3.4.  The Social Style Matrix

Understanding the social style matrix provides insight to adaptive selling as you adjust your communications to meet the social style of your customer. What makes people so different in their style, perceptions, and approaches to things is defined in the social style matrix.  The social style matrix is based on patterns of communication behavior identified by David Merrill and Roger Reid back in 1999. It plots social behavior based on two dimensions: assertiveness and responsiveness. In the matrix below, the axis is assertiveness, which indicates the degree to which a person wants to dominate or want something from someone else (control the conversation or insist on a sale for example). The axis represents responsiveness, which is how a person responds to requests or demands (how quickly you follow-up, for example) and is considered the sociability axis (Social styles, 2020).

In Figure 3.1, the Social Style Matrix, you can see the four quadrants; each quadrant represents one of four social styles: analytical, driver, amiable, and expressive (The Social Style model, 2020).


Social Style Matrix
Figure 3.2: Social Style Matrix, Todd Duncan, “Your Sales Style,” Incentive, December 1, 1999, 64–66. [Image Description]

Each of the social styles has specific characteristics that are important to keep in mind as you prepare and present your sales presentation.  The model “demonstrates that each of the four SOCIAL STYLES has positives and negatives associated with their behavior.  Versatility is the true power of SOCIAL STYLE.  It is the ability to leverage the strengths of your own Style while recognizing and responding effectively to others’ unique Styles.  It allows you to create meaningful and productive relationships with people of any Style whether they’re like you or not” (The Social Style model, 2020).

Analyticals: They Want to Know “How”

Do you know someone who only wants the facts to make a decision? Perhaps it is your father or mother or a professor. Analyticals are all about the facts. They are defined by low responsiveness and low assertiveness. In other words, they like to hear about the pros and cons and all the details before they decide.  They want to hear about the tangible results, timelines, and details before they make a decision. In fact, they are the ones who will actually read the directions before they put together a new grill or set up a wireless home network.  People with an Analytical Style are typically described by others as quiet, logical and sometimes reserved or cautious (The Social Style model, 2020). You might have some visual cues that will help you identify an analytical. They probably dress conservatively and have their achievement awards proudly displayed on their office wall. They are organized and focused on work activities (Weitz, Castleberry, & Tanner, 2009).

If you are selling to a customer who is an analytical, they will ask you very specific questions about all the details, and they will respond positively if you make them feel as if they are is right. In other words, do not challenge their facts and point of view. Rather, provide history, data, financial details, and other facts in an organized, structured format. They will ask many questions so that they clearly understands the product or service. Since it is important for them to make the right decision, they will take the time to gather all the facts.  Because they put so much effort into making the right decision, they tend to be loyal to the people from whom they buy, believing they do not need to reevaluate the same facts.

Adapt your style to an analytical by focusing on the “how.” Slow down your presentation and let them take it all in; do not make them feel rushed. Use facts, historical data, and details to be sure they have all the information they need to make the decision. Use guarantees or warranties to reduce any perceived risk.

Drivers: They Want to Know “What”

You’ve probably watched Super Bowl champion Peyton Manning, quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts play football on television or the Internet. One of the traits that makes him a champion is the fact that he is focused exclusively on winning each game. When he is on the field, everything else is in second place in his mind. Peyton Manning is a driver.

Drivers have some characteristics that are the same as analyticals in that they like to have all the facts to make their decision. However, drivers are different from analyticals because they make decisions quickly. On the social style matrix, they are in the low responsiveness, high assertiveness quadrant.  “People with a Driving Style are seen by others as direct, active, forceful and determined.  They initiate social interaction and they focus their efforts and the efforts of others on the goals and objectives they wish to get accomplished” (The Social Style model, 2020, para 6). They have little regard for the opinions of others; a driver is rarely described as a “people person. Unlike analyticals, they don’t want facts just for the sake of having them; they want relevant information that will help them decide quickly.

Like the analyticals, drivers dress conservatively and display their achievement awards on the wall of their office. A calendar is usually prominent to keep focus on how long it will take to achieve something.

The best way to adapt to a driver is to be professional and to the point. Do not spend too much time on small talk; get to the point quickly. Provide options so that they can feel as if they are in control. Include a timeline so they can see how quickly they can get results.

Amiables: They Want to Know “Why”

Actress Reese Witherspoon was named the Honorary Chairperson of the Avon Foundation for Women because of her ability to unite women around the cause of breast cancer (Avon Foundation for women, 2009).  She rallies people and brings them together by focusing on the greater good, but she does not assert herself. She is an amiable.

