Most imagine a wallflower, someone who speaks when spoken to, possibly avoiding eye contact with a gaze fixed upon the ground.
Yet introverts flourish in sales all the time. The key is to understand that being introverted is not the same as being shy.
It is similar to the well-known square/rectangle classification: shy people may be introverts, but introverts are not necessarily shy.
Just take a look at the difference between the traits of each.
Traits Indicative of Shyness:
- Apprehension or discomfort around others
- Fear of what others think of them, or fear of being uninteresting
- Raised blood pressure
- Displays of odd behavior to create interest
Traits Indicative of Introversion:
- Enjoys hands-on learning
- More outgoing around familiar people
- Increased self-awareness
- Attuned to details
The differences between shy and introverted are not just semantics. Shyness is a negative trait, especially when considering the skills needed by effective salesmen.
While shyness is considered by the psychiatric community to be a mild social phobia, introverted behavior denotes caution and self-awareness. These are generally positive traits in sales.
Key Differences in Introverted and Extroverted Behavior
When people are asked to picture a salesman, the greasy-haired quick-talker springs to mind. Someone open and charismatic. The kind of guy that could sell a lemon car then turn around and sell the replacement parts when the customer returns to complain.
Extremely extroverted behavior, taken to the point that general conversation is just firewood for their blazing ego, will often undermine the salesman and diminish trust.
Now consider the introvert. He is detail-oriented and pays attention to the other person and himself.
Introverts are more likely to think before they speak. This behavior might not be the grandiose arm-waving that accompanies the perception of “salesman,” but it is honest, and honest dealings with customers forge trust.
Introverts show success when they utilize the emotional intellect ingrained in their personality, whereas extroverts have to work harder, and longer, to build the same level of trust.
Additionally, if customers think the salesman believes in a product or service, they will get excited about making a deal. There’s a good chance that the introvert will believe in the product, too.
An introvert will work on figuring out the details of a product before embarking on sales calls. They are more likely to find ways to frame benefits to the specific needs of the client. Happy customers are recurring customers, which often leads to referrals.
Obstacles for Introverts
Introverts are less expressive and their social energy is much more subtle. An introvert who truly believes in his product will show it.
The energy of an introvert, being subtle, can make or break sales. Some of the following can be difficult for introverts to avoid:
- Not believing in the sale. Grim stoics do not easily sell products. Without that extra boost of energy extroverts experience by being around others, the introvert finds it more difficult to recover.
- Anxiety. Introverts may not be shy, but they still prefer privacy. Staying busy and focusing on tasks lowers their tendency for social avoidance.
- Leaving the bubble. The bubble is safe and free, and finding small ways to leave the bubble contributes to the introvert’s self-esteem and makes the job worth it.
- Hurting others. Along with not believing in a product, this is the belief that a sale might hurt the customer. Introverts naturally prefer helping, and helping keeps an introvert motivated.
Hiring an Introvert? Use a Sales Test
While the dangers of hiring rambunctious extroverts are finally being discussed, the inability for some hiring managers to distinguish between shyness and introversion still makes it comparatively more difficult for introverts to land jobs in sales.
The theory behind the sales test is simple. It asks the candidates to pick options most like themselves. The features of each answer are meant to sound positive, and test takers are evaluated on their tendency toward traits that exhibit Drive.
The test score pinpoints the interviewee’s potential for success. Both introverts and extroverts may exhibit various levels of Drive and there is no causal relationship between the two.
Manage Your Introverts Effectively
Management is always a concern. Scripts and pre-rehearsed dialogue challenges introverts in a unique way. A script assumes that everyone is the same, but as we already know, introverts work hard at finding what makes each person different.
A better approach is to ignore the sales “tool box,” and instead, cultivate the individual strengths of your new hire.
Does he enjoy talking one-on-one? Avoid sending him to do presentations for large groups. Introverts are not as readily able to take in details when they are uncomfortable. They tend to keep asking questions and discussing needs until the big picture opens up. Then they close.
Provided that the introvert scored high on his online sales test, he will have the self-starter nature that will make him great. Give him breathing room, step back and watch him work. Develop some hands-on training that builds confidence and teaches the new hire about common customer needs and product specs.
How about workplace layout? Is the new introvert seated at the center of several cubicles at the heart of the party planning committee? Or is he somewhere comfortable where the work can come more naturally?
A confident introvert is someone who is not looking for gratification. He is someone who wants to figure out a solution on his own. They will analyze the situation and come up with a method, then ask for help.
By identifying and working with the strengths of your sales team, your company will be well on its way to success.
Dr. Christopher Croner and Richard Abraham are authors of “Never Hire a Bad Salesperson Again” and developers of the proprietary and patented online sales test, The DriveTestTM, for sales candidates. For more information, click here.