In this knowledge-based era of sales and marketing, we talk a lot about client or customer personas, which are critical to effectively understanding your prospective client and developing a marketing program that aligns with their needs and interests. See “Are Buyer Personas Relevant in the AEC Industry?”
Client (or buyer) personas are essentially generalizations. One size of course only fits one size, but personas can be powerful tools in your marketing toolbox.
However, there’s another important tool that we need to understand, and this tool is not just for marketers and project managers – it is for any human that interacts with other humans! These tools are known as personality profiles, and there’s a whole lot of them in the marketplace these days.
Although some social psychologists refer to personality profiles / personality types as mere pseudoscience, there is great value in understanding different personalities, identifying them, and communicating with them in the appropriate manner. If you are in business development, marketing, project management, management, or human resources, this is an important component of your job.
But which personality assessment makes the most sense?
Here are four popular ones. Chances are if you’ve been in the business world for any period of time, you’ve taken at least one of them. These include:
- Myers-Briggs Type Indicator
- DISC Assessment
- Predictive Index Behavioral Assessment
- StrengthsFinder 2.0
Myers-Briggs Type Indicator
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator has been around since World War II, and the research behind it goes back even earlier. The purpose of Myers-Briggs is to determine psychological preferences and how one perceives the world around them.
The assessment breaks out eight descriptors, and scores participants in the following categories:
- Extraversion / Introversion (E / I)
- Sensing / Intuition (S / N)
- Thinking / Feeling (T / F)
- Judging / Perceiving (J / P)
Participants complete a questionnaire and are categorized into one of 16 personality types.
I’ve taken this test twice, more than twenty years apart. My personality type was roughly the same each time: ENTP. I write “roughly” because I’m an ambivert (aka, centrovert), so I straddle the E / I line quite closely. The first time I took the assessment, I was one point higher on the “I” side, but the instructor told me she thought “E” was more accurate. The second time I took it, I was one point higher on the “E” side.
As an ENTP, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator tells me that I’m inventive, enthusiastic, strategic, enterprising, inquisitive, and versatile. Furthermore, I enjoy new challenges and value inspiration.
The DISC Assessment was created in the 1950s, using research from the 1920s. The DISC Assessment centers around four personality traits, which include:
If you’ve taken a DISC Assessment, you may be familiar with slightly different wording, like Driver in lieu of Dominance or Compliance in lieu of Conscientiousness. This is because DISC is in the public domain, and many different companies put their own spin on it.
With the DISC Assessment, participants are asked a series of statements and select if they agree or disagree with it. For instance, “I love meeting new people” could be a question (statement), and the participant would select from five options: “Strongly Disagree,” “Disagree,” “Neutral,” “Agree,” and “Strongly Agree.” (Note that this example is from EverythingDISC, one of the products in the marketplace.)
Based upon responses, participants then receive a report about their personality and behaviors.
Everyone has elements of all four traits, and the DISC Assessment breaks out a percentage for each person to determine the primary and secondary personality traits. For instance, I scored a 45% in Dominance and 28% in Influence the last time I took the assessment.
Predictive Index Behavioral Assessment
The Predictive Index is a “free choice, stimulus response” tool that is intended to find a participant’s motivators and drivers. Its roots are shared with DISC: the 1928 book entitled The Emotions of Normal People by William Marston. This research was expanded in the 1950s to create the Predictive Index.
Participants respond to just two questions and then are given adjectives to select. The first question is about how they feel other people expect the participant to act in the workplace. The second question relates to how they would describe themselves.
The adjectives relate to one of four identified workplace behaviors:
Upon completion of the assessment, participants are assigned a reference profile. For instance, I was classified as a Maverick, which means that I’m a visionary who wants to achieve what has never been achieved before. I’m not afraid of failure and risk, and like to connect with people. I’m a risk-taker who can be described as innovative, influential, daring, and direct.
StrengthsFinder 2.0, now referred to as CliftonStrengths Assessment, is an assessment from the top-selling nonfiction book in Amazon.com history.
The assessment is intended to help participants discover what they really do best in order to fully develop their talents in those areas. Furthermore, as a HR consultant friend once told me, “StrengthsFinder allows companies to make sure everyone is on the right seat on the bus.”
StrengthsFinder is more in-depth than Predictive Index or DISC, and entails 177 paired statements. Participants must chose the one that best describes them.
There are 34 StrengthsFinder themes, and participants are given the five themes that represent them best (participants can also get an in-depth report for a deeper dive). Here are the five themes that best represent me, based upon my results:
My report suggested careers in marketing, journalism, teaching, advertising, research, or psychology. Apparently I like to get paid for my ideas! I’m a strategic thinker who gets bored quickly. I’m always researching and learning, and my mind is a sponge. Furthermore, I like sharing what I learn. I like new things and am not threatened by the unfamiliar. I like to be around other big thinkers, and take pride in being a resource for other people.
Well, that is what my report said, along with many other things. I think it pretty much nailed me!
How Does This Relate to Business Development, Marketing, and Management?
Personality assessments can obviously help individuals determine their ideal career paths, and perhaps help uncover their strengths and weaknesses to understand areas for improvement.
These four assessments all have pros and cons, as well as supporters and detractors, but for business development, marketing, and even project management, an understanding of DISC makes a lot of sense. While the Predictive Index and StrengthsFinder are ideal from a human resources perspective, DISC really helps with communication and interpersonal relationships.
Although DISC may be an oversimplification of personality types, which is why some versions go far beyond just four types, it is very useful for understanding people. For instance, strong D’s don’t have time for small talk. They want information to help them make a decision, and they want it now. They don’t have time for your BS! Strong I’s, on the other hand, love to socialize. They want to tell you about their weekend, and hear about yours. Your marketing and BD interactions with D’s and I’s should be very different, so understanding the different personality types can make you more effective.
I’m seeing more clients truly interested in DISC, whether it is at a higher level for seller-doers, or more in depth for business developers. I’ve been thrilled to see this level of interest, because it makes perfect sense for anyone who deals with people – particularly marketers, business developers, and project managers – to make a concerted effort to understand personality types and alter their communication approach as appropriate.
Just like understanding client or buyer personas can help you be more effective and ultimately win more work, so can learning about how to “read” different personality types, and focusing your communication (verbal and written) on what makes the most sense for your audience.
Interested in exploring DISC training for your team, whether as a stand-alone session or part of a broader seller-doer / business development training program? Contact Scott D. Butcher, FSMPS, CPSM at 717.891.1393 or firstname.lastname@example.org.