Sales and Introverts

Last month, during our organizational behavior class, this topic came up for a short duration. We were asked to relate personality types to job types. Incidentally, one category of job was sales. Most of the class connected it to the personality type 'extrovert'. I had almost forgotten about the incident till I came across this article by Tim Yandel in Linkedin. It is in general perceived that being extrovert is one of the characteristics that makes a good sales person.

Being an introvert and an ex-sales person, I thought I should express my feelings about it. And here I am, writing this article. I have been working in sales profession since last 9 years, before MBA. And yes, I am an introvert; extreme introvert. If there is just one person left, standing in the corner of a party hall, it has to be me. Yet, I survived in the profession which most of the people assume requires the professional to be extrovert. I am not saying that extroverts are not the right person for sales. What I am saying is, being an introvert does not mean one will not be successful sales person. In fact, as Tim mentions in his article, introverts have a different approach towards the activity and different kind of sales need different kind of people.

I remember, during our training sessions, it was always stressed that as a sales person one must listen more and more. What a customer says is usually a tip of the iceberg. One has to start throwing open questions and listen to what the customer has to say. An introvert, being good at listening, can continue the conversation in a manner to extract meaningful information to map the required scope of the iceberg. It demands higher amount of time. It requires higher amount of effort. Hence, this is not affordable for a low value sale of a simple item (For eg. a piece of soap). And hence, introverts, by default, do not approach all possible prospects for sales. They specifically work with those who have a higher potential to become a customer. This has to do with the ability of 'reading the room' that Tim specifies.

Sales and Introverts

On the contrary, consider an extrovert person meeting a prospect. Opposite to an introvert person, an extrovert will rely more on the 'throw', the offer or the way she or he makes an offer. By default, they will work with more prospects. Which is good, only when the sales is not sophisticated. When a customer does not think much before buying something. An example can be observing oneself. Think about how much time do we spend while deciding on which shampoo to buy. Now, compare that with the time you spend if you plan to buy a more sophisticated item. Let's say, a car. Better still, a house. Even before renting a house.

Now imagine a a real estate agent approaches you and pitches her or his product. Gives you 20 options for you to choose from. What will your situation be? On the other hand, another sales person approaches you and asks you about your preferred location first. And when you specify a location, the person asks you what are the reasons behind preferring the location. She or he continues asking the questions and at the end, offers 2 options. Which one do you think will you like more?

Now, I am quite sure, you will not like to go through so many steps while trying to purchase a chocolate bar!

The summary is, different kind of sales require different kind of people. And it is not that extroverts cannot be trained to ask questions more and more to specify requirements first before offering solution. That's why sales training sessions exist and that's why the sessions are successful. However, introverts are naturally good at the process. Rather than spending too many words to offer more solutions, they would prefer to specify requirements at the most and offer less number of solutions which are more relevant for the customer. And hence, are suitable for certain kind of sales.

Please note that we are not trying to say extroverts are not good sales people. I just want to break a myth and a perceptions that stereotypes carry.