When people ask me what I do for a living, I usually give the same answer: “I talk to people.”
As a leader of a software company, I spend most of my day communicating, whether it’s giving a pitch to a prospect, convincing a potential employee to join the team or explaining our company’s strategy to my coworkers. My responsibilities are not unique; in fact, if you asked a salesperson, recruiter, manager, or consultant that same question, “what do you do for a living?”, their answer can likely be boiled down to the same thing: talking with people.
While on the surface, “talking with people” is a pretty straightforward job, it has gotten significantly more complex in the last 20 years. On one hand, the rise of social media, smartphones and ubiquitous technology has made it much easier to communicate with anyone. In the past, we may have had to call or mail an actual letter to someone we were interested in doing business with, today, we can send them a message through LinkedIn or email while barely lifting a finger.
This phenomenon has broken down barriers so it is much easier and cheaper to communicate. However, this easy and cheap method of communication has a side effect: we are all getting bombarded with so many messages that we need to ignore most of them.
When you receive multiple, or even dozens of requests for your time each day, the only option is to be incredibly selective with your attention.
Why communication has gotten so hard
Attention is a scarce resource, but there are exponentially more people and companies competing for it. As a result, people can now afford to be more skeptical than ever, and they can choose to only respond to the messages that are extremely relevant and resonate with them.
People who rely on outreach communication for their living are the ones who feel this pain most acutely.
According to sales advisory firm TOPO, it takes an average sales representative 18 calls to connect with one buyer and 4 emails to get one opened. There is simply too much noise. It can be incredibly frustrating to be on the “sending” side of a message when you know that only a tiny percentage of your recipients will ever read your message, much less respond to it.
Unfortunately, the most common way to combat this challenge is to play the numbers game.
Understanding that they will only get responses from a tiny fraction of their prospects,
many salespeople and marketers have adopted a spray and-pray strategy, where they simply blast out generic messages to as big of a list as they can get and wait for a few opportunities to trickle in. It’s impersonal, inefficient, and ultimately risks sending email on a death spiral toward obsolescence.
Is there hope?
While this hyper-connected, hyper-skeptical environment can seem daunting, a new opportunity has opened up to cut through the noise. Only a few salespeople, recruiters, and leaders will take advantage of it though.
We are talking about empathy.
Empathy refers to understanding someone’s motivations, desires and communication style, and using that information to treat them the way they wanted to be treated. Rather than treating people like “just another row on the spreadsheet”, empathy requires a more personalized, nuanced approach to communication.
You can probably recognize this in your own life. How much more likely are you to respond to an email from someone who has taken the time to understand who you are, what you want, why you may want it, and how you like to communicate? When most messages are lifeless, impersonal templates, empathy is a powerful force for differentiation.
In communication, the Golden Rule, treat others as you want to be treated, doesn’t necessarily apply.
We all have our own motivations, goals, and communication preferences, but our recipients may be very different. Instead of assuming they want the same type of email, meeting, or conversation that we do, we can be much more effective by understanding how they want to be treated.
In other words, we need to know about their personality before we can communicate effectively.
Someone’s personality is a complex mixture of their natural tendencies, behaviors, values and past experiences that all influence the way they act today. We learn about each other’s personalities naturally by spending time with each other.
For example, one of my co-workers, Jonathan, is exceptionally detail-oriented and tends to get frustrated if anyone presents a point without backing it up with data. He is highly motivated by accuracy and getting things right. As I have gotten to know Jonathan and work closely with him, I now try to always do some research and have it ready when communicating with him. Now that I understand Jonathan’s personality and motivations, I can communicate in a style that resonates with him and builds trust.
Learning about Jonathan’s personality was relatively easy: he and I interact together every day. It gets a lot harder when we need to communicate with people we don’t know well, like customers, prospects, and potential new employees. These people are the ones faced with hundreds of emails from strangers like me, and are more skeptical than ever in considering to respond. These are the people we need to get through to, but in order to communicate with them effectively with empathy, we need to understand their personalities.
Historically, understanding someone’s personality without meeting them first was nearly impossible. Unless you could ask other people who knew them well, or convince them to take a personality test, you needed to go into the conversation blind. However, a new technology called Personality AI changes the communication game, so you no longer need to fly blind.
What is Personality AI?
Personality AI is a technology that analyzes millions of online data points to identify someone’s personality, before you ever meet them.
At our company, Crystal, we first brought Personality AI to market in 2015. Since then, we have seen both the technology and adoption advance tremendously, as early adopters have used our products for millions of emails, meetings, and phone calls with amazing results that they often refer to as “magic.” The feeling of magic usually happens when our customers click the Crystal button in LinkedIn and immediately see insights about someone’s personality.
While I’d like to claim our team attended Hogwarts, Personality AI is not actually magic.
It’s a convergence of technology, psychology, and personality theory to help us understand how to communicate with anyone effectively.
