I Know Your Type

Increase your sales by speed-reading prospects

August 1, 1998

"I know your type."

If you've ever uttered or thought those words, you've engaged in personality typing. There are professionals who've taken typing to a science--and you can use their work to quickly assess people's personalities and put them at ease. We call it speedreading people. You'll find prospects, in turn, more willing to provide the information you need to close a sale, strike a bargain, or resolve a conflict.

People are born with a type--one they keep for life--that's based on unconscious preferences in four categories.

Taken together, the four categories yield a combination of distinct types, all unique but predictable in what it takes to get each of them to say yes.

It may take some practice to learn to accurately nail down the types, but you can gain an initial understanding of prospects' personalities by paying attention to prospects’ demeanor, energy level, language, body language, occupation, and interests.

Take a look at the types and their characteristics, then test your hand at speed-reading the next buyer or seller who walks through your door.

Extrovert or Introvert?

Extroverts are people energized by interacting with others in the outer world, whereas introverts prefer being by themselves to focus on their inner world.

You've probably felt frustrated by introverted buyers who simply won't open up and tell you what they’re looking for or the extroverts who keep up a running dialogue from the time they arrive at your office.

Knowing when to talk and when to listen goes a long way toward making prospects feel comfortable and receptive to your message.

Sensor or Intuitive?

Another set of preferences concerns how people take in information. Sensors rely on their five senses and are realistic, down-to-earth people. Intuitives are more likely to rely on their sixth sense and are imaginative and creative.

Sensors tend to approach the homebuying process with a long list of specific criteria, whereas intuitives may have a vague notion of what they want and often say, "I'll know the house when I see it."

Everyone uses both qualities, but people have a natural preference--like right- or left-handedness--for one over the other.

Thinker or Feeler?

People tend to make decisions using either impersonal principles or personal values. Thinkers tend to be objective, logical, and analytical, whereas feelers are sensitive and empathic.

The U.S. population is about evenly divided between thinkers and feelers, but more men--about 65 percent--prefer thinking, and more women--about 65 percent--prefer feeling.

Being gushy and overly friendly with a thinker can be just as disastrous as not being warm and friendly with a feeler.

Judger or Perceiver?

Whether people prefer to plan or wing it is a preference described as judging or perceiving. Judgers, about 60 percent of the population, make decisions quickly and easily and prefer to have things settled.

Perceivers, who make up the other 40 percent of the population, prefer to keep their options open in case something unexpected--or better--comes up.

It's the difference between the buyer who sees a property and makes an offer on the spot and the one who becomes less certain with each new house seen.


  • Energetic
  • Talkative
  • Think aloud

Communication tips: You can learn a lot about what’s important to them and what they’re looking for by asking questions and listening carefully. Let them talk, include a variety of discussion topics, and keep up a lively pace.


  • Quiet
  • Deliberate
  • Reflective

Communication tips: When you make suggestions about the pros and cons of a property or mortgage product, give introverts time to consider what you've said, and listen patiently to their questions without interrupting. Be patient; don’t push them for a decision.


  • Simple language
  • Literal and factual
  • Speak sequentially

Communication tips: Win them over by emphasizing and quantifying your past selling records. Then move through the homebuying process step-by-step, making sure you remember little details that are important to them. It can be as simple as pointing out a park full of kids who'll be their children's playmates or noting a utility closet off the kitchen that’s perfect for a compact washer and dryer.


  • Complex language
  • Figurative and vague
  • Jump from idea to idea

Communication tips: Intuitives generally have great imagination and can envision exciting possibilities. They respond well to suggestions that involve their creativity. You'll be communicating well if you say something like, “Just imagine how bright this room would be if you added a large picture window here.” Engage their creativity, and don’t overwhelm them with details.


  • Logical
  • Analytical
  • Honest

Communication tips: Be consistent. Don't embellish the truth: State the facts about a property or a negotiation as logically and objectively as you can. And be careful about becoming too personal; even if you're simply trying to establish rapport, they may think you're prying.


  • Friendly
  • Sensitive
  • Diplomatic

Communication tips: Being helpful and considerate will win their favor. Connect with a family worried about change by being empathic and acknowledging how stressful a move can be. Offer information that’s important to them, such as noting a nearby athletic field for the kids’ soccer games or the short walk to the train station.


  • Serious
  • Decisive
  • Organized

Communication tips: Judgers are time-conscious planners, so be prepared, ask their opinion, and stay organized. Make sure you're on time for appointments and give them accurate estimates of how long showings, meetings, and mortgage approval will take. A good rule of thumb: Say what you mean, and mean what you say.


  • Playful
  • Curious
  • Casual

Communication tips: The greatest challenge working with perceivers is getting them to make a decision. They're most prone to buyer's remorse. You need to remind them gently and constantly that they’re making good decisions. Show them numerous properties, because they enjoy exploring options, butexpect lots of questions, and don’t force closure.

Barbara Barron-Tieger of West Hartford, Conn., is an expert in personality type. Along with Paul Tieger, The Art of Speed Reading (Little Brown, 1998) is her fourth book on the subject. Barbara leads workshops and seminars on speed-reading people for more effective communications.

Paul Tieger of West Hartford, Conn., is an expert in personality type. Along with Barbara Barron-Tieger, The Art of Speed Reading (Little Brown, 1998) is his fourth book on the subject. Paul's family has been in the real estate business for 75 years, and he has worked as a jury consultant on civil and criminal cases for the last nine years.

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