Persuading Personality Types: Survey Overview

In May I wrote an article I called “Influence Approaches for Different Personality Styles” which turned out to be one of my most-read blog posts to date. In that article I shared four basic personality types:

  1. Driver/Pragmatic
  2. Expressive/Influencer
  3. Facilitator/Amiable
  4. Thinker/Analytical

After defining each I made some suggestions on what I thought would be the best influence approaches for each of the different personality types. To the best of my knowledge there was no research on the subject of persuasion and personality types so I decided to gather my own data using a blog post titled “Personality Types and Decision Influencers – A Short Survey.” I wanted to find out how people thought they might respond in different situations to different influence approaches.

I gathered data from 265 respondents, sliced it, diced it and looked at it every way I know how. Although I’m good with numbers and spreadsheets I decided to bring in the help of an expert with numbers. Alex Timm is a young intern at State Auto and to say Alex is insanely smart is not going far enough. He’s a triple major at Drake University – studying math, accounting and actuarial science – and going into his senior year he’s got a 4.0 GPA! If that’s not enough, he’s already passed three parts of his actuarial exam. I’m being really nice to Alex because I might end up working for him someday. You can find Alex on LinkedIn.

Here’s what Alex had to say about the survey, “I am very surprised to see such a strong statistical significance in the results. This especially applies to the effects of consensus on the expressive personality type. In fact, with this group you would see results this extreme less than 1% of the time if there had not been any sort of relationship!”

What I plan to do this week is share the results of the survey so you’ll be better equipped to persuade people based on their personality type. Today I just want to give you some background on what I did and why. Then each day this week you’ll see a new post that focuses on a different personality type.

Let me start with this disclaimer – I’m not a professional pollster, nor am I a behavioral psychologist. This was not an experiment; rather it was simply an attempt to find out how people thought they might respond in different situations to specific influence approaches.

I recognize when asking people which personality style they think they are there will be some bias. By that I mean, there will be people who classified themselves as one personality type when in reality, if they took a profile, might realize they are different than what they thought.

I can tell you from personal experience, when I took a personality survey during my first job I thought for sure I was a Driver/Pragmatic because I was very focused, very motivated and driven when it came to just about anything I participated in. However, when I took the survey I realized I wasn’t a Driver/Pragmatic, although I had some of those traits. I actually had more of an Analytical/Thinker bent and when I took a similar survey nearly 25 years later I still fell into the predominantly in the Analytical/Thinker category.

Having shared that potential flaw, I’m willing to bet most people were fairly accurate because the personality descriptions I shared were pretty detailed.

Because this was my first attempt at an extensive survey I definitely learned a lot. For example, as I analyzed the results I clearly saw some answers were duds because so few people chose them. Another thing I might do differently in the future would be to have questions specifically geared towards personal situations and different ones for the work environment. I had a few people tell me none of my answers would be compelling enough for them to take action in some instances. Unfortunately no survey will be able to address valid reasons for every participant.

My goal was to find out which answer would potentially have the most impact on a decision. But remember, this is just at amateur’s attempt to try to get a handle on something where there’s not been any research.

Let me tell you a bit about the survey itself. The survey was exactly the same for each personality type. By steering people to a particular survey it allowed me to gather data by personality type very easily.

Each survey had 10 questions with three possible answers.

  • Answer “A” was always an opportunity for someone to choose a relationship answer where they would have been taking action based on liking or reciprocity.
  • Answer “B” dealt with uncertainty so the answer either had to do with consensus or authority.
  • Answer “C” was related motivation which meant the choice was either based on consistency or scarcity.

The way I laid it out there were five questions where each of the six principles of influence was a potential answer. Let’s look at the first question so you can get some insight into what I was looking at and analyzing. After each personality type you’ll see the percentage that chose each answer.

“There’s a popular movie out, one you’ve been thinking about seeing. Which would be most likely to get you to go?”

  • A. A couple of good friends are going. (liking)
  • B. Critics are giving it two thumbs up. (authority)
  • C. It’s only in theaters till the end of the weekend. (scarcity)

While each group was clearly motivated by liking, the most popular answer with each group, the Expressive/Influencer (68.3%) and Facilitators/Amiable (74.1%) were statistically much more motivated by this answer than the Driver/Pragmatic (59.4%) and Thinker/Analytical (60.4%).

Another couple of notable things about this question were the Thinker/Analytical (27.1%) were more motivated by answer “B,” which had to do with authority, than were the other groups. The Driver/Pragmatic (22.9%) were far and away more motivated by scarcity than the other groups.

One question does not a survey make but aggregating the data to look for trends is what allowed Alex and I to spot things we think you’ll find helpful when it comes to persuading people after you have a handle on what type of personality they are. So hang on with me for the next four days as we dig into each of the personality types. If you have questions or feedback feel free to comment below and I’ll do my best to answer you.

Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.

6 replies
  1. Lars-Christian Elvenes
    Lars-Christian Elvenes says:

    Hi Brian,

    Great initiative. Reading your posts I felt that some of your personality descriptions fit somewhat with the DISC personality assessment.

    Have you considered getting a university involved in this project? I'm sure there are groups of students out there studying personality psychology and organizational psychology who would like to do a project for their bachelor or master thesis related to something like this. Also, it could be an interesting way for State Auto Insurance to get even better info on effective approaches to both sales and influence.

    Just a thought 🙂

  2. Brian
    Brian says:

    I'd like to see something more formal done with this. I have a contact at Franklin University here in Columbus and I'll see if I can get Dr. Cialdini's input because of his contacts at Arizona State University.

    I'm definitely going to be using the results to coach people at State Auto on the best ways to approach our agents and customer reps. Course work is already under way.

    Thanks for sharing.

  3. Maureen Metcalf
    Maureen Metcalf says:

    Hi Brian,

    I like the clarity of this post – it helps me know what I can use it for as well as how I should not use it. Your example of your personality type and perception is very helpful – I believe many of us have this same experience. It is interesting to hear how clear the data were about how we react to stimuli.

    It sounds like the results will be very helpful in selling and also many other venues like coaching, teaching and leading.

  4. Brian
    Brian says:

    Thanks for commenting Maureen. Tomorrow through Friday will be the real meat. It should give us plenty to talk about over coffee next time.


  5. nicolas
    nicolas says:

    Brian just so you know Peter Stephen Lowe used similar research and trained IBM salesforce when he was only in his early twenties 30 years ago. I attended his seminar and was blown away then. Then Bill Gould pulled together many sources to put on different seminars and trained thousands. I am very impressed that with such a small sample of people and few questions that you have recreated so closely again verifying their research. Here is some stats that your followers should appreciate. Driv/Prag 38%, Expres/Influ 50%, Fac/Am 8% Analy/Think 4% of population. True for every country population in the world. As I have given training and seminars throughout the years myself, the biggest amazing thing to learn is spotting at an ever younger age the personality type of that individual. Also what is fascinatingis how people react towards each others group especially diagonally across the graph you have. Keep up the great learning you have it will grow exponentially now that you have your 4 types. (Of course two blends of types are uite prevalent in society almost really making 6 types.) Also when correlated with the 4 body types of humans with slight differences for male/female influencers one can achieve amazing accuracy in knowing how to influence even a new contact. Again you are growing places. Thanks


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