1.7 The Social Style Matrix

What makes people so different in their style, perceptions, and approaches to things is defined in the social style matrix. The social style matrix is an established method of identifying patterns of communication and behaviour. It helps you understand how people behave so you can adapt your selling style accordingly. The matrix is based on patterns of communication behaviour identified by David Merril and Roger Reid (Castleberry & Tanner, 2022, p. 155). It plots social behaviour based on two dimensions: assertiveness and responsiveness. In the figure below, the x axis is assertiveness, which indicates the degree to which a person wants to dominate or control the thoughts of others. The y axis represents responsiveness, which is the degree to which a person outwardly displays emotions or feelings in a relationship. Each quadrant represents one of four social styles:

  1. Social styles Matrix
    Figure 1.8.1 Social Style Matrix Credit: Todd Duncan, “Your Sales Style,” Incentive, December 1, 1999, 64–66. 9C(Click to Enlarge)

    Analyticals – a social style that describes people who focus on facts, details, and analysis to make decisions;

  2. Drivers – social style that describes people who like to have all the facts and make decisions quickly;
  3. Amiables – social style that describes people who focus on personal relationships in their decision making;
  4. Expressives -social style that describes people who rely on their feelings to make decisions. Each of these styles describes a different type of behaviour (Castleberry & Tanner, 2022, p. 151).

Each of the social styles has specific characteristics that are important to keep in mind as you prepare and present your sales presentation. Adapting to someone’s social style demonstrates the law of psychological reciprocity, which says that when you adapt to someone’s style, that person will move toward your style. So, whether you are asking to borrow your mother’s car or asking someone on a date, understanding the social style matrix is important to get the result you want.

Analyticals: They Want to Know “How”

Do you know someone who only wants the facts to make a decision? Perhaps it’s your father or mother or a professor. Analyticals are all about the facts. They are defined by low responsiveness and low assertiveness. In other words, they like to hear about the pros and cons and all the details before they decide. They are likely to have a financial or technical background, and they pride themselves on being an expert in their field. They want to hear about the tangible results, timelines, and details before they make a decision. In fact, they are the ones who will actually read the directions before they put together a new grill or set up a wireless home network. They are so focused on facts that they prefer to disregard personal opinions in their decision making. They like to understand all the facts before they decide so they know exactly how the product, service, or contract arrangement will work (Castleberry & Tanner, 2022, p. 158).

You might have some visual cues that will help you identify an analytical. They probably dress conservatively and have achievement awards proudly displayed on the office wall (Castleberry & Tanner, 2022, p. 159).

If you are selling to a customer who is an analytical, they will ask you very specific questions about all the details, and they will respond positively if you make them feel right. In other words, don’t challenge their facts and point of view. Rather, provide history, data, financial details, and other facts in an organized, structured format. They will ask many questions so that they clearly understands the product or service. Since it’s important for them to make the right decision, they will take the time to gather all the facts. Because they put so much effort into making the right decision, they tend to be loyal, believing they don’t need to reevaluate the same facts. Adapt your style to an analytical by focusing on the “how.” Don’t rush the customer and provide all the information they need to make a decision.

Drivers: They Want to Know “What”

Drivers have some characteristics that are the same as analyticals in that they like to have all the facts to make their decision. However, drivers are different from analyticals because they make decisions quickly. On the social style matrix, they are in the low responsiveness, high assertiveness quadrant. These are the people who are “control freaks”; they are decisive and controlling. They work with people because they have to; they see other people only as a means to their end of achievement. They are smart, focused, independent, and competitive. They have little regard for the opinions of others; a driver is rarely described as a “people person.” They are high achievers who are in a hurry to meet their goals. They don’t want facts just for the sake of having them; they want relevant information that will help them decide quickly.

