An Introvert in Sales
by Peter Vogt
If you're an introvert, you might dismiss pursuing a career in sales, believing it would be a horrible fit for your reserved, reflective personality. But that kind of thinking could make you miss out on a potentially lucrative career choice.
"Many of our most successful graduates, some of whom earn high-six-figure incomes, are introverts," says Jacques Werth, president of High Probability Selling, a sales training company in Media, Pennsylvania. "I'm an introvert, and I have had a highly successful sales career for almost 50 years."
Why Introverts are Good Salespeople
Werth is not alone, and for good reason. "The old stereotype of the salesperson who is a back-slapping, happy-talking extrovert is as obsolete as the sales techniques those people used -- and are still using," says Werth. "The new, far more effective sales paradigm is based on mutual trust, mutual respect, mutual agreements and mutual commitments."
It may surprise you, but the typical introvert has several key strengths that lend themselves to the day-to-day work of a sales professional:
- Composure: Most introverts exude composure and self-control, both of which put potential customers at ease. "I have a calm mannerism," says Lindsay Peroff, a self-described introvert and the PR manager for 1-800-GOT-JUNK, a Canada-based junk-removal company, who pitches article ideas to journalists across the country daily. She is a true salesperson in that her salary is based on how many media mentions she generates for her company each month. "I do not come across as pushy, overly excitable or obnoxious," Peroff says.
- Listening Ability: Peroff says she's also a good listener, another common introvert trait, notes New York City-based business communication consultant Nancy Ancowitz.
"And how important is listening to the needs of customers and matching those needs to a product or service?" asks Ancowitz, who coaches fellow introverts on self-promotion strategies. "Would you prefer to buy a mutual fund from a salesperson or broker who carefully listens to your needs or one who talks while you talk and only pushes his own agenda?"
- Relationship Building: The typical introvert is a natural at the most critical sales skill of all: The ability to build relationships. That might seem ironic until you think about the idea more thoroughly, says Marti Olsen Laney, author of The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extrovert World.
"Innies," as Laney calls introverts, "actually excel at building long-term relationships, so they do a great job of developing and maintaining a reliable customer base and/or territory," even more so than "outies" (extroverts), says Laney, who has counseled introverted sales professionals selling everything from books and cancer treatments to high tech training and technical-support services. And because "innies are good listeners who focus on both the customer's overt and underlying messages," they "tend to do a good job of satisfying what their customers really want," she adds.
Sales strategist Leslie Ungar, president of the consulting company Electric Impulse, says, "Often we think of the used-car guy when we think of a salesperson. If you look at sales from what I call a 21st-century perspective -- asking questions and finding needs rather than talking someone into something, as telling rather than selling and becoming a peer rather than a vendor -- then you will look at sales through a different lens."
It Pays to Believe in What You're Selling
Introverts are particularly effective salespeople when, as is frequently the case, they have genuine conviction about their product, says Rob Bennett, author of Passion Saving: The Path to Plentiful Free Time and Soul-Satisfying Work.
"The [potential] problem with sales work for introverts is that introverts are uncomfortable putting forward any sort of false front or show," says Bennett. Therefore, he stresses, you can be highly successful as an introverted salesperson if you have "a strong belief in the value of the product or service being sold."
But first you must let go of a belief -- the one that sales is just for extroverts.