Selling to 4 Personality Types – A Lesson in Sales Psychology

I once read a great book by Florence Littauer, titled “Your Personality Tree”, which taught me a great deal about how to approach many different types of customers. In this book, I learned about the theory of Humorism and the four humors, also known as “temperamentum” or temperament, which represent a way of thinking, behaving and reacting.

The Humorism theory suggests that each person is born of a basic temperament, as determined by which of the four humors is more evident within them. The four temperament types are: Sanguine, Choleric, Melancholy and Phlegmatic. They are associated with the following personality characteristics:

“Sanguine” – Cheerful, optimistic, the “Life of the Party” who is comfortable to be around and gets along with everyone (extroverted).

“Choleric” – “I’m in charge”, “It’s my way or the highway” type, characterized by a quick, hot temper and aggressive nature (extroverted).

“Melancholy”– A thinker, everything is well-planned and thought-out, no decision is made hastily. This type of person tends to take a pessimistic view of the world and can be sad or depressed (introverted).

“Phelgmatic” – A “worry wart”, can be lazy or slow to make a any decision, even something as simple as “will that be cream or milk in your coffee?” (introverted).

An effective sales approach using these theories would be: #1 – Assess your customer’s temperament type. Is he or she dominant? Introverted? Cautious? Optimistic? #2 – Adjust your sales presentation to accommodate your customer’s assessed personality type. Here are a few tips that do just that:

When Selling to a “Choleric” Customer: Let them know they’re in charge and compliment them on good decisions.

When Selling to a “Sanguine” Customer: You don’t need to do much except get along with them and work on closing the sale quickly (assuming there isn’t another decision maker behind the scenes, like a spouse or business partner with a different personality type).

When Selling to a “Melancholy” Customer: Be prepared to answer a list of questions he or she will have for you. These types are true researchers and detail oriented. Be prepared to settle in and entertain questions about your product or service that will test your expertise. You probably won’t close this sale in the first sitting, but that’s okay. If you follow up properly and are prepared for more questions after you leave, you will put yourself in the best position possible to close this sale. Just stay patient!

When Selling to a “Phlegmatic” Customer: You are typically going dealing with a person who has difficulty with making decisions, especially a perceived “large” financial decision. After reassuring this person that everything will be handled professionally and with great care, be prepared with some third party proof. Referral letters stating how professional and careful your company is, certificate of insurance, any awards you’ve received and/or articles written about your company. In the end you have to take charge of the sale and just close it. If you are not strong in your close you may allow this customer to slip away with all their uncertainty and worry. Help make the decision for the customer and then compliment them on making such a great decision in your post close.

These personality or temperament theories have a very practical application in sales and business. Sales professionals, managers, business owners and any professional who works with people can use this basic knowledge of personality to enhance their dealings with people. By understanding the underlying reasons why people behave and relate the way they do helps us as professionals to work through challenging business dealings and help our customers make better decisions.

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