Are You Attempting to Influence “Thinkers”? What You Need to Know

By Justin Grensing, Esq., MBA

A couple of weeks ago, we looked at an article in Harvard Business Review written by Gary A. Williams and Robert B. Miller titled “Change the Way You Persuade.” In this article, Williams and Miller discussed five personality types observed among the nation’s executives. Their purpose in writing this article was to give some advice on how to approach pitching ideas to each type of executive, because each has a unique way of analyzing business choices and making decisions. Over the next few weeks, we’ll take a look at each type individually, starting with the thinkers.


According to Williams and Miller, thinkers represented roughly 11 percent of the executives they interviewed. “Thinkers are the most difficult decision makers to understand and consequently the toughest to persuade,” they write. “They are often described as cerebral, intelligent, logical, and academic.”

Thinkers have two primary motivations: anticipating change and winning. They like to outsmart the competition. The authors give several examples of prominent thinkers in the business world at the time of their writing: Michael Dell, Bill Gates, Katherine Graham and Alan Greenspan.


So now that we have an idea of what drives thinkers, how do we go about convincing them of the merits of our great ideas? Williams and Miller suggest that “your best approach is to openly communicate your worries and concerns about your proposal, because thinkers work best when they know the risks up front.”

Furthermore, thinkers love information. They want to know all the facts, both pro and con, so they can make a thorough, analytical decision.


Be very careful when pitching an idea to a thinker. Make sure you are truly confident in your proposal’s soundness and its chances for success, because thinkers will never forget a bad experience and hate making mistakes.

Final Thoughts

Thinkers aren’t quickly persuaded; they are too deliberate and risk-averse. You may need to give them some time and space to make their decision. There are a few buzzwords Williams and Miller suggest you might want to plant in their minds: quality, academic, think, numbers, makes sense, intelligent, plan, expert, competition, and proof.

Do you deal with thinkers in your work? Perhaps you’re a thinker yourself. The more you know about the different types of people you interact with—whether you’re attempting to sell them on your ideas, or persuade them to buy your products and services—the more successful you’re likely to be.

(This contributed post is the first in a series from our colleague, Justin Grensing. Over the next several weeks we’ll be publishing his posts on each of these decision-making types and how you can most effectively influence them. If you are interested in contributing a post to our blog, please let us know.)

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