How to build better rapport using ‘social styles’ (and ultimately win more clients in real estate)

Every agent has experienced that sinking feeling when they realise they've lost a listing to a competitor because they didn't 'click'. But there is a way to work around that and ensure you meet every prospect exactly where they are at right now. Here, Samantha McLean explains the science behind 'social styles' and how you can use them to deliver a successful listing presentation and see your signboard out the front of the property.

Every salesperson has experienced the feeling: you feel like you’re a certainty of winning the listing – or the business.

And then all of a sudden the prospect stops returning your calls, texts and emails.

Then, you see another agent’s signboard on the property.

How did this happen, when you thought everything was going so well?

Another feeling you might regularly get is that some clients feel incredibly easy to satisfy, while others are frustratingly difficult.

There are a lot of emotional factors when it comes to sales and closing deals but a big one, even with all of the tech we have today, is still your ability to build personal rapport with the people you do business with.

It’s a fact that we all find some people easier to build rapport with than others – especially when they are like us, and they ‘get’ us.

You naturally just ‘click’ and things become effortless.

But what happens when you and your client’s personalities are very different?

Using some smarts, and a known formula – you can meet anyone where they are at using a ‘social styles’ framework. 

Recognising social styles

Many researchers throughout history have completed work on this, and there are many models to choose from.

But I’m going to use Bolton & Bolton’s work from way back in the ’70s (but there are plenty of them – for example, Myers Briggs, DiSC and others).

They believed that most people fall primarily in one of four ‘social styles’. 

The Driver

Dominance, driven, demanding, direct, results-oriented.

A typical ‘driver’ is someone who likes a no-fuss approach. 

They are confident and decisive, and they will already know what they want from you before you meet them. 

They appreciate facts and data, and pride themselves on being able to make decisions based on quantitative knowledge rather than personal appraisals.

They like to feel as though they are in control, and will attempt to be dominant when they are stressed.

Celebrity ‘Driver’ examples: Donald Trump, Beyonce, Amy Schumer, Gordon Ramsey.

The Analyst

Conscientiousness, objective, private, systematic, deliberate

Much like drivers, analysts tend to appreciate facts and data. 

However, unlike drivers, they take a slower approach to their decision-making process. 

They can be extremely picky, and find flaws faster than most other people. 

They avoid conflict like the plague and are at their calmest when they feel everything is well organised and structured.

Celebrity ‘Analyst’ examples: Bill Gates, Jodie Foster, Matt Damon.

The Expressive

Influential, energising, enthusiastic, encouraging, impulsive

Expressives are exciting and social characters, who have big personalities and place a lot of importance on personal interactions. 

They prefer to base their decisions on opinions and testimonials rather than straight facts and data.

As expressives love excitement, they like to feel as though the future holds exciting prospects and possibilities. 

When stressed, expressives respond to personal attacks, but due to their open nature, their emotions are easy to read.

Celebrity ‘Expressive’ examples: Will Smith, Elton John, Oprah Winfrey.

The Amiable

Steady, supportive, sincere, inclusive, loyal, patient.

Out of all four groups, amiables are maybe the gentlest and most introverted type. 

While they enjoy a personal approach, they do like to take their time when making decisions, and need constantly to feel at ease. 

It is rare that an amiable character will make a decision alone, and they do not like to feel as though they are being rushed through any decision-making process.

They like to collaborate and they will not make a decision without the important people in their lives (so make sure that all decision-makers are present).  

Celebrity ‘Amiable’ examples: Gandhi, Diana Princess of Wales, Charlie Brown.

Can you recognise yourself?

Now that you’re familiar with these ‘social styles’ you may recognise yourself in one or more. 

Why do we get along with some people and not others? 

If you look at the theory of the social style – it says at a fundamental level, similarities build rapport, and differences build barriers. 

If you can get in touch with your own ‘social style’ and adjust your approach accordingly, it may be a lot easier to make a personal connection with your prospect.

