That Will Help You Close Deals

How to use the DISC Assessment to adapt your sales strategy to each customer.

Have you ever wondered why some customers won’t close without “wining and dining” while others seem put-off by the mere suggestion of meeting outside the office? Or have you ever found yourself frustrated trying to describe the features of your product to a potential customer but all they want to talk about is their grandchildren? These are both examples of mismatched communication styles and highlight the opportunity for using the DISC framework.

We use a lot of assessments internally at Prime Movers Lab; tests like Enneagram, Myers-Briggs, 5 Elements etc. In addition to being great tools for building self-awareness, we use them to better understand and interact with each other. We explicitly share our personal values, motivations, personality-type and communication style. Understanding your coworkers at this level is incredibly powerful and allows someone who’s brand new to know everyone at a depth that would otherwise take years to achieve. One of the assessments we use is called DISC and it describes how you like to interact with others by ranking you across 4 dimensions — Dominance (D), Influence (I), Steadiness (S), and Conscientious (C,). The results are an uncannily accurate description of your communication style and preferences. This information is obviously useful for your coworkers but, when we first went through the results together, I was struck by how valuable of a framework this is for sales. But before we get to that, let’s break down each dimension in more detail:

Dominance

  • Focused on problems/tasks
  • Needs challenges to solve and authority
  • Behavioral traits are decisive, competitive, daring and direct
  • Fears being taken advantage of or losing control

Influence

  • Focused on people
  • Needs social relationships and a friendly environment
  • Behavioral traits are charming, confident, convincing and enthusiastic
  • Fears are being left out or loss of social approval

Steadiness

  • Focused on pace or their environment
  • Needs systems, teams and a stable environment
  • Behavioral traits are understanding, friendly, good listener and patient
  • Fears sudden change, loss of stability or security

Conscientious

  • Focused on procedures
  • Needs rules to follow, data to analyze
  • Behavioral traits are accurate, precise, analytical and compliant
  • Fears being criticized, loss of accuracy and quality

Typically people rank highly in 2 of the 4 dimensions and reading through that list you can probably already guess which two you are. Something that’s unique to this framework is that because it’s based on external behaviors, you can pretty quickly learn how to make educated guesses on what buckets someone falls under. You can probably guess that your spouse is a high D/high I or that your co-founder is high C/high D.

Where things get interesting is when you start looking at the two main sources of tension between the styles: pace & priority. For pace, Ds & Is like to go fast while Ss & Cs prefer a slower pace. On priority, Ds & Cs are task-oriented while Ss & Is are people-oriented. The opportunity with this knowledge is to adapt your own behavior to best serve the person you’re communicating with i.e. when a D or a C takes the time to build a relationship with a S or I even though their preference would be to get straight to the task at hand!

As you can imagine this framework can be applied to many different use cases but today we are focused on the sales context. The breakthrough is to learn how to identify which style your target customer is and then adapt your sales approach accordingly. Here are the suggested strategies to use for each style:

Selling to Dominant

Arrive prepared, organized and ready to move quickly and get to the point

Learn and study their goals and objectives

Provide options and let them make the decision

Easy to get a quick yes or no

Selling to Influencing

Look for shared interests, experiences or mutual contacts to break the ice with

Take an interest in their personal passions

Keep the tone friendly and informal

Use stories and anecdotes to get your point across

Provide customer testimonials

Selling to Steadiness

Get to know them personally in a pleasant, friendly, but professional way

Develop trust, friendship, and credibility at a relatively slow pace

Focus on how your solution affects them and their relationships with others

Avoid rushing them and give them personal, concrete assurances

Communicate in a consistent manner on a regular basis

Selling to Conscientious

Arrive prepared to answer their detailed questions

Be polite but proceed quickly to the task

Provide documentation

Be consistent and stick to the timelines and deliverables you set

Don’t rush them to come to a decision!

Co-create a timeline of next steps that you can hold them accountable to

Most salespeople I know are high D and/or high I and, as a result, prefer to work with other Ds and Is. The group that tends to be the most challenging for salespeople are the high Cs. It’s going to be a slow, thorough process and “wining and dining” is ineffective. You might think you can just avoid them but interestingly enough, you often find Cs as the decision-makers in the biggest deals. If you’re entrusting someone to make financial decisions for you, a high C is a prototypical choice. You can trust that they won’t make a rash decision — though they may miss out on a lot of opportunities.

If you’re interested in taking your own DISC assessment, our partner, Tony Robbins, offers a free one here.

Prime Movers Lab invests in breakthrough scientific startups founded by Prime Movers, the inventors who transform billions of lives. We invest in seed-stage companies reinventing energy, transportation, infrastructure, manufacturing, human augmentation and computing

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