For as long as we have told stories, there have been common misconceptions that somehow wormed their way into our shared consciousness until we end up taking them as gospel.
I bet you’ve heard some.
The perception that sales is an environment full of (and only fit for) the most gregarious and those blessed with the gift of gab- the more extroverted among us- is another prime example. Though it is, lazy stereotype run amok.
But while it might make for easy characterization in TV shows like "The Simpsons", it doesn’t stand up to the rigors of real-life examination. This article will thoroughly debunk this myth first before we give some tips to help introverts lean into what comes naturally, instead of trying to fabricate what doesn’t.
Can introverts be good at sales?
Let's dispel the myth immediately: Introverts can be phenomenal at sales. While the stereotypical salesperson is often painted as a smooth-talking, highly sociable individual, this perception overlooks a vast range of sales traits that introverts naturally possess - skills that can make them truly exceptional salespeople.
They often possess a high degree of empathy, that enables them to understand a customer's needs and concerns more deeply.
They tend to listen more than they talk, a trait that clients appreciate in a world where everyone is trying to sell something.
Instead of being the loudest in the room, their sales conversations build genuine relationships based on trust and understanding.
The bottom line is this: while introverted salespeople may approach their roles differently than their extroverted counterparts, they have the potential not just to be good, but great at sales.
Who is better at sales: introverts or extroverts?
In recent years, some research has been conducted to answer this question, and the findings will surprise more than a few.
The results show no correlation between extraversion and sales performance.
Murray Barrick of Michigan State University undertook a comprehensive study that found absolutely no correlation between extraversion and better sales performance. In fact, the showy bravado-type sellers were more likely to alienate prospects than to close deals.
Far from being pushy and full of bluster, the top 91 percent were actually characterized by high scores of modesty and humility, with 30% lower scores for ‘gregariousness’ (preference for being with people) than the average performers.
Need more proof? A study led by best-selling author Adam Grant at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business corroborated these results.
In fact, ‘ambiverts’ do best of all
Grant's research found that the best salespeople were not extroverts but rather "ambiverts" – individuals who fall somewhere in the middle of the introvert-extrovert spectrum. Ambiverts, having traits of both introversion and extroversion, were found to be more flexible in their approach to sales, thus leading to greater success.
The study found that while extroverts were able to initiate conversations and create a good rapport with customers easily, they often struggled with active listening skills and could come off as too pushy.
Introverts, on the other hand, were good listeners, empathizing with customer pain points but sometimes struggling with assertiveness.
Ambiverts, being more balanced, were able to switch between talking and listening adeptly and being assertive without being overwhelming.
These results don’t mean introverts or extroverts can't be successful sales professionals. On the contrary, the key to success in sales is understanding your unique strengths and leveraging them effectively.
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Tips to succeed in sales as an introvert
So, how do you do this if you’re more toward the introvert end of the spectrum? As I’ve alluded, the key is leaning into what you have—harnessing and honing what comes most naturally.
Lead with soft skills
Introverts often shine when it comes to soft skills, which can be an enormous advantage in sales. These skills can be taught or improved but come much more naturally to sales team members who lean more introverted. They’re absolutely critical to building strong, lasting relationships with customers.
For instance, empathy - the ability to understand and share the feelings of others - is a natural strength of many introverts. Empathy allows you to better understand a customer's needs and challenges, which in turn helps you provide more personalized solutions. Customers will feel valued and heard and are more likely to trust you and your product.
Another soft skill where introverts excel is active listening. Instead of waiting for their turn to speak, introverts truly listen. This ensures customers feel heard and understood and allows introverts to gather crucial information about the customer's needs, which they can use to tailor their sales approach. Having these details when creating a proposal or solution makes is much easier for decision-makers to say yes and move forward so the salesperson can close the deal.
As an introverted salesperson, lead with your strengths. So maybe less of the small talk and chatter about your product or service, and more of the active listening and asking thoughtful questions to help you genuinely understand your customer’s needs. You might not be the most outgoing person in the room, but you can certainly be the most impactful.
Don’t over-exert yourself
One common characteristic of introverts is their need for downtime to recharge. Unlike extroverts who gain energy from social interactions, introverts often find these situations draining after a certain period. This doesn't mean introverts don't enjoy social situations, but rather that they need time alone to recharge their batteries. Respecting this need is crucial for introverts to succeed in a sales environment.
In sales, there can be pressure to network, attend events, make a certain number of cold calls per day, and engage with clients constantly. However, it's important to understand your own limits and ensure you're giving yourself adequate time to recover. Ignoring these needs can lead to burnout and reduce your overall effectiveness.
If this sounds like you or someone on your sales team, plan your schedule (or allow them to plan theirs) strategically to include 'quiet time' This could be a few moments of solitude in the morning before starting work, a short walk during lunch break, or some peaceful relaxation time after work. Find what works best and stick to it.
Remember, it's not about the quantity of interactions, but the quality.
Choose your industry (and company) wisely
The industry or company you work in can significantly impact your sales success as an introvert. Not all sales environments are created equal; certain industries might align better with an introverted temperament.
For instance, industries that require deep, technical knowledge can be a great fit for introverts. Here, the focus is less on making a quick sale and more on understanding the product and the client's specific needs. Sales roles in industries like IT, engineering, or pharmaceuticals often require thoughtful analysis and detailed conversations, which play to an introvert's strengths.
