Edition 19

Personality Traits of B2B Decision Makers

18th January 2010 By Adrian Furnham 1 comment

When we want to get inside our prospective and current customers’ heads, we can be on the lookout for five traits that help build context.

The following article, entitled “Square Holes for Square Pegs,” written by Professor Adrian Furnham, looks at the “Big Five” Model of Personality and makes sound arguments for personality assessment, or success profiling. Consider how you can unearth these traits based on their responses to questionnaires, click path content selections or sales interviews … and you will be a lot closer to moving that prospect toward a sale.

The Big Five Model of Personality:

According to the “Big Five” model of personality, the most important dimensions of people’s personality in the workplace are:

1. Introversion/Extraversion
2. Agreeableness
3. Openness
4. Natural Reactions
5. Conscientiousness

Some people are talkative, sociable, and socially self-confident.

They like other people and tend to be socio-centers. They are comfortable in groups and teams and enjoy intensive and extensive people contact. Others are quiet, retiring, and apparently shy. They prefer to work alone and have a much lower need for social contact of all kinds. This, of course, is introversion-extraversion.The salient question here is about social contact at work: with colleagues and total strangers (i.e. customers). People can be excited, enlivened and energized by social contact, or frightened and exhausted by it.


Next, some people tend to be sunny, cheerful, warm and empathic while others are dour, unsympathetic, and grumpy. This is about being hard or softhearted. It’s about sensitivity to and interest in the feelings of others. This dimension is called agreeableness. However agreeableness can be a handicap when agreeable managers have to deal with recalcitrant, difficult and disagreeable staff. Their natural warmth and kindness may prevent them from ”kickin’ ass” as frequently as they should.


Third, some people are curious, imaginative and artistic, while others are practical and focused. This dimension is called openness to experience. The more open people are, the more prone to boredom they are. They think outside the box too much.

Natural Reactions:

Some people are calm, contented and placid. They are stable under fire, resilient and emotionally robust. Others are easily upset, tense, anxious, moody and highly-strung. It is, in short, the ability to handle pressure and stress. We call this Natural Reactions. Most jobs have some sources of stress. Tight deadlines. Disgruntled customers. Competing demands. Indolent staff. Tough performance standards. At the extreme, people who can’t handle stress cave-in with psychosomatic illness, depression or erratic behavior. They can be a menace to themselves, their colleagues and the business.


And finally, there is conscientiousness, the work ethic, diligence, and prudence. Some people are hard working, self-disciplined and well organized. Others are (alas) disorganized, easily distracted and undependable. Conscientious people have self-discipline, drive and a sense of direction. They stay on and come in when required over and above what it says in their contract. They just need a direction and an appropriate reward.

About the author: Adrian Furnham

Adrian Furnham was educated at the London School of Economics where he obtained a distinction in an MSc Econ., and at Oxford University where he completed a doctorate (D.Phil) in 1981. He has subsequently earned a D.Sc (1991) and D.Litt (1995) degree. Previously a lecturer in Psychology at Pembroke College, Oxford, he has been Professor of Psychology at University College London since 1992..


He has lectured widely abroad and held scholarships and visiting professorships at, amongst others, the University of New South Wales, the University of the West Indies, the University of Hong Kong and the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

He has also been a Visiting Professor of Management at Henley Management College. He has recently been made Adjunct Professor of Management at the Norwegian School of Management (2009).

Adrian is available for speeches and lectures on the following topics:


  • Managing in Turbulent Times

  • Management Incompetence: Why managers fail and derail

  • Motivation in the workplace

  • The work place of the future: work in 2020

  • The psychology of decision making

  • Team building and analysis

To find out more go to: http://adrianfurnham.com 


Bookmark and Share

One Response to “Personality Traits of B2B Decision Makers”

  1. Werner Kassebaum says:

    Hi - I want to say thank you for an interesting post about a subject I have had an interest in for a while now. I have been lurking and reading the posts avidly so just wanted to express my gratitude for providing me with some very good reading material. I look forward to more, and taking a more proactive part in the discussions here, whilst picking up some knowledge too!!

Leave a Reply

Anti-Spam Quiz:

  • Published by TeleFaction

    Want to know how Return on Behavior can help your business?
  • Tag Cloud