Does the stereotype of the natural, extroverted salesperson still hold true today, or can introverts be good at sales?
Being good at sales requires working to your introverted strengths such as listening, research, and relationship building, not copying extroverted behaviour. Research shows that neither introverts or extroverts are more naturally successful at sales. There has never been a better time for introverts to excel in sales.
Technology and buyer attitudes have changed the game. The thick-skinned, door-knocking, cold-calling salesperson of the last century is becoming less effective and less relevant.
It is not only possible for introverts to successfully sell in today’s market, but to do so in a way that is true to your nature and personality. In a way that maintains your energy by staying in your strength and comfort zones.
The days of trying to act extroverted to survive in sales are thankfully over.
What Science Says about Introverts vs Extroverts in Sales
The science is in and the stereotype that extroverts are naturally better at sales does not stand up. A number of studies have shown that there is no real link between extroversion and sales performance.
After analyzing these studies, Wharton School of Management professor Adam Grant, carried out his own research. It turns out that ambiverts, those who can balance the talents and skills of both sides perform better in sales.
The study found:
- Ambiverts earned more per hour than extroverts or introverts
- Ambiverts produced more revenue than extroverts or introverts
What does this mean for successful selling for introverts?
It means that introverts can use their strengths such as listening, researching, and relationship building to succeed in sales. You will need to stretch yourself at times, but you can function largely in your introvert strengths and be good at sales.
How Selling Can Affect Your Energy as an Introvert
Extroverts gain energy by interacting with people, while introverts need to recharge through solitude or reflection. An introvert can have a great time socializing but still feel drained afterwards and need alone time.
Introverts and extroverts differ in how much outside stimulation they are comfortable with. Introverts function better with a lower amount of people, noise, tasks or distractions. An introvert typically prefers to concentrate deeply on one thing, while extroverts are better at multitasking.
Understanding that you lose or gain energy through your interactions with people or the environment is important. Add to this the thought of constantly working outside your strengths or comfort zone (by following extroverted sales advice) and it’s clear why you have struggled in sales previously.
Why Now is the Best Time Ever for Sales for Introverts
The internet has fundamentally changed the role of the salesperson and how people want to be sold and marketed to. The “olden days” of having to cold call prospects in person or via the phone is now irrelevant – and so are the extroverted traits needed for this.
In the evolution of sales, the power is now with the customer.
In the old model, the salesperson controlled the information and the customer had to engage with them to become informed. In the new model, the consumer has all the information via the internet and therefore the power.
People today, especially those who grew up with the internet, don’t want to be cold called or pitched. Think of your own example, do you answer the phone when you don’t recognize the number?
Today’s consumer will enter into a conversation with a salesperson when they are ready and armed with information. They don’t want to be persuaded, cajoled or pressured – they are looking for a trusted advisor.
In sales terms, becoming that trusted advisor is called Consultative Selling. In essence, it is based around learning about a customer’s needs, challenges and objectives before offering a solution (or your product).
This model of selling has been increasingly taught and adopted by professional sales associations in the past couple of decades. It allows introverts to sell in a way that is comfortable to our personalities.
Why Your Introvert Strengths Make You Good at Sales
Much of the “used car salesman” stereotype around sales that scared off introverts (and others) was all about pushing through, pressuring and wearing rejection as a badge of honour. In a consultative, trusted advisor model, you can focus on customers who are pre-interested and put your introvert strengths to work for you.
1. Introvert Sales Strength: Research
Introverts have a preference to delve into a topic and gain a deeper understanding of it. This deep knowledge means you can position yourself as a subject matter expert to help guide prospects.
Researching the customer to truly understand their problems and needs will set you apart from other salespeople. If you really understand your customer you can problem-solve ahead of time and plot a path for your sales conversation, rather than being reactional.
This gives you the ability to offer real solutions rather than trying to wedge your product into whatever problem they raise in the moment.
2. Introvert Sales Strength: Listening
Everyone wants to feel like they are listened to. A chief complaint against the old-school sales stereotype is being talked over or feeling dismissed as they “overcome” objections and “push” for the sale.
If you’ve ever been told you’re too quiet, the flipside is that you are likely a good listener. Those listening (and question asking) skills will give you unique insights into a prospect’s needs and how to guide them to a decision.
Coupled with your research skills, you will be positioned to understand your customers on a deep level and build trust and rapport.