The company culture plays a significant role too. Some companies foster a competitive, high-pressure sales environment, while others may have a more collaborative, relationship-based sales culture. As an introvert, you might be more comfortable and successful in the latter.
When choosing a sales role, do your homework. Look for industries and companies that value the qualities you bring to the table. Understand the company culture, the typical sales cycle, and the level of interpersonal interaction required. And remember, you're not just selling a product or service - you're also selling yourself (yes, that old cliche!). So choose a role where you can genuinely be yourself, where your introverted traits are seen as strengths rather than weaknesses.
In today's digital age, sales strategies have drastically evolved, and technology plays a massive role in this transformation. For introverted salespeople, this shift can be a real blessing. Channels such as email, social media, and video conferencing can provide a platform for thoughtful and well-articulated communication that introverts often excel at.
A study by McKinsey shows that 76% of buyers actually prefer remote human engagement over in-person interactions. This presents an opportunity for introverted salespeople to leverage technology to establish effective communication, allowing the necessary time and space to construct thoughtful responses and proposals.
Tools like our enterprise sales template help capitalize on this shift, allowing for a simplified- often accelerated- sales cycle that guides buyers through the sales process, while empowering them to explore their options in their leisure. (Or even upsell themselves!)
Focus on quality over quantity
A common misconception in sales is the idea that more is always better—more calls, more meetings, more pitches. This perspective, however, can lead to quantity overshadowing quality.
As an introvert, your strength lies in deep, meaningful conversations and relationships. It's worth noting that according to a study by Gallup, customers who are fully engaged represent a 23% premium in terms of share of wallet, profitability, and revenue.
This underscores the importance of quality relationships in sales. Instead of spreading yourself thin over numerous shallow interactions, focus on cultivating fewer, but deeper connections that can lead to better customer engagement and loyalty.
Practice and Prepare
Preparation is a domain where introverts often stand out, and it's a powerful tool in a sales context.
Prior to meetings or calls, take the time to thoroughly research your prospects, understand their needs, and anticipate potential questions or objections. Research by CSO Insights revealed that 42% of sales reps felt they didn't have enough information before making a call.
As an introvert, your natural inclination to prepare can give you an edge. Practice your pitches and consider role-playing challenging scenarios like difficult sales calls with a colleague. This preparedness can boost your confidence and help you handle actual sales interactions more effectively.
Embrace your authenticity
I know, I know. This one sounds a little “Live. Laugh. Love”. But let’s look for some meaning behind this woo woo looking title.
In a sales world often (wrongly) characterized by sleight of hand, being genuine is the one thing that can’t be faked.
As an introvert, your tendency to listen attentively, empathize, and offer tailored solutions can be incredibly valuable in creating an authentic sales approach. Having business owners suggest that working with you is like a breath of fresh air after dealing with sales reps who embody some of the less attractive stereotypes of sales reps can be incredibly empowering.
So, rather than attempting to conform to the stereotypical extroverted salesperson image, embrace your introverted qualities stay in your comfort zone a bit, and continue to be true to yourself. You’ll soon find that authenticity is a valuable asset in the sales profession.
What are the strengths of introverts in sales?
Introverts bring a unique set of strengths to the sales profession. They are often great listeners, allowing them to understand customers' needs deeply. Their empathetic nature can help build strong connections with clients.
Many introverts excel at preparation, critical thinking, and planning, which can lead to more effective sales strategies. They are also generally great at focusing deeply on tasks, which can help them provide tailored solutions to clients.
How do you sell if you are shy?
Selling when you're shy might seem daunting, but with the right approach and some good sales training and coaching, shyness need not be a barrier to entering the profession. Preparation is key. When you understand your product or service inside and out, your confidence will naturally increase. Also, remember that sales conversations aren't about pushing a product but solving a problem.
How can introverted salespeople overcome networking challenges?
Networking events can be challenging for an introverted personality, but there are strategies to make it more manageable. One strategy is to plan in advance. Research who will be at the event and prepare a few conversation starters. Setting realistic goals, like speaking to three new people rather than trying to meet everyone, can be beneficial. Also, remember that it's about quality, not quantity. Focus on building a few meaningful connections rather than numerous superficial ones.
What kind of sales roles are best suited for introverts?
Sales roles that value deep relationships, technical knowledge, and consultative selling can be a great fit for introverts. This can include roles in industries like IT, engineering, and pharmaceuticals. Roles that allow for preparation and planning, and value thoughtful analysis over quick decisions, can also align well with an introverted temperament. Ultimately, the best role for an introvert is one that values their unique sales skills and allows them to work authentically.
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There's no one-size-fits-all in sales. Introverts can not only be effective salespeople, but they also have all the natural attributes for a thriving sales career. Your approach may differ from the extroverted personality type often associated with the profession, but it’s no less effective. So, cherish your introverted qualities, use them to your advantage, and remember, in the realm of sales, your unique approach and authentic relationships will ultimately make the difference.
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About the author
Brendan Connaughton|Head of Growth Marketing
Brendan heads up growth marketing and demand generation at Qwilr, overseeing performance marketing, SEO, and lifecycle initiatives. Brendan has been instrumental in developing go-to-market functions for a number of high-growth startups and challenger brands.