What is your idea of a great salesperson? An email came across my desk the other day that really made me think about this question. Like so many great ideas, this one is inspired by my loving mother (thanks Mom!). The email she sent had one small statement which really caught my eye:
“Your little brother is about to graduate and I think he should get into real estate sales. He’d be great at it because he will talk to anyone!”
She’s right on a few points: My little brother is about to graduate, and he is in fact the type of person who will literally go up and speak to anyone. Even if the person isn’t particularly interested, he will just keep talking. It’s charming in a way, but also annoying at times. The area in which I disagree with my mother is about whether or not being willing to go up and talk to anyone makes you an ideal candidate for a sales position.
When most people hear the word “salesman” , they picture a flashy, overly-smiley guy with smooth words and lots of charm. He will chat with you for hours about anything and everything, and if he’s really good, he’ll have you handing over your credit card before you even understand what he’s sold you. He’ll collect his nice commission check and move on to the next customer, forgetting all about you.
This doesn’t really describe a true salesperson—this is the description of a con-artist. Sales is really the art of influence and assistance. As a salesman, I help people solve problems that my products or services address. If the potential customer doesn’t have a problem I can address, he’s not someone I will sell to. It’s that simple.
The key to being successful at sales is in understanding what needs drive your customer and how you can help them fulfill those needs. This is where being an introvert is a huge advantage. Most extroverts tend to “wing it” quite often, as a natural tendency: they like to get into a situation and figure things out as they go along, which is a great quality in social settings and creative work. Spontaneity is common and fun is almost guaranteed. This trait will also kill a sales career. Customers become very suspicious of someone who is constantly smiling, laughing, joking, and talking—we all have an inherent “b.s. meter” that flares up anytime someone begins talking too much. It’s quite a turn-off, and not conducive to making a customer want to buy.
This is a field in which introverts excel, as they go about the sales process in a very different fashion.
Introverts know what they have on a deep level. When you begin speaking to an introverted salesperson, he or she will be scanning their knowledge to judge whether or not they can help you with their offering. Before they even begin to talk to you about what they have, they will determine if you are a good prospect to spend time with. They understand it takes more than a pulse and a wallet to make a good sale.
I was a sales trainer for 7 years and I never worked with a top producer who would always “wing it.” The best of the best know exactly what they should say in any given situation; they study customer reactions to certain phrases and adjust their vocabulary accordingly, and read a lot of material on how to become better in their profession. Lastly, they realize they will likely only get one shot to present their product, so they make it count.
Many extroverts will have dozens of casual friendships. They can go anywhere and meet people they know, hang out with them for a few hours, then head home. It’s easy to make connections, but because they are connected to so many people, it’s difficult to develop deep relationships. When it comes to sales, this leads to many short-term successes with angry customers on the back-end.
Introverts tend to have fewer, but deeper relationships with their customers. They really want to get to know the customer and help them over time. They aren’t looking for a single sale to get a bonus; they’re building a list of clients they can service for years, which creates a constant stream of referrals and repeat business. It takes longer to build this type of sales cycle, but it’s the only way to create long-term success.
So, contrary to popular belief, the talkative, loud, constantly laughing guy is not the “born salesman”; the quiet, introspective, hard-working person is. That’s not to say extroverts are totally bereft of good sales qualities—the ability to approach people is crