The conventional wisdom says that extroverts are much better at selling than introverts. It sort of makes sense, considering extroverts are much more comfortable around other people, enjoy interacting with others more, and are often fast talkers.
However, an increasing amount of research says that things are not so black and white. In fact, it is the introverts who often do very well on the sales team and ambiverts (in the middle of the introvert-extrovert scale) who do the best.
Effective selling in today’s world is not so much about a brute force of pushy salesman but rather about researching the customer’s need, listening, and adapting to what the customer needs. These are the strengths of many introverts.
Adam Grant of The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania conducted a 3-month long study of 340 salespeople to discover ambiverts outsold both introverts and extroverts. The interesting thing is that extroverts and introverts performed about equally.
As Matthew Pollard writes in his book The Introvert’s Edge: How The Quiet And Shy Can Outsell Anyone, extroverts’ sales tend to be connected to their personality and their mood. If they feel great, they are on top of the world, and they do great. If they feel down, it reflects on their sales too. Introverts, on the other hand, tend to rely on a system. If you teach them the right system, they will follow it diligently and have consistently good numbers.
Have a process
As Pollard describes a good sales process has seven distinct steps.
- Establish trust and provide agenda – people won’t start listening to you unless they feel that you care about them and not about your sales number. They also want to understand where things are going, so being able to give them a quick agenda of the conversation can help them get comfortable and genuinely listen.
- Ask probing questions – don’t try to present what you are selling and hope you may need it. Start with asking questions to figure out what problem do they have and then offer them a way how what you sell to solve the problem. You may expand or focus the problem they have to include more emotionally charged aspects (safety, security, health, kids, etc.)
- Speak to the decision-maker – the biggest frustration salespeople have is that after a great sale pitch they find out that they talk to the wrong person and all their effort was useless. Before you start selling make sure you speak to the person who can buy.
- Sell with a story – don’t try to list the features of your product or how it compares with a competitor. Everyone does that, and very few buyers ultimately care about a long list of features. It may look great at first glance, and if your list of features is longer than of competitors you may win, but a better approach is to use stories of customers similar to the one you are selling to who ultimately decided to work with you and how they profited from it.
- Answer objections with more stories – don’t argue with customers and don’t try to prove them wrong. If they object to something, you are saying don’t try to win the battle with the logic. You may be right, they may even accept it, but they will be annoyed with you and won’t buy. Rather accept their objection, mention that other people have similar worries, and tell a story about how it was a non-issue and how the customer was still happy when they bought the product or the service.
- Use a trial close – don’t try to close before the customer is ready as it can feel pushy and may put off some people. It is not natural for you as an introvert to ask anyway, so better come up with a question that sort of implies you are trying to close without saying so. “Would this version of the product work for you or you would need a more powerful one?” If you see the terror in the eyes of the would-be-customer, you can calm them down that you are just asking additional questions to understand better their needs. If they say, “I believe a more powerful one will be needed,” you sold.
- Assume the sale – don’t ask whether they want to buy or not. Just act as if they said “yes” and move on to the payment terms. If you ask at this stage whether they want to buy you are giving them a choice to say “no.” Just proceed with asking for a credit card as if the sale is closed.
This framework works. It may not be perfect, but it gets you results if followed religiously. The important thing is to find the right stories that work for you, and that means constant tweaking. After each sale do a mini follow-up with yourself and ask what worked and what didn’t. If a story or a sentence didn’t have the impact you hoped, change it. Just make sure you keep following the process.
Listen and empathize
When asking questions about the pain points, you may uncover many of them. Keep the conversation focused. Don’t try to solve all the problems at once but concentrate on one problem and go after it. If you solve the most significant problem, it may have a positive impact also on the other problems. By keeping the conversation focused you are removing complexity from both your sales process as well as from the decision making on customer’s side.
Sell by telling stories
I talked about stories in several articles. Stories are extremely powerful devices when influencing the behavior of others. If you want to learn a bit more check out Mentoring By Telling Stories, How To Influence Others To Act, or read some works of Steve Denning. When it comes to stories used for selling your product or service they need to have several parts: description of the problem; how your product or service approaches solving the problem; how the solved problem looks like; and a moral and call to action part.
The more you can pull the listener into the story the better. You want emotions, and you want all the senses involved. Using colorful sensory words and verbs that include sight, smell, hearing, and touch can make the story feel more real. The more specific details you can provide the better as again, it will feel more like a real story of a real customer.
Talking about price
When it comes to price it may be hard for introverts to say the number if, in their mind, it is too high. Figure out how you can make it less emotionally straining for you. Practice saying the amount in a way that it sounds like no big deal and that of course, that is the price for the great product or service you are selling. No big deal.
If you are new in the field, you are negotiating a project engagement, or you are starting a consultancy business it may be a bit intimidating to start with a number. You know what the market says, but you are a newbie! Keep in mind that if you go too low you may be seen as a fraud who is too cheap, and you may not get hired.
An approach you can use not to undersell yourself but still win the job is to ask a question in a confident way of someone who has done these things many times, “since you want me to speak at your conference, I’m sure you had an idea of what this may cost. What budget do you have available to work with?”
The process works. I have seen it over my career with numerous individuals who even though being introverted turned into a professional and very effective sales people once on a phone. And all they did was following a process that was tested and improved on by countless of others in the organization.
Once again, stick to the process. Don’t let the customers dictate how the sales process should look like. Be flexible but only within the boundaries of the process. If you act in a professional and respectful way, the customers will act accordingly.
What are your thoughts on introverts and sales? Do you believe that introverts can be as capable at selling as extroverts? What are your tips and tricks for effective selling?
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