Style plays out in every role you have, whether it’s someone in a personal relationship, a leader in an organization, or a salesperson working with customers. If you understand yourself, your style, and the people around you, you can build stronger relationships and get better results.

After years of training and teaching people about their style through the Dominant, Interactive, Supportive, and Conscientious (DISC) program, I had an epiphany. Often participants walk away from a session knowing they are a “D,” but not recalling everything the “D” stands for. The challenge is to memorize not only the letters of the program but the traits these letters represent. It’s hard enough to remember “D” is for “dominant” and its associated traits, let alone what the “I” of your co-worker or the “S” of your manager means.

I wanted to come up with something visual. I realized we can all identify with four types of birds: the eagle, parrot, dove, and owl. These all, in fact, correlate to DISC. This realization has completely transformed how I teach people about themselves and others in their lives.

Which bird are you? And how does it impact your sales career and relationships? First off, let’s define the characteristics of the bird types.

Eagle: Results-oriented, confident, assertive

Parrot:  Energetic, colorful, personable, motivational

Dove: Harmonic, peaceful, collaborative

Owl: Thoughtful, systematic

Personally, I am a parrot-eagle combination. Once you define yourself, you can turn your attention to the style and personalities of your prospects and customers.

One of the first stops for any salesperson before contacting or meeting a customer is LinkedIn. You want to know who customers are, their background, their current responsibilities, and more. But you also have a window into their style through their LinkedIn profile photo.

Try an experiment with some of the folks on the television show “Shark Tank.” Kevin O’Leary (aka “Mr. Wonderful”) is like an eagle staring you down with his LinkedIn profile image; he’s looking right through you. Then look at Mark Cuban. In his picture, he’s on his private jet, smoking a cigar, his shoulder leaning into and just touching the Dallas Mavericks NBA championship trophy. That’s definitely some parrot-eagle energy — parrot is about fun and eagle is about results-oriented. Right away, you can already start to see their style in the picture, what they are trying to convey about themselves, and infer some insights that might not ever appear in the text of their LinkedIn description.

Each of our voices is unique — and they can also reflect our style. Listen carefully in your next call. Do you detect the eagle speaking assertively and with confidence? Eagles are often those who ask the tough, direct questions and jump to the bottom line. On the other end of the spectrum, parrots communicate enthusiastically, have a sense of humor, and share stories. They may also dominate the conversation, so be prepared to find the appropriate opportunities to interject with your own voice.

If you’re on the line with a dove, you’ll notice they listen patiently and communicate in a personal manner. They want to create a connection that goes beyond the business conversation. And, finally, owls will seek details and ask a lot of questions. They might even follow up their questions with more questions. Listening for these vocal cues to their style will help you quickly pivot and adapt how you communicate with them.

You can also infer style through emails. An email from an eagle is very direct. An email from an owl might have a lot of bullet points, sub-bullets, and attachments. And an email from a parrot might be energetic — “Hey! How’s it going?” — while the dove’s email is more personal: “How are you? I hope everything’s okay.”

I’ll share a recent email exchange that demonstrates how you can determine a style, respond appropriately, and build credibility and trust in that relationship. I was scheduled to speak at a conference, and I received an email from one of the coordinators. It was her first interaction with me, and she sent me 14 questions filled with bullets points. You can probably guess what style she is. She’s the owl — and I also sensed a little dove because she really wanted to make sure everything was okay.

Instead of my usual eagle-style, one-word responses to her questions, I wrote out full sentences. I didn’t respond to the question “What time will you arrive?” with simply “8:00 a.m.” I wrote, “I’m going to arrive at 8:00 a.m. When I get there, I’m going to check the space and test my microphone.” I walked through every answer in several sentences.

The email she sent back was very appreciative, and she conveyed how much more comfortable she felt after reading it. Did it take me more time to write that email to her? Sure, and because I’m a parrot-eagle, I really wanted to dash it off quickly and directly. But I recognized that she’s an owl-dove and needed comfort and detail. As a result, I built her trust. If she was a prospect. I’d be much more likely to sell to her by honoring her style over my own.

Remember that the LinkedIn profile and emails will send you some clues, but not the full story. When you finally meet in person, the picture can be truly complete. The eagle will probably give you a pretty strong handshake, while the parrot will be welcoming. Once you understand and can identify the four styles with customers, you’ll be able to build more successful relationships based on how they work and view the world.

You want to know who customers are, their background, their current responsibilities, and more. ”

Merrick Rosenberg | CEO, Take Flight Learning
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