3. Introvert Sales Strength: Relationship Building
The stereotype that introverts don’t like people or don’t have friends is false. Introverts tend to build fewer, but deeper relationships.
With your research and listening strengths, you are positioned to build a great relationship. Becoming a trusted advisor who puts the customer first (over your sales targets) will enable you to build mutually beneficial relationships that will last for years (and many sales cycles)
For an introverted salesperson who only has limited reserves of energy for people, this can translate to fewer but more important relationships. Using technology and strategy to reach and engage with the “right people” will be important to your sales success.
Sales Techniques for Introverts – Working with Humans
Now that you have an idea of the areas in which you can excel as an introverted salesperson, let’s look at some specific techniques to build and maintain relationships.
That’s right, it’s time to actually talk to some humans!
One reason introverts struggle with small talk is that we strongly prefer deeper or meaningful conversations than surface talk. This can present a problem during longer sales cycles – how do you remain top of mind without pestering your prospect?
The gamechanger for me personally, was shifting from a mindset of being pushy or asking for something to one of offering value.
Rather than painful emails or calls where you are “just following up” your research skills can be used to share valuable industry news or trends. If you can time this with changes or opportunities within your prospect’s world you are truly filling that trusted advisor role and showing you are in their corner.
Using Silence as your Ally
A definite advantage for extroverts in sales is their willingness to take risks and to ask for the sale. This area can tie an introvert in knots but is essential to closing the sale.
The irony is that the only time an introverted salesperson might talk too much is when we are nervous about asking for the sale. Personally, I’ve found in these situations I used to babble or ask unnecessary questions to avoid risking rejection when the prospect is actually ready to go.
Common wisdom amongst negotiation experts is that “she who speaks first, loses.” In a sales conversation, this is exactly after you have asked for the sale or stated your price.
At this point, shut up.
You have answered their questions, explored their challenges, and proposed solutions. It’s time to back yourself and keep quiet so the prospect can think things through.
Using Sales Scripts
Trying to completely conduct meetings using scripts would be inauthentic. However, figuring out what works best and doing more of it just makes sense.
If you are not blessed with the gift of the gab, it may pay to script out certain key moments of the conversation, such as asking for the sale, or answers to important questions.
For example, here are a couple of low-pressure closes:
“Based on what we have discussed today, does it make sense to work together?”
“Great. What do you think the next step is?”
If you truly believe in your product or service you owe it to yourself to put some thought into how you want to communicate it. If you are struggling to come up with a script, a great source of information is to go back to customers and ask them why they decided to work with you.
Showing Emotion and Enthusiasm
A calm and collected demeanor can build help build confidence with prospects. No one wants to work with someone who gets flustered or easily overwhelmed.
Sometimes, however, people need to see some enthusiasm or emotion about what you’re selling. Opening up this side of ourselves can be a hard part of selling for introverts but it is important to meet the needs of the customer.
One way to tap into your enthusiasm is to talk about why you believe in your product or service. It may be that you had a problem you couldn’t overcome until you discovered (or invented) what you now sell.
Another way is to get invested in your client’s success. If you have followed the consultative sales process you should have a good understanding of their problems. It is okay to show that you care about helping them solve these issues.
Communication Styles in Sales
Any sales training, and many other corporate ones, will include some sort of model on how different people communicate. An accomplished salesperson can determine what kind of communicator they are dealing with and adjust their style to match.
It doesn’t matter how compelling your material is if the communication style doesn’t resonate with the receiver. The most compelling data isn’t going to convince someone who is more expressive or emotive and communicates through personal stories.
The different communication/personality assessments include DiSC, Myers Briggs, Colours, Communication Styles, etc. If you don’t have the time or capacity to intimately learn one of these models, you can simplify things by just listening to how the other person communicates and the questions they ask.
- Do they tell stories to illustrate their points?
- Do they request hard data on your results?
- Do they bull past the small talk and just want the bottom line?
- Do they want to know about other people’s experiences with your product?
Use these clues to meet people where they are at and watch as your messages are received loud and clear.
If you have avoided or struggled in sales until now, I hope this article has given you some ideas, and some hope that introverts can be good at sales.
The landscape for introverts in sales has shifted from the niche of the inside sales/technical expert to a world of opportunities thanks to changing technology and attitudes. It is no longer a case of introverts trying to survive in sales and is an industry where we can thrive through our strengths and by being true to our nature.