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Monday, March 28, 2011

BNI: Personality Type & Networking

I recently had an epiphany that I want to share with you. Bear with me as I begin my story almost 15 years ago…

When I graduated from college, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I spent years switching jobs, moving from city to city (NYC, Boston, Concord, NH, just to name a few) and generally being aimless.

At one point I decided “wouldn’t it be fun to work in an art gallery?” So I walked into the nicest one, on Newbury Street (Boston) and asked if they were hiring.

When the gallery curator interviewed me, the conversation went (something) like this:

“Do you have any sales experience?” –“Uh, no.”

“Do you have any art background?” –“Hmmm. Nope.”

“Have you ever done anything like this at all?” –“Well, last summer I visited 45 cities in 60 days to hand out Dentyne Ice chewing gum samples on street corners. Does that help?” [See pic at right]

Maybe they were hurting, because despite my un-qualifications I got the job. So I packed up, left bustling Concord, NH, and moved to Boston to sell art.

By the 3rd month, I hit #1 in the Boston gallery. In month 9, I ranked #2 among ALL of the art consultants across the entire national franchise. What happened?

I didn’t get this back then, but in retrospect, it’s clear. I’d studied psychology in college, and in the absence of ANY art knowledge OR sales skills, I relied on a basic “Psych 101″ technique: personality profiling.

When people walked into the gallery and it was my “up,” instead of accosting and trying to “sell” them, I focused on reading their body language, adapting to the cues, and developing rapport, mostly by educating them and focusing on the stuff that they wanted to talk about. The sales followed. Lots and lots (and lots!) of sales.

The lesson that I see now, in retrospect, is that I was successful selling because I wasn’t focused on the sale. Instead, I was focused on building relationships, and ultimately TRUST. People want to do business with regular people – not with salespeople, not with logos, not with marketers. Moreover, they want to do business with people they LIKE.

To that end, one of the most powerful ways to connect with other human beings is to adapt to their unique personality type. Do you know the 4 basic types? If not, here’s my “secret weapon” so you can use it too.


First and foremost, it is important to understand that we ALL have elements of all types, but like a preference for right-handedness or left-handedness, most of the population exhibits a natural preference for certain ways of being over others. When we understand our natural preferences, and those of others, communication and interaction is just easier.

In addition, there are MANY different ways of categorizing personality type - The Myers Briggs Type Instrument (a 16-type distinction that, incidentally, my company is certified to administer and interpret), DISC, Keirsey Temperament Sorter, and many, many more.

Here is a SIMPLIFIED 4-type distinction (adapted from several sources but mainly The Referral Institute's Behavioral Styles model) that can quickly get you to a place where you are recognizing and adapting to different styles. In this type paradigm, there are 4 basic personality types: Lions, Monkeys, Owls and Koalas.

The Lions and Monkeys tend to do things FAST. They walk fast, talk fast, drive fast and decide fast.

The Owls and Koalas tend to take their time. They like to consider things more carefully and tend to be more circumspect in making decisions.

Meanwhile, the Lions and Owls, tend to be more TASK-oriented, whereas the Monkeys and Koalas tend to be more PEOPLE-oriented. So here are the types laid out for you to use:

Lions: Like the animal, the lions are the “kings of the jungle.” They are results-driven, “go-getter” types that want things done, finished ASAP. You would be wise to act and work quickly with Lions, and let them feel like they are in control.

Monkeys: The monkeys are fun-loving, fast-paced “people-people.” They are charismatic and love an audience. Treat them like the VIP they believe themselves to be and you will do well with them.

The Owls are analyzers by nature. They love data and sifting through lots of information. They can often be found in professions like accounting and finance. Give them detailed, thorough, accurate information and they will respect you.

The Koalas are lovey-doveys. They are fed by personal, one-on-one interactions and love to be taken care of. Koalas need reassurance and guidance, and are loyal to the end. Give them the feeling that you are on their side and are looking out for them, and they will be yours for life.

So what personality type are you? Let us know at

With over 5,500 active chapters, and over 100,000 members throughout every populated continent worldwide, BNI is the largest and most successful business referral organization in the world. BNI was founded in 1985 by Dr. Ivan Misner and the organization, which allows only one person from each profession to join a chapter, offers members the opportunity to share ideas, contacts, and most importantly, referrals. Last year alone, members of BNI passed 6.2 million referrals, generating 2.6 billion dollars’ worth of business.

For more information on BNI, please visit or call BNI Headquarters at 909.608.7575.

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