Working with clients means having to deal with different types of people, which can bring its own challenges.
Experienced advisers know that no one single communication style works for every client – an approach that can motivate one person can have the opposite effect on another.
If you have a preference for details and accuracy, but the client you are delivering a proposal to prefers to hear about the big picture, then a 50-page suitability report or proposal with detailed spreadsheets is not going to motivate the person to review your proposal, let alone understand it.
Understanding your clients according to their personality types is key to having more productive relationships.
One personality profiling tool you can use is what's called the 'DISC' model, which groups personalities according to whether an individual is more dominant, an influencer, steady or conscientious. It's a simple but effective framework to read others and give you clues as to how you can adapt your style and approach to suit their preferences.
The big four client personalities
These are the four personalities you are likely to meet using the DISC model in a bit more detail, and their basic workplace characteristics:
- The dominant
The dominant personality places emphasis on accomplishing results, the bottom line and confidence. Their trait behaviours include being direct, results-orientated, firm, strong-willed and forceful. They see the big picture and like to get straight to the point. They can be impatient and don’t like strict rules and protocols, detailed analysis or being forced to give up on bold ideas.
- The influencer
Influencers place emphasis on persuading others, openness and relationships. Their trait behaviours include being outgoing, enthusiastic, optimistic, high-spirited and lively. They like to collaborate and dislike being ignored. They are motivated by social recognition and friendly relationships, but can be impulsive, disorganised and lack follow-through.
For people who fall into the steadiness category the greatest emphasis is placed on co-operation, sincerity and dependability. Their normal behavioural traits include being even-tempered, accommodating, patient, humble and tactful. They are supportive of others and don’t like to be rushed. They fear letting people down. They sometimes give-in early or stay quiet to avoid conflict.
This is the person who places the most emphasis on quality and accuracy, expertise and competency. Their normal behaviours include being analytical, reserved, precise, private and systematic. They enjoy independence and details, but fear being wrong. To others they can come across as critical and traditional.
The three key steps for success
So what can you do to improve your effectiveness as an adviser? There are three key steps I would recommend:
1) Consider which of these styles best describes you - for better and for worse. You may find you have elements of more than one of these (we are complex beings after all), but typically one set will be more prevalent. Ask for feedback from colleagues or use a personality profile tool. You might consider having a session with a coach to increase your own self-awareness and get independent input and challenge.
2) Consider what you know about your clients. Listen and observe to gather clues to their individual preferences.
3) Consider how you can adapt your approach and style to appeal more to their preferences. The changes don’t need to be big to make a significant difference in the impact and influence you will have.
Before you reach outwards it’s important to initially look inwards. Understanding your clients is one thing, but it’s also important to understand what really makes ourselves tick at work.
Perhaps you've wondered why connecting with some people is easier for you than connecting with others. Maybe you’ve noticed you relate better to clients and colleagues who focus more on accomplishing exciting goals, or maybe you’re more comfortable working with those who are calm and cautious than with those who take an energetic, bold approach.
Self-awareness is the first step towards managing and influencing relationships effectively. This is where feedback from others and tools such as psychometric and personality profiling tools are useful.
The old adage of ‘treat others as you would like to be treated’ should really read: ‘Treat others as they would like to be treated’.
Strong communicators and relationship builders understand their own preferences well. They are good at adapting their style and approach according to the people they interact with and the situation they are in.
You can find more details on the Quiver Management course in Managing Different Personalities by clicking here