“People with an Amiable Style openly display their feelings to others. They appear less demanding and generally more agreeable than others do. They are interested in achieving a rapport with others who often describe them as informal, casual and easy going” (The Social Style model, 2020, para 4).  An amiable is most likely to be described as a “people person.”  Amiables are team players who focus on innovation and long-term problem solving. They are less controlling than drivers and more people oriented than analyticals because they are in the low assertiveness, high responsiveness quadrant of the matrix.

Amiables provide some visual clues because their offices are typically open and friendly. They often display pictures of family, and they prefer to work in an open environment rather than sitting across the

desk from you. They tend to have a personal style in their dress, being casual or less conservative than analytics or drivers (Barton, Weitz, & Tanner, 2009).  When you are presenting to an amiable, establish a personal relationship. They will be more likely to discuss issues with you. When you demonstrate your personal commitment, they will be open to doing business with you.

Expressives: They Want to Know “Who”

An expressive is intuitive, charismatic, persuasive, nurturing, and engaging. Oprah Winfrey is an expressive; she has excellent rapport with people, even people she has never met. Relationships are important to her, but only to help her achieve her higher goal of giving her viewers inspiration and a better way to live their lives.

Expressives are creative and can see the big picture clearly; they have a vision and use their style to communicate it and inspire people. They are not caught up in the day-to-day details. “People with an Expressive Style tend to be more willing to make their feelings known to others. They can appear to react impulsively and openly show both positive and negative feelings. They are typically described by others as personable, talkative and sometimes opinionated.” (The social style matrix, 2020, para 3). Expressives build relationships to gain power, so people like employees, viewers, or voters are very important to them as well as status and recognition.

Since expressives are not big on details, you might find their offices to be a bit disorganized, even cluttered and messy. Their offices are set up in an open format, as they would prefer to sit next to you rather than across the desk from you. They avoid conservative dress and are more casual with their personal style.

When you are selling to an expressive, take extra time to discuss everything. Give them recognition and approval. Appeal to their emotions by asking them how they feel about the product or service; focus on the big picture of what is possible because of buying your product or service. If you try to dazzle them with data, you will not get very far.

Selling Style Summary

How to adapt to each social style you may be selling to:


  • Focuses on tasks more than people
  • Likes to be right and will take time to ensure this
  • Thoughtful, careful fact-oriented and precise
  • Good at objective evaluation and problem-solving
  • Likes organization and structure
  • Avoids group work, preferring to work alone
  • Can be over-critical and unresponsive
  • Cautious in decision-making
  • When stressed may withdraw or become headstrong


  • Make them feel as if they are in control
  • Competitive and needs to win
  • Seeks control and being in charge
  • Fast-acting
  • Plans carefully
  • Decisive
  • Results-oriented
  • Task-focused
  • Dislikes inefficiency and indecision
  • Can be impatient and insensitive


  • Friendly and relates well to others
  • Good at listening and teamwork
  • Wants to be respected, liked and approved of
  • Dislikes of conflict and risk-taking
  • Seeks security and like organized workplaces
  • Slow decision-making
  • Prefers to be told what to do than to lead
  • Fears change and uncertainty
  • When stressed may become indecisive and submissive


  • Intuitive
  • Creative
  • Outgoing and enthusiastic
  • Spontaneous and fun-loving
  • Interacts well with others at work
  • Good at persuading and motivating
  • Fears being ignored or rejected
  • Like to be acknowledged
  • Dislikes routine and complexity
  • Tendency to generalize and exaggerate
  • When stressed may get sarcastic and unkind
Source: Social Styles (2020). Changing minds.org.

Image Description

Figure 3.2 Image Description: Social Style Matrix is a square diagram divided into four equal parts (quadrants).  The quadrant on the top left says “Analyticals, They want to know ‘How'”.  The quadrant on the top right says “Drivers, They want to know ‘What'”.  The quadrant on the bottom left says “Amiables, They want to know ‘Why'”.  And the quadrant on the bottom right says “Expressives, They want to know ‘Who'”.

Between Analyticals and Drivers, on the top, is the label Low responsiveness.

Between Drivers and Expressives, on the right side, is the label High assertiveness.

Between Expressives and Amiables, on the bottom, is the label High responsiveness.

Between Amiables and Analyticals, on the left side, is the label Low assertiveness.

[Return to Figure 3.2]


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