How to succeed as an introvert in sales
Are you familiar with Snapple Facts? They’re the little bite-sized factoids on the underside of Snapple caps. Generally, they’re amusing and contain something worthy of dinner party fodder. For example, a favorite of mine is, “the first spam message was transmitted over telegraph wires in 1864.”
Since Snapple Facts are essentially meant for entertainment (they aren’t breaking the Watergate scandal or anything) most of us just assume they’re true. I mean, they did go through the trouble of printing it on a cap, so it must be, right? Well, according to a number of articles, a lot of the time, no, they aren’t.
Learning that Snapple Facts aren’t always factual, isn’t particularly alarming (it’s actually kind of hilarious). We all have plenty of things we think true that actually aren’t. Misconceptions. In sales, there tend to be a few. Though, they aren’t supplied by Snapple.
Updating the narrative
One common misconception in sales is in order to be a successful salesperson you have to be extroverted. We’re regularly shown salespeople who can strike up a conversation with anyone. Someone who puts together a brilliant pitch on the fly and closes deals with their other-worldly charm.
However, according to research, introverts and extroverts perform almost identically. So, why do we regularly assume an extrovert will have more success? Perhaps it’s like a Snapple Fact: we were told something and just assumed it was true. However, unlike Snapple Facts, if we perpetuate the idea it could have long-term negative impacts.
In this article I cover the true difference between introversion and extroversion and how introverts can use their unique skills to succeed in sales.
The true difference between introverts and extroverts
Continuing the theme of misconceptions, one very common one is what makes someone an extrovert or introvert. It’s pretty common to associate each, more or less, with how outgoing someone is. If they’re the life of the party, they’re an extrovert. If they’re shy and reserved, they’re an introvert. Case closed.
Though those characteristics can be correct, they’re not actually what dictates whether someone is extroverted or introverted. The real test is where they get their energy from. Let me explain.
For an extrovert, they’re energized being around lots of people. Going to things like conferences and other group events fuel them. On the other hand, introverts get their energy from having alone time, or the company of one or two other people. Though they may enjoy being around groups of people, it’s taxing on them and they need solitude to recharge.
Another thing to note is that introversion and extroversion exist on a continuum. Most of us may lean more one way than another, but probably have traits of both. There’s even a term for those who fall smack in the middle: ambiverts.
Succeeding in sales as an introvert
To be completely candid, there are some challenges to being an introverted salesperson. Some routine tasks like cold-calling, or striking up small talk at a sales booth, are taxing for someone who’s an introvert.
However, that’s just one side of the coin. There are other traits that introverts have that are clear advantages when selling. In order to succeed in sales as an introvert, it really comes down to leaning into those advantages while being mindful of potential struggles.
1. Lead with soft skills
As mentioned above, there are a number of skills introverts possess that are beneficial to being a salesperson. Most of those fall into the “soft skills” category. Some examples of soft skills are communication, critical thinking, problem solving, and teamwork.
All the above traits are critical to being an effective salesperson. So, as an introvert, it serves you best to focus your energy on those areas. For example, you may decide it’s best for you to heavily research a few clients and put together a very thought-out pitch. As opposed to doing a bunch of cold-calls, which may be more palatable to an extrovert.
Having fewer clients also means you have more of an opportunity to develop deeper bonds with those clients, which is another strength introverts have. Deeper bonds means longer-term clients and also possible referrals, so it’s a win-win.
2. Don’t overexert yourself
The first day back from taking vacation is always a weird one. You immediately go from being relaxed to being taxed. All the emails and Slack messages to get through. Not to mention the projects you forgot about or a deadline that’s way closer than you thought.
Personally, I try to take on every task possible that first day back and, without fail, every time it’s a mistake. I end up burning myself out for the week in one day. The same can happen for those who are introverts in sales.
As mentioned, there are some routine things that will take more energy and will for you than for your extroverted counterparts. So, you need to be aware of those things and manage them wisely.
For example, if cold calling is a part of your job, try to identify the part of your day where you naturally have the most energy. Also, be sure to take regular breaks and have mini recharge sessions. It could mean taking a quick stroll, or reading a few pages of a book. Whatever helps get your energy back up.
By properly managing your energy, you’ll be more present and better able to contribute in those situations that are a little more of a challenge. So, stay mindful of those tasks and do your best to manage them effectively.
3. Choose your industry (and company) wisely
Not all sales jobs are the same. For example, how someone goes about selling a car is vastly different than how someone goes about selling software to a company on a recurring basis.
It’s not to say that one is harder, or easier than the other, but each requires a slightly different skill set and is probably more suited to different personality types. For introverts it’s paramount that they choose not only the industry they work in wisely, but also the position, and employer they choose to work for.
Consider industries where the sales cycle is longer and you’ll potentially do fewer deals and develop deeper relationships with prospects. Things like enterprise software sales could be a good route to go. Those positions allow introverts to lean more on their strengths like research and relationship building.
Also, when looking at companies to work for, keep an eye out for phrasing where they talk about “consultative selling.” That can be a signal that they’re more interested in relationship building and not just a quick sale. When you’re interviewing with a company, be sure to ask questions about team culture and get other insights on their selling philosophy.
As for industries, or companies, to avoid as an introvert, really any place where it’s high-volume sales. In those positions you usually need to do more activities like cold-calling and working a sales booth (whenever that’s actually a thing again). Also, if you find a company has a particularly “high-octane” sales culture, it might not be the right fit for you as an introvert.
There are plenty of misconceptions in life. Some harmless, and others that can have more impact. As an introvert, you may have been told, or perceived, there isn’t a place in sales for you, but that’s simply not true.
Just like most things , your success in sales as an introvert comes down to how well you manage the challenges and maximize your advantages. You can succeed in sales not in spite of your traits as an introvert, but because of them.
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