Table 1: Recognising and appealing to various ‘social styles; 

The DriverThe Analyst The ExpressiveThe Aimable 
Their Career might beUpper management CEO’sBanking/finance, engineering, IT, professional services Creatives, other sales peopleNurses, teaches, Human Resources 
Primary Traits Determined, decisive and practical Serious, industrious, exacting and persistent Ambitious, stimulating, dramatic and enthusiastic Willing, supportive, friendly and agreeable 
Approach Provide facts and options, stick to business, be clear and specific Establish test-related competence quickly and recognise their expertise Use fresh and novel approaches, appeal to their sense of fun, enjoyment and material comfort Don’t be all business; show warmth, sincerity and a genuine interest in them
Build OnTheir propensity to take calculated risksThey are impressed by facts and figuresA need for recognition A need for acceptance, friendship and support
State the facts, put some decisions back in their capable hands (for example, Auction vs. Private Treaty) 
Get out the CMA reports; make sure you’ve done your research (and no spelling mistakes!!) 
Expressives care what other people think of them, so ‘de-risk’ their decision by providing plenty of independent references 
‘Be there’ for them, any time of the day or night. For example, “here is my personal mobile; call me at any time” 

Pitching to a Driver

To really impress a driver, you need to come across as someone who has prepared for every possible outcome. 

A typical driver will want to know about their property’s value, statistics about the local area – such as employability, school types, and neighbourhood demographics – predicted value growth for the property, and how much energy a house is likely to use.

  • A typical driver likes to move fast, do not be afraid to go in for the hard sell.
  • Let them feel as though they are taking the lead. 
  • Never disagree with their opinions, but do dispute facts. 

Winning strategy: Options. 

Drivers like to feel like they are literally in the driver’s seat, so offer them a couple of choices, whether it’s commission structure, or marketing mix (their ability to choose the risk/reward will be appealing to a driver!). 

Pitching to an Analyst

You’ll need to take a softer approach with an analyst than you did with the driver, but once again, stick to the facts, which analysts may want in agonising detail. 

You’ll also need to:

  • Give them time to think it over (remember they are cautious in their approach).
  • Be prepared to go into even greater detail (they will have questions).
  • Let them be picky (an analytical client will only feel secure in their decision-making process once you’ve reassured them on each of their worries).

Winning strategy: data and patience. 

You may find yourself going backwards and forwards a lot, but be happy to do this. Can you provide data in your local area that the analyst cannot get anywhere else? See Anton Babkov’s article on “The Challenger Sale” for some more ideas on this.

Pitching to an Expressive

Feel free to get out the flash and the shiny objects when it comes to an expressive, the iPad, the videos, and all the celebrity influencers you can find. 

  • Take a swift and exciting approach when appealing to their better nature. Get them excited about the move they are about to make.
  • Establish a friendly relationship to make them feel important and accepted.
  • Tell stories and anecdotes, but let them engage you in conversation about their life.

Winning strategy: testimonials

As expressives are impulsive by nature, you stand a strong chance of succeeding on the spot – so be ready with that agency agreement and a pen. And as outward appearances mean a lot to expressives, have your best testimonials on hand to impress the expressive. 

Pitching to an Amiable

Undoubtedly, amiable characters can often be the hardest to sell to. As they need support through each decision-making process, you may find yourself selling to several other people (family, friends, partners).

Those who are amiable tend to be critical, which means you should be honest about any flaws in a property before they have a chance to spot them themselves. 

If an amiable person feels as though they have been strung along, you will lose their trust and find it hard to regain it. 

This means you need to take an extremely open and honest approach and avoid backing them into a corner. 

  • Be extremely patient and don’t push for the hard sell.
  • Involve other decision-makers in the process.
  • Keep supporting them as they learn more about the home they are going to buy or your services.

Winning strategy: support and guarantees

These are the people you might need to re-assure any time of the day or night, be their friend, their confidant and try to find ways to de-risk and guarantee your service.

The secret to building rapport and winning everything?

Often some people fall into one or more categories, depending on timing, emotions and other factors. 

It may not be possible to decide quickly who is who and sometimes when we put people into boxes too quickly we can be wrong (and the results can be disastrous).

So how do you appeal more broadly to all the types of people you meet? 

Based on all of this my advice would be grab a pen and paper and create yourself a checklist. 

Do you have elements of each of these winning strategies as part of your standard pitch?

If you can incorporate options, testimonials, guarantees, and data in all of your pitches (adjusting your focus when you get to know the prospect a little more), you should be able to cover all bases, build good rapport and, all other things being equal, hopefully close the deal. 

And finally, remember that nobody likes being sold to, but everyone likes shopping with friends.

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Samantha McLean

Samantha McLean is the Co-Founder and Managing Editor of Elite Agent and Host of the Elevate Podcast.