Like the analyticals, drivers dress conservatively and display their achievement awards on the wall of their office. A calendar is usually prominent to keep focus on how long it will take to achieve something. Because they are not focused on the feelings or attitudes of other people, drivers usually do business across the desk rather than on the same side of the desk (Castleberry & Tanner, 2022, p. 158). The best way to adapt to a driver is to be professional and to the point. Don’t spend too much time on small talk; get to the point quickly. Provide options so that he can feel as if he is in control. Include a timeline so he can see how quickly he can get results.

Amiables: They Want to Know “Why”

An amiable is most likely to be described as a “people person.” Amiables are team players who focus on innovation and long-term problem solving. They value relationships and like to engage with people whom they feel they can trust. They are less controlling than drivers and more people oriented than analyticals because they are in the low assertiveness, high responsiveness quadrant of the matrix. Amiables provide some visual clues because their offices are typically open and friendly. They often display pictures of family, and they prefer to work in an open environment rather than sitting across the desk from you. They tend to have a personal style in their dress, being casual or less conservative than analytics or drivers (Castleberry & Tanner, 2022, p. 159).

When you are presenting to an amiable, establish a personal relationship. When you demonstrate your personal commitment, they will be open to doing business with you.

Expressives: They Want to Know “Who”

An expressive is intuitive, charismatic, persuasive, nurturing, and engaging. Oprah Winfrey is an expressive; she has excellent rapport with people, even people she has never met. Relationships are important to her, but only to help her achieve her higher goal of giving her viewers inspiration and a better way to live their lives. Expressives are creative and can see the big picture clearly; they have a vision and use their style to communicate it and inspire people. They don’t get caught up in the day-to-day details. Expressives build relationships to gain power, so people like employees, viewers, or voters are very important to them. Status and recognition are also important to them.

Since expressives are not big on details, you might find their offices to be a bit disorganized, even cluttered and messy. Their offices are set up in an open format, as they would prefer to sit next to you rather than across the desk from you. They avoid conservative dress and are more casual with their personal style. They want to engage with you and talk about the next big idea (Castleberry & Tanner, 2022, p. 159).

When you are selling to an expressive, take extra time to discuss everything. Give them recognition and approval. Appeal to their emotions by asking them how they feel about the product or service; focus on the big picture of what is possible as a result of buying your product or service. If you try to dazzle them with facts and figures, you won’t get very far.

Table 1.7.1 Selling Style Summary

Social Style You're Selling To

How to Adapt

  • Focus on “how”
  • Include facts
  • Communicate the pros and cons
  • Provide history, data, financial details
  • Don’t challenge her facts
  • Demonstrate results
  • Mention guarantees and warranties
  • Give her time to decide
  • Focus on “what”
  • Get to the point quickly
  • Provide options
  • Use facts
  • Focus on results
  • Provide timelines
  • Make him feel as if he is in control
  • Focus on “why”
  • Establish a personal relationship
  • Demonstrate personal commitment
  • Work as a team
  • Focus on “who”
  • Take extra time to discuss everything
  • Give her recognition and approval
  • Ask her how they feel about the product or service
  • Focus on the big picture
  • Use facts and figures to demonstrate what is possible
Source: Duncan, 1999, pp. 64–66

What Is Your Selling Style?

Before you think about the social styles of other people, you might find it helpful to think about your own social style. Are you very emotional when you express your opinions, or are you more reserved and formal? Are you the type of person who agrees with everyone, or are you extremely interested in the details? You might want to take a few minutes to take the Keirsey Temperament Sorter to understand your social style. But don’t stop here; visit your campus career center as it most likely offers several assessment tools that can help you identify your social style.

Take the Keirsey Temperament Sorter to Determine Your Social Style

It would be easy to get stuck in your own style preference. But getting out of your comfort zone and adapting quickly to your customer’s style preference can make the difference between a sale and a “no thanks.” It’s important to note that most people are a combination of styles, but when you understand the basic behaviours of each style and how to adapt, you can increase your chances for success (Duncan, 1999, pp. 64–66).

“3.2 Putting Adaptive Selling to Work” from Selling For Success 2e by NSCC and Saylor is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.


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