I got a LinkedIn message from a colleague recently about helping their younger brother get into sales.
I replied, “Why do you think that he’d be good in sales?” Here’s the response:
“He will literally talk to anyone. He’s the type of person that you bring to a party and he immediately can strike up a conversation about anything. Plus, he’s very money motivated and wants to retire by the time he’s 50. I told him sales is the perfect spot for him and I thought of you!”
So much to unpack here. I’ll stay focused though and start with the first sentence because it’s time to put this to rest for good. When most people hear the word “sales person” they associate most with the following list:
- Fun, charming and entertaining.
- Display impressive knowledge or skill at something.
- Incredibly social, can talk to anyone.
- Have primal perception, they know what you’re thinking before you do.
- Display infectious confidence. Believe they’re better than everyone.
- Crave a good reputation. Defend their reputation before it becomes questioned.
- Crave status and power via possessions and money.
- Have delusions of fame and importance.
- Mimic authentic emotions and sincerity.
- Believe what they do benefits everyone despite the outcome.
The list above is taken from a quick google search on characteristics of a con artist. Sales is really the art of influence and assistance where is a con artist is all about manipulation and forcing decisions that benefit only them. Now don’t get discouraged if you are a con artist out there, they can get pretty far themselves, even the highest office in our country. As much as movies and documentaries end up glorifying people like this and putting Leo in the lead role, it’s really the worst personality trait I can every think of and it drives me crazy that people associate my profession with these characteristics.
The key to being successful in sales is to truly understand what drives your customers and how you could help them fulfill those needs. More importantly, exhibit behavior that is commonly associated with introverts, who also can hold the highest office in our country.
Why Introverts Make Awesome Salespeople
Introverts focus inward as opposed to extroverts, who attend to people and things outside themselves. Introverts think before they act. Conversely, extroverts tend to act spontaneously, without thinking. Great salespeople that happen to be introverted will calculate the line of their plan for the quarter / year and know the challenges they will face and what skills they need to push through those challenges. The introverted salesperson will rely on the confidence and strength within themselves to make decisions to negotiate and react to what’s happening outside their control. These are strengths introverts possess, among others.
When someone asks me what I look for in good sales hires, I tend to focus on qualities that make up an introvert at heart. Introverted salespeople tend to:
Immerse themselves into what they sell and who they sell to
Introverts know what they have on a deep level and when they don’t they spend countless hours closing that gap with as much knowledge as they can. When you begin speaking to an introverted salesperson, she will be scanning their knowledge to judge whether or not they can help you. Before they even begin to talk to you about what they have, they will determine if you are a good prospect to spend time with. They understand it takes more than a pulse and a wallet to make a good sale. They qualify opportunities very well and understand that because they need to immerse themselves into their buyer’s perspective, they can’t spend that time on every prospect that enters their funnel.
They Read the Room
I’ve been impressed with sales people that were able to “wing” a situation but I’ve never seen anyone “wing it” in a sophisticated sales cycle. The best of the best know exactly what they should say in any given situation and know who will most likely throw them a curveball during a meeting. They study customer reactions to certain phrases and adjust their vocabulary accordingly and mention phrases like “reading the room” for body language when presenting face to face. They read a lot of material on how to become better in their profession and are relentlessly trying to improve themselves. Lastly, they realize they will likely only get one shot to present their product, so they make it count.
Think about the LTV of their Customers
Many extroverts will have dozens of casual friendships. They can go anywhere and meet people they know, hang out with them for a few hours, then head home. It’s easy to make connections, but because they are connected to so many people, it’s difficult to develop deep relationships. When it comes to sales, this leads to many short-term successes with angry customers on the back-end.
Introverts tend to have fewer, but deeper relationships with their customers. They really want to get to know the customer and help them over time. They aren’t looking for a single sale to get a bonus; they’re building a list of clients they can service for years, which creates a constant stream of referrals and repeat business. This is the long tail approach to sales and is typically found in an enterprise sale. It takes longer to build this type of sales cycle, but it’s the only way to create long-term success so it only makes sense in enterprise sales. If you work in a high velocity sales model you can get away with the alternative approach and it typically lends itself very well to extroverts – because the deal value is lower, so are the expectations. So if you let a prospect down, it’s doesn’t get them fired. In Enterprise, this can follow you around wherever you go so that if you work with enough companies that have shitty products you should think about making changes to your vertical market you sell into.
The Best are Introverts and Extroverts
There are sales jobs for the talkative, loud, constantly laughing guy that is the “born salesman” but it’s not in the industry of selling sophisticated, enterprise grade products or services. It’s the quiet, introspective, hard-working person that will know how to “turn it on” when needed but spends most of their energy plotting and preparing for the chances they can win at that will win the large, enterprise deals. But it’s not enough to be great.
Let’s be honest, the ability to approach people is crucial in sales as is the capacity to handle rejection. These are both two main pillars of an extrovert and very important in sales as well. The ideal salesperson is an extrovert who learns how to be an introvert or an introvert who embraces the skills needed to be an extrovert. The difference tends to be that introverts will often work hard to develop the extrovert’s skills, while the extroverts will continue to try to get by on their natural charms.
As an extrovert, you can still be a top performer in your field; simply take the best qualities of introverts and pull them into your sales style. Don’t let ego get in your way of you mastering your craft.