DISC is a well known behavioural profiling tool that many sales trainers rave about. The tool promises to help salespeople treat prospects the way they’d want to be treated rather than being forced to endure small-talk when they’d rather get straight to the deal or be hard-sold when they want to look at all the numbers before signing. The question is, does the hype live up to reality? Does DISC really help improve conversion rates or does it cause salespeople to play to artificial stereotypes? DISC profiling is generally a relatively expensive exercise with tests costing at least $100 AUD a pop and training coming in at several times that.
If you’re a sales manager, you’re probably wondering if that expense is worthwhile. I’ve done some research and can find no authoritative evidence in peer reviewed business journals showing that DISC profiling actually helps. Furthermore, there are a slew of articles (e.g. this one and this one) arguing against using DISC for hiring because there is no one ideal DISC profile and it’s so easy to cheat the test if you know what the recruiter is looking for (most likely high DI).
Is this the nail in the coffin? Should we abandon DISC? Well if you’re talking about recruiting, probably. Using DISC in recruiting is almost certainly a bad idea because there is really no one ideal DISC profile for sales. What matters most is the flexibility to be able to adapt one’s own style to that of the prospect.
But how about during sales itself? Given that there’s no conclusive data showing that DISC works, should salespeople throw away their DISC textbooks? Hardly – absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. There are numerous anecdotal reports (e.g. this article) showing that DISC is working for some people at least.
If you think about it, it is almost unquestionably true that adapting one’s communication style to match the preference of the other person is a good idea. At the end of the day, we’re talking about empathy and there’s a ton of data showing that empathy sells. DISC is merely a tool to help empathise.
Obviously we can’t ask every prospect to fill out a DISC profile before we start talking to them, so the real skill of sales is being able to speed read people. You’ve got a limited amount of time to build rapport, so the onus is on you to rapidly figure out what kind of communication your prospect prefers.
What I’ve been working on is a system to help out with the speed reading by scanning emails, analysing the kind of language they use so we can take a guess at their DISC profile. You can find out more on the FanMail page.