How AI Works
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a technology that can analyze massive volumes of data to predict potential outcomes. When we make decisions, our brains quickly process all of our past experience and knowledge to help us come to the right conclusion. AI is very similar, but it’s a brain that can be loaded with tremendous amounts of “past experience and knowledge” (i.e. data) to make better decisions. Personality AI, specifically, can be best thought of as a machine that has inputs and outputs.
Personality AI takes multiple types of inputs - text samples, demographic data, real life observations, questionnaire responses - and outputs personality insights.
These insights could tell us, for example, that my coworker Jonathan appreciates research and accuracy, before I ever meet him in person. For most people, the value of Personality AI is in the output. Tools like Crystal provide unprecedented insights to help them communicate more effectively with others, so they make Personality AI a part of their daily meetings, phone calls, and emails.
How To Use Personality AI
At Crystal, our product is powered by Personality AI. It uses a Chrome Extension that adds a “View Personality” button to LinkedIn, Gmail, Salesforce and other popular platforms that you may use before contacting a person. When you click the button, Crystal uses Personality AI to analyze text-samples on the page, combine it with other demographic and collected data, and identify someone’s personality. It looks like this:
With this insightful tool, you can quickly understand someone’s behavior, motivations, and communication style. You use that information to communicate more effectively, write more persuasively, and build trust faster.
Communicate more effectively
The core benefit of a technology like Personality AI is more effective communication and the ability to get through to someone you are trying to reach. Cutting through the noise of today’s high volume of communication continues to be the #1 challenge for professional communicators like us, and other sales people, managers, recruiters, etc. Personality AI ultimately helps us communicate in a deeply personalized way by recognizing everyone’s unique differences.
For example, it can tell us if someone is:
The answers to each of these questions provide fantastic clues on how we can adjust our communication style to resonate with someone’s unique personality. If we know a person appreciates formality and structure, we’re not going to succeed if we call them unscheduled and invite them for coffee. Instead, we’d likely do much better by sending a well-written email asking their permission to send them more information.
Communicating in the right style for someone often means the difference between a “click”, where we both feel as though we “get” each other and want to interact more, or a wall that makes it more difficult for us to build a strong relationship.
Think back to when you’ve felt that “click” with someone in a conversation. Imagine if you could recreate that feeling for every person you speak to or email with.
Write more persuasively
In the professional world, a significant portion of communication happens in writing. Emails and messages are constantly flowing and these communications are easier than ever to send. Your ability to send written communications that actually get read is now a key factor in determining your professional success.
Not all emails are created equal. Because we get so many emails, we are only going to read the ones that truly appeal to us. Everything from the subject line to the length can resonate -- or turn off -- someone based on their preferred communication style.
If you use Personality AI to understand someone’s personality, you can customize your email to:
- Have a subject line that increases open rates
- Be the right length and not lose attention
- Include the right details and social proof
- End with the right call to action that motivates the reader
Once Personality AI has identified someone’s personality, figuring out how to customize an email with each of the points above is as simple as looking in a tool like Crystal.
Build trust faster with new people:
Remember my co-worker, Jonathan? He always responds to my communications because we’ve built trust with each other. I know him, and I purposefully communicate using empathy to connect with his personality. It has taken a long period of time to build trust as we’ve slowly, manually, learned about each other. This is fine for long-term relationships like co-workers, but it isn’t PERSONALITY AI 15 nearly fast enough for prospects, candidates, or customers. We need to build trust fast in order to start a conversation and close a deal. Not surprisingly, the right way to build trust is heavily dependent on someone’s personality. For example:
You likely experience these differences all the time, and subconsciously adjust as you get to know someone. Sometimes, misunderstanding these differences can cause friction in relationships. For example, if you like to share personal details with others, you might initially perceive someone who is more guarded as cold and unfriendly.
Conversely, they may think of personal questions as a violation of their space, and insensitive. Neither person is right or wrong, it’s simply a matter of personality. If I know that someone tends to be more guarded, I can adjust my communication style accordingly when I talk to them and they won’t think I’m violating their space.
We can adjust our communication style accordingly when we talk to them, and they won’t think we’re violating their space.
How to get started
Earlier in my career, my business partner Drew and I hired a Management Coach that helped teach us the basics of communicating with others based on personality. He would help explain complex situations with co-workers and board members so we could understand their unique motivations. Whenever we found ourselves in a tricky communication situation alone, we’d wish that we could just turn to him and get advice for how to respond.
Tools powered by Personality AI, like Crystal, become your coach for every conversation, helping you avoid communication mishaps and make a great first impression with anyone.
Using the insights gathered, you can understand anyone’s personality and use the insights you learn to break through the noise and resonate with anyone when communicating.
By using empathy to communicate with others in the way they want, you’ll be more successful in every professional endeavor, from closing more deals to hiring the right people for your team.