The Architect Personality
Author: Kenya Gibson, Epiphany Studio
The Architect Personality: Using Myers Briggs to Generate Sales
Many moons ago, the summer after my first year in graduate school, I interned in the Seattle office of a large multinational architectural firm. It was an amazing first gig. I got to try my hand at everything, from blue sky concepts to final details. I was learning the profession from a brilliant group of folks doing exactly the kind of projects I wanted to do. I was with my people. Only, just as it had been in grad school, I didn’t quite fit in.
A few weeks into my internship, everyone on the team completed the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). I completed it joyfully because if there’s one thing I love in this world, it’s a personality test. A few days later, we went on a daylong retreat with a consultant who gave us our results. He asked the group of 30 or so professionals, “Who here is INTJ? That’s introverted, intuitive, thinking, judging” About three-quarters of my colleagues raised their hands. “OK. Who is ENTJ? This person is the extrovert and often the commander of the group.” And there I was. The intern. The sole person with her hand in the air.
The INTJ Architect
For those of you who aren’t personality test aficionados like me and haven’t gone through the MBTI, Myers-Briggs assigns individuals to one of sixteen personality types based on a self-assessment of preferences:
Extroverted (E) or Introverted (I)
Are you outwardly or inwardly focused?
Sensing (S) or Intuitive (N)
Do you focus on the facts or lean toward ideas and concepts?
Thinking (T) or Feeling (F)
Do you make decisions through logical reasoning or base them on personal values?
Judging (J) or Perceiving (P)
Do you prefer to have matters settled and clear or leave options open?
Is it a bit of pseudoscience? Sure. And of course, no personality test is without generalizations that glaze over distinct nuances that make us all individuals. All the same, they do capture common threads that those who share a personality type can relate to.
It’s worth noting that INTJ, which is actually referred to as “The Architect”, is one of the rarest personality types. This may explain why my introverted peers often feel misunderstood by clients and consultants and the like in their day to day work.
The Architect is brilliant, ambitious, and can be a workaholic. And yes, the vast majority of architects are introverts. They get their energy from going within; they value solitude and order. This is a very important distinction to appreciate—social interaction can drain their energy.
The Person Behind the Specification
With that understanding in mind, let’s now pivot to our world where architects are our customers. And let’s get real — we know you love your customers, but we’ve heard more than a few manufacturers describe them as picky perfectionists too. We get it. Most manufacturers have an engineering mindset focused on product performance. Coming from that perspective, it’s unfathomable why your competitor’s product was picked when yours is cheaper and seemingly identical. It’s hard to understand how a sample box or a spec sheet could make a significant difference in product selection. These are all red herrings, because it’s not about the price, the box, or the pdf — it’s about communicating to your prospect in the way they want to be communicated to.
We know that architects specify hundreds of billions of dollars worth of materials annually. So understandably, building material and architectural product manufacturers spend a lot of time and money trying to become their go-to product of choice.
That said, the specification journey is complex — there are always places where materials can be substituted or replaced. We’ve spoken with countless owners, builders, installers, and dealers to find out why a spec is replaced and by whom. Our quest is to determine how to bulletproof the process for our clients, so they don’t lose hard-earned sales. What we hear again and again is that when an architect really wants something, they defend the specification and make sure it’s installed.
So you see, it’s not just enough to sell to an architect; you must inspire them to go to bat and defend their choices. To do so, you must understand who they are.
Leveraging Personality Insights to Generate Sales
This fact probably won’t surprise you; while architects are typically introverts, sales reps are often extroverts. Extroverted professionals gravitate toward working in sales because they get energy from other people. This dichotomy is exactly why architects seem to disappear when a sales rep walks through the door. And it begs the question: how can a manufacturer sell to someone who is trying to avoid them?
It’s simple. Stop selling.
Seriously. It isn’t going to work anyway, so just stop. Rather than approaching them weaponized with a shiny new product in hand, pull up a chair and take a seat beside them to help them solve problems. The value of a manufacturer’s sales rep is in the expertise they possess. The best sales leaders have a vast knowledge of the product category beyond the SKUs in their catalog. They’re a go-to source to answer complex questions. They take time to gather useful tools and information. A knowledgeable rep can be the difference between a successful project or a costly failure.
Architects are smart. Their mindset is at the intersection of science and art. They have an analytical thought process and value a unique combination of data, facts, and aesthetics. They ask very detailed questions and want supporting documentation to chew on. It’s important to note that this type of person is going to do their research on you as well. Their decision-making process is methodical. They take their time weighing options and your product is just one of many. The benefit of becoming a preferred product for an architect is that once they have made their decision and gotten buy-in, they will be very loyal and specify it again and again.
In conversation and in the materials you share, you will speak their language if you appreciate that their desire for order is beyond just preference — it provides necessary assurance. This is where that well-designed sample box and spec sheet come into play. If the information isn’t presented in a way that is clear and complete, it feels chaotic and shoddy. It conveys the message that the manufacturer doesn’t know what they’re doing and it casts the product in a poor light. Know what information they care about and leave out the rest. Most architects are minimalists at heart, so less is more.
Lastly, we want to leave you with a boost of confidence. Don’t confuse an architect's disinterest in small talk with disinterest in what you can offer. If the rapport isn’t there right off the bat, don’t lose hope. They are listening to every word and checking every data point that is being conveyed. Going from specification to installation is a long sales cycle and the personality of an architect is one of a decision-maker that will not be rushed.
Epihany Studio is a marketing agency for architectural product companies. We get building materials and architectural products specified by creating brands that architects and designers love and defend. Our business is built on understanding how specifiers think. For more information visit: www.epiphany-studio.com
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