How to Sense a Buyer’s DISC styles

You’ve just met a new business contact, and you’re sitting across from them in a social or a work setting. You know that the most effective means of connection is to understand their behaviour and communication preferences and flex your own preferences to engage with them on their terms.

So I get out my short DISC test and ask them to quickly complete the test, as it only takes 7 minutes, I can then go to the toilet and then plot their responses so I know their DISC preferences and flex my style- RIGHT?


I doubt very much this approach would be particularly helpful, but many people have asked if you don’t know a customers or contacts DISC style isn’t DISC as waste of time.

In these circumstances I go back to my DISC training and try to sense the customers display of behaviou, use of words, how they dress and greet me, to try to gauge their preferences, and make an educated guess… and today I’ll tell you how I do it .

DISC brief Introduction

Firstly, for those of you new to DISC, here’s a brief introduction, for those of you more familiar, please skip this section

There are four basic behavioural styles, none of which is better or worse than the other. Each has its own characteristics, strengths and weaknesses. The behaviour preferences of one style tends to conflict with those of the other three styles making it easy to sell to people with your own style and harder to sell to people with a different style, hence the benefit of knowing a particular persons style of preferences. To sell better it is helpful for you as a salesperson to understand and adapt to the behavioural styles of your customers.

DISC describes your customer’s behaviour and communication preferences in terms of what is said and done. It does not talk about their personalities, motives, values, skills or experience.  DISC stands for: Dominant, Influencing, Steady and Conscientious

Tips to sense DISC styles

In everyday life we broadcast clues about ourselves and our behaviour and communication preferences all the time in the form of the words we use, our body language, the way we dress, the way we organise our work space, and the way we greet others. You can sense a persons behaviour and communication preferences and hence their DISC style from these telltale clues.

1. Never pigeon hole people on the first meeting. It has been proven that humans, in general, are relatively accurate with their judgements based on first impressions (although not always). Because sometimes we guess wrong, or the person I am meeting maybe having a off day, I am also always looking to adjust my initial impression of the people I’m talking with, probably so that I can be a better communicator and a better listener.


Here is how I mentally try to figure out a person’s profile.

2. Start with “D”- are they dominant? I try to figure out if they are a high “D”.

Do they seem a bit irritated, perhaps even angry? I try to imagine them being angry, and if it seems they could be with relative ease, I’ll give a first hunch about them being a high “D”. I’ll also pay attention to how they greet me. Do they lean forward (a possible sign of extroversion), do they give the impression of being a bit preoccupied, and are they crisp or even abrupt with their words? Do they want to get right down to business? These are all signs that a person might be a high “D”.

Buyers with higher D (Dominance) buying style are fast-paced and outspoken, but also sceptical and questioning. They tend to be assertive, confident and they are not afraid to express their opinion. They often know precisely what they want and make up their minds quickly even if the decision is complicated or highly important. In addition, people with D style tend to take charge in every situation, even in sales transactions, and therefore they may seem too dominating to other persons.

3. Move to “I” preference. If I’m not picking up any of those clues, I move on.  Next, I’ll try the high “I” preference.

Is the person effusively warm? Did they look me in the eye and shake my hand firmly without trying to show their crushing strength? Are they totally present? Do they seem naturally friendly, immediately, without reservation? Do they smile easily and have a ready joke, upbeat comment, or a nice compliment? Do they seem unconcerned with little details like a crooked tie or a skuff on their shoes or a few somewhat disorganised piles of paper in their office?

These are all signs that a high “I” might project. People with “I” (Influence) preference buying style are warm and accepting and they are also talkative and fast-paced in a buying situation. They tend to be optimistic, extroverted and energetic. They see the buying process as another opportunity to socialize with others and therefore it may seem to others that they are trying to establish a personal relationship with the salesperson. It is important for the salesperson to know that people with “I” style enjoy casual small talk or even tangential conversations on subjects that have nothing to do with the selling process, and they need a friendly and informal atmosphere.

3. Then go to “C” preference. If I’m not sure, I’ll try another one. Because the “S” category is hardest to pick up on, I’ll then try to figure out if I’m dealing with a high “C”.

Do they hold themselves with a tight posture? Do they appear to be crisp and well organized? Are they well or even meticulously dressed? Are their desk and shelves neat? Do they seem intensely focused? Do they seem mostly introverted and yet still business-like? These are signs of a high “C” person.

People with C (Conscientiousness) buying style are sceptical and questioning and also cautious and reflective. They tend to be more reserved, thorough and they follow formalities. The carefully consider all options, they like facts and can therefore take some time before they make up their mind. People seldom see them as enthusiastic or animated and their decisions are based on rational considerations rather than emotions. They may be better informed about the product than the your are and feel manipulated when the your are unable to present solid facts about the product. They also do not like when you get too personal.

4. Finally confirm an “S” preference. Then, I might try to get confirmation about the “S”.

Is the person hard to read, reserved?  Are they really reserved? Do they seem very steady with the tone of voice they use and the words they use? Do they project a bit of coolness and collectedness without seeming cold or hostile? Do they seem ready to handle the next high priority that comes their way?

These are all typically “S” characteristics. People with S (Steadiness) buying style are also warm, accommodating but cautious and they easily take the responsibility for a situation. They tend to adjust themselves to others and are quite humble. Since they care and worry more than other styles, they also tend to take more time before making up their minds. They want to be absolutely certain before making a decision, therefore are slow buyers. In addition, they often avoid changes and are hesitant to take on new ways of doing things.

So there you are in four steps you’ve made a pretty good guess at the DISC preference of your business contact and can now work in a more empathetic way together
IN summary, here are some more DISC tips for your customers;

1.The Dominant customer
These customers tend to be fast-paced, and outspoken. They ask a lot of questions and are sceptical. In general they are assertive and confident, they know what they want and make up their minds quickly. They also like to take charge of conversations with others.

How to recognise a dominant customer:

  • They are results-oriented
  • Have a no-nonsense attitude
  • Are action-oriented with a fast pace
  • Are blunt and straightforward
  • Are willing to take risk
  • Are openly sceptical
  • Get impatient with small talk
  • Are eager to control discussions and make quick decisions

Their expectations:

  • Bottom-line results
  • Competency from a salesperson
  • Quick action and forward motion

2. The Influencing customer
These customers are both fast-paced and outspoken while being accepting and warm. They tend to be extroverted, optimistic and energetic. They see the sales process as an opportunity to socialise and establish a personal relationship with you.
How to recognise an influencing customer:

  • Upbeat and enthusiastic
  • Have a positive outlook
  • Are friendly
  • Rely on intuition and gut instinct
  • Are fast-paced
  • Interested in forming personal relationships and like to meet new people
  • Willing to try new products or ideas

Their expectations:

  • Enthusiasm and excitement, along with quick action and immediate impact from their salesperson.

3. The Steady customer
The steady customer tends to be very warm and accepting. They will rarely challenge you directly even if they have any reservations about your product or service. They are accepting and humble, they want to be absolutely sure about a decision before they commit. They don’t like change and are hesitant to try new ways of doing things.

How to recognise a steady customer:

  • Agreeable and welcoming
  • Soft spoken
  • Have a moderate pace
  • Are attentive and patient listeners
  • Have a calm and gentle demeanour
  • Frequent displays of modesty and accommodation
  • Are reluctant to commit too quickly
  • Are cautious or hesitant when making decisions
  • Avoid change

Their expectations:

  • Expect sincerity and a genuine approach
  • Expect trusting relationships
  • Expect dependability from the salesperson and the offering

4. The Conscientious customer
The Conscientious Customer tends to questioning and sceptical. They ask a lot of questions and ask for data and facts. They are reserved, systematic and analytical and are likely to display enthusiasm even if they genuinely like your product or service. They base their decisions more on objective information than on emotion or intuition.

How to recognise a conscientious customer:

  • Professional
  • Slow and methodical
  • Rely on logic and reason
  • Avoid emotional expression
  • Don’t like to make small talk or be asked personal questions
  • Are often openly sceptical
  • Are cautious when taking decisions
  • And are interested in details

Their expectations from you as a salesperson:

  • High-quality products and services
  • Dependability and accountability
  • Competency and expertise

Now you can go out and be confident that you will be better able to recognise the behaviour and communication preferences of your customers and become more effective.  Good luck and remember don’t pigeon hole them as one style or another  categorically, always be open to more information on their styles. Please share some of your stories on how you create an empathetic bon with your clients.