First used by the U.S. Army in the 1940s, DISC personality profiling has remained a powerful and well-kept secret until recently. While tons of personality profiling systems exist, DISC is special because it allows you to quickly categorize someone AND predict their behavior. This ability to predict the person’s motivation and future behavior makes DISC a powerful tool for the salesperson.

This booklet is not designed to be shorthand for the few books available on DISC personality profiling. If you are serious about learning DISC, read everything you can. Once you master DISC profiling, it most likely will be the most valuable “tool” in your sales toolbox.

Dominant, Influencer, Steady relater and Cautious thinker are the categories that make up DISC. Every person has some qualities from all four categories. However, most people are particularly strong or weak in one or two of the DISC aspects. I refer to this as high or low in that particular aspect. Caveats: DISC can be a lifetime of study; this is only a starting point. I will not deal with combinations (e.g. High Influencer/High Steady relater; High Dominant/High Influencer). The guide below makes some assumptions about combinations. I note that the following combinations run together: Dominant and Influencer, Dominant and Cautious thinker, Influencer and Steady relater, Steady relater and Cautious thinker.

Ds (Dominant)

  • Dominant
  • Driven
  • Decisive
  • Impatient
  • Controlling
  • Action-oriented
  • Powerful
  • Dominant People:
    • Donald Trump
    • General George S. Patton
    • Madonna
    • Dr. Phil McGraw

Is (Influencer)

  • Impatient
  • I don’t like rules
  • I’s (eyes) bigger than stomach
  • People-oriented
  • Optimistic
  • Recognition needed
  • Strong need to be liked
  • Entertaining
  • Popular
  • Expressive
  • Outgoing
  • Energetic
  • Influencers:
    • Most salespeople
    • Eddie Murphy
    • Robin Williams
    • President Bill Clinton
    • Lee Trevino

Ss (Steady Relaters)

  • Stable
  • Cooperative
  • Predictable
  • Deliberate
  • Work in background
  • Diplomatic
  • Consistent
  • Peaceful
  • Sympathetic
  • Steady Relaters:
    • “Worker bees” in the office
    • President George W. Bush
    • Dr. Martin Luther King
    • Gandhi

Cs (Cautious Thinkers/Detailed Thinkers)

  • Analytical
  • Concerned
  • Accurate
  • Orderly
  • Deliberate
  • Correct
  • Perfect
  • Quality conscious
  • Systematic
  • Plan ahead
  • Cautious Thinkers:
    • Purchasing and IRS agents (rule followers)
    • President Jimmy Carter
    • George Costanza on “Seinfeld”

You now likely have a very basic understanding of DISC-determined personalities. You should see that selling to these different types requires that you vary your pitch, attitude and style. For instance, Dominants are fast decision-makers. In my opinion, Dominants are the easiest to sell. However, any salespersons who are low Dominants most likely will struggle with a high Dominant because the high Dominant intimidates them. The other side of the coin is a high Dominant salesperson who sells to a high Steady relater. Important note: Dominants and Steady relaters are opposites. Influencers and Cautious thinkers are opposites. Most likely, your opposite will annoy you. A high Dominant seller would most likely tick off a Steady relater buyer by moving too fast, demanding a decision and not “gaining connection” with the buyer.

Here is a short list of tips on how to dealing with each personality:

Ds (Dominant)

  • Don’t chit chat.
  • Stick to the facts, don’t engage in puffery
  • Don’t be intimidated by their Dominance, give it right back.
  • Ds do not respect wimps.
  • Ds may chest pound and tell you how great they are. DON’T compliment them too much.
  • Ds will make a decision.
  • Ds buy quickly.  Once you learn how to handle a D, Ds are the easiest to sell.

I’s (Influencer)

  • Is need to be liked. Use this to your advantage.
  • Is love to talk. Let them, but beware of 30 minute appointments lasting three hours.
  • Is like ideas and possibilities.
  • Is may be like a butterfly fluttering all over the place and get off track. Help gently keep them on track
  • Is are proactive like Ds and like accomplishment. Treat them like Ds in this way.

Ss (Steady Relaters)

  • Make decisions slowly.
  • Want to feel “good” about the seller.
  • Rapport building is important.
  • Cooperative nature can be used against them in that they may be wimpy. Don’t be afraid to gently bulldog them.
  • CYA may come into play.
  • Desire predictable results, place a premium on quality goods/services.

Cs (Cautious Thinkers/Detailed Thinkers)

  • High Is will struggle with high Cs.
  • Bury them in data.
  • CYA will definitely come into play
  • Most likely will be slow decision makers. May revolt if you try to force a decision.
  • Black and white thinkers. Keep in mind that Is are gray thinkers (i.e. no black and white).  This is sometimes not a good match with Cs.
  • Very concerned about being correct.
  • Have your ducks in a row. Sloppy thinking will only lower their already low opinion of salespeople.
  • Quality conscious. Dot your i’s and cross your t’s.

Before you assess your prospects, test yourself using DISC methodology. Don’t cheap out. Buy the test with the expanded results. Read those results. You will wonder how the evaluators knew you so well. You HAVE to understand yourself BEFORE you can use DISC to your advantage. You will need to adapt your personality in many situations. Knowing your inclinations is key to adapting. Here is a link to get your DISC test:

Once you know your DISC profile, you can begin using DISC in selling situations.  Since most salespeople are not high D personalities, this next section is devoted to selling to a high D.  If you are a high D salesperson, skip this part. More than 90 percent of salespeople have problems selling to high D prospects. Here are the problems:

  1. Salespeople are taught to “go for the top”. That is, sell high in the organization.
  2. The higher you go in an organization, the more Ds you run into. If you are weak at handling Ds, you can’t sell at high levels of organizations.

High Ds don’t care if they offend you (very counterintuitive to an I salesperson). High Ds are driven and direct. That is how they got to be CEO. You need to learn to adapt your personality to sell effectively to Ds.

First, you need to tone down your I. You cannot be a chatty Cathy with a Dominant. The sales call will be over before you get started. Be pleasant and get right to business. Ds are results oriented, so think about the big picture not all those snazzy features and benefits. Ds will most likely challenge you. Many do it for sport to watch you wiggle. Don’t panic and DON’T get defensive. Ds will only attack more after they see your weakness.

For instance, a D might say, “Why would anyone buy this?” This makes many salespeople uncomfortable. A typical I salesperson might give all the features and benefits or quote a customer testimonial. The better response is to forcefully say, “Why do you think people buy this?!” Another example: High D says, “I’ve heard enough, leave your information and I will get back to you.” What is really going on is that the D is trying to cross you off his list and move on to the next task. Ds love checking off taskss. In this situation you need to stand up for yourself. Ds respect this. You could say something like, “Hang on a minute Joe, we have a couple more things to cover”

DISC offers a wealth of possibilities. While this guide offers only a glimpse of the possibilities, taking a DISC test will offer essential insight into your personality and allow you to better understand your prospects so you can sell even more effectively.