On several occasions recently I have found myself discussing the work of psychologists David Merrill and Roger Reid, and although it is some 30 years old, it is still fascinating stuff. According to Merrill and Reid, there are four social styles: Analyticals, Drivers, Expressives and Amiables. Each has its own unique language, thought processes and approach to business. The best sales professionals recognize which personality they are dealing with and adapt their approaches and communication styles accordingly.

Here’s a breakdown of the four types:

1. The Driver. Drivers are action- and goal-oriented, strive for results and react quickly. They are decisive, independent, disciplined, practical and efficient. They typically use facts and data, speak and act quickly, lean forward, point and make direct eye contact. Their body posture is often rigid and they have controlled facial expressions.

They rarely want to waste time on personal talk or trivialities and can be perceived by other styles as dominating, harsh or severe. They are comfortable in positions of power and control and they have businesslike offices with certificates and commendations on the walls. In times of stress, Drivers may become autocratic.

2. The Analytical. Analyticals are concerned with being organized, having all the facts and being careful before taking action. They need to be accurate, precise, orderly and methodical. They conform to standard operating procedures, organizational rules and historical ways of doing things. They typically have slower reaction times and work more carefully than Drivers. They are perceived as serious, industrious, persistent and exacting.

Usually, they are task-oriented, use facts and data and tend to speak slowly. They lean back and use their hands frequently. They do not make direct eye contact or control their facial expressions. Others may see them as stuffy, indecisive, critical, picky and moralistic. They are comfortable in positions in which they can check facts and figures and be sure they are right. They have neat, well-organized offices and in times of stress, Analyticals tend to avoid conflict.

3. The Expressive. Expressives enjoy involvement, excitement and interpersonal interaction. They are sociable, stimulating, enthusiastic and good at involving and motivating others. They are idea-oriented, have little concern for routine, are focused on the future and have quick reaction times. They need to be accepted by others and tend to be spontaneous, outgoing, energetic and friendly. They are focused on people rather than on tasks. Typically, they use opinions and stories rather than facts and data. They speak and act quickly, vary vocal inflection, lean forward, point and make direct eye contact.

They use their hands while talking and have a relaxed body posture and an animated expression. Their feelings often show in their faces and they are perceived by others as excitable, impulsive, undisciplined, dramatic, manipulative, ambitious, egotistical and overly reactive. They often have disorganized offices that contain leisure equipment such as golf clubs or tennis racquets. Under stressful conditions, Expressives tend to resort to personal attack.

4. The Amiable. Amiables need co-operation, personal security and acceptance. They are uncomfortable with and will avoid conflict at all costs. They value personal relationships, helping others and being liked. Some Amiables will sacrifice their own desires to win approval from others. They prefer to work with other people in a team effort, rather than individually, and have unhurried reaction times. They are unconcerned with effecting change. Typically, they are friendly, supportive, respectful, willing, dependable and agreeable. They are also people-oriented.

They focus on opinions rather than facts and data, speak slowly and softly, use more vocal inflection than Drivers or Analyticals. They lean back while talking and do not make direct eye contact. They also have a casual posture and an animated expression. They are perceived by other styles as conforming, unsure, pliable, dependent and awkward. They have homey offices containing family photographs, plants, etc. An Amiable’s reaction to stress is to comply with others.

Most people’s first reaction after reading the four profiles is to say they fit into more than one category, and this is absolutely right. However, everyone has a dominant style.

The majority of professional salespeople are Expressives, and they find it most difficult to relate to and communicate with Analyticals.

The top 5 percent of achievers are Drivers. They have no difficulty getting onto the same wavelength as Analyticals, because they are side by side and, of course, they have total synergy with other Drivers. Plus, they relate well to Expressives, but they have little in common with Amiables.

The typical boardroom. Managing directors are typically Drivers. Finance directors are usually Analyticals. Sales directors are nearly always Expressives. Marketing directors are also Expressives. Technical directors are almost always Analyticals.

And in sales, the top 5 percent of sales professionals are normally Drivers; sales professionals in general are typically Expressives, and salespeople at the beginning of their careers are almost always Amiables.

Learn to recognize these types so you will know how to best relate to your next prospect.

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Jonathan Farrington is a globally recognized business coach, mentor, author, consultant and chairman of The JF Corporation and CEO of Top Sales Associates. For more information and tips from Jonathan, visit http://www.topsalesworld.com/, or go to his blog at http://www.thejfblogit.co.uk/.