Influence Approaches for Different Personality Styles

Last year I started holding bi-monthly lunch ‘n learn sessions for people who’d been through my Principles of Persuasion workshops. During our time together we discuss different aspects of influence and people participate in interactive exercises to help keep their influence skills sharp. The group is usually 30-40 managers and supervisors from different departments at State Auto. A couple of weeks ago I co-lead a session along with Mike Rau, a State Auto manager, where we talked about strategies for influencing different personality types.

Now I have to tell you up-front; to my knowledge there are no scientific studies on which principles of influence have the most impact on different personality styles. What I’m going to share is my personal opinion based on experience, my understanding of the principles of influence and more than 15 years in sales training.

The chart below, or something similar, might be familiar to those of you who’ve taken different personality tests over the years. It’s a simple way to categorize people based on their orientation. It looks at whether individuals are more task-oriented vs. people-oriented on the vertical axis. The horizontal axis determines whether people are more oriented towards taking fast action, telling people what to do and controlling others vs. people who are inclined to be slower to act, and ask more questions rather than directing people.

Ask – Slower
Control Self
Tell –
Control Others

Across the population spectrum about 25% of people fall into each category. Below are the different personality styles, some traits associated with each and bullet points for the principles of influence that should be most impacting. The goal here is to give you a quick reference to fall back on when it’s obvious someone has a strong orientation in one of these four personality areas.

Pragmatic/Driver: Example – Jack Welch former CEO of GE. The pragmatic wants quick results, gets to the point, task-oriented, more controlling of others, acts first then thinks, assertive, risk taker. The best principles of influence when dealing with this personality type would be:

  • Authority – They may not care what the crowd says but prove your point with the opinion or experience of an expert or someone they respect or admire, and they’ll listen.
  • Scarcity – Drivers are successful because they win! Show them what they might lose if they don’t do what you’re asking and you’ll grab their attention.
  • Consistency – Their self-confidence makes them believe they’re right so they might seem like they stubbornly hold to an opinion. If you can tie your request to what they’ve said or done in the past your odds of success will go up.

Influencer/Expressive: Example – Oprah Winfrey. The influencer is focused on social groups and events, more in tune with people than tasks, imaginative, usually sway others, and likes innovation. The best way to engage these individuals would be using the following principles of influence:

  • Sarcity – Influencers don’t want to lose out on opportunities to move people to action. Talk about how they might lose an opportunity and you’ll have a good chance of hearing “Yes!”
  • Reciprocity – They understand how engaging with favors helps because they frequently use that tactic when they persuade. Do something for them and they’ll try to return the favor to build their network.
  • Liking – Expressive people are talkers and quite often like to talk about themselves. Pay a genuine compliment or ask about something they’re into and they appreciate you for taking interest.

Facilitator/Amiable: Example – Sandra Bullock. Facilitators like stable relationships, focus on feelings, less assertive, more people-focused, slow to change, and wants product support. The psychology of persuasion to utilize for this group would be:

  • Consensus – Because they’re so likable and want everyone to get along showing them what many others are already doing will help your case.
  • Liking – They naturally like others and want to be liked so use liking to come to know them and like them and you’ll increase your chance to influence.
  • Reciprocity – Giving small gifts, time, effort, etc. conveys thoughtfulness to the facilitator and will likely be returned in kind.

Thinker/Analytical: Example – Albert Einstein. Thinkers are task-oriented, slower to act, exert self-control, less assertive, data-oriented, prudent, systematic, logical, look to track records/trends. When dealing with this type of person you should look to use the following principles of influence:

  • Authority – Because they think long and hard about things they place a high premium on expert advice.
  • Consistency – Again, because they think before they act they take their words and actions seriously. Tap into what they’ve said or done in the past to make your point.
  • Consensus – The thinker will play the odds and find safety in numbers. Tell them what many others are doing when building your case.

As I wrote earlier, none of this is scientifically proven but I believe it make lots of sense and is fairly easy to remember. Too often people learn about personality styles but do nothing with that knowledge so I encourage you to give it a try next time you find yourself in a situation where it’s very clear the type of person you’re dealing with. Do so and I think you’ll find it a little easier to persuade them and ultimately hear “Yes!”
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.

8 replies
  1. Jon Wortmann
    Jon Wortmann says:

    Love it Brian. I'd love to hear more about the ask versus tell and how that connects to what people want to control.

  2. Jordan Smith
    Jordan Smith says:

    Very good thinking, and something I'd like to try to incorporate into my own influence strategies.

    While I definitely fall into the Analytical/Thinker category, I really don't find Consensus-based arguments (Social Proof) persuasive at all. But perhaps I'm idiosyncratic in that respect!

    Authority and Consistency would be the strongest tools to persuade me, followed by Reciprocity, Scarcity, and possibly Liking.

  3. Brian
    Brian says:

    @Jon, I look forward to our talk next week.

    @Maureen and @Jack, thanks for the compliments.

    @Jordan, as I said, no scientific proof and different people will be persuaded in different ways. I appreciate the feedback.

  4. Bruce
    Bruce says:

    Hey Brian,
    This was very useful and in turn if one were able to identify the type quickly, think how effective this would be in job interviews, not just sales. How can one quickly suss up the personalities?

  5. Brian
    Brian says:

    That's always the difficulty just like in sports…figuring out the other person or team. In the moment it will be difficult. Going into interviews if you know who you'll be interviewed by then it's research – Google them, ask people who might know them, etc. Quite often their position is a clue (i.e. salesmen usually expressive or amiable, numbers people are analytics, etc.)
    In the moment it will be about paying attention to their office, their speech and body language. It might also be good to have a couple of questions you can use to gauge it. I think it's usually pretty easy to know if their people vs. task oriented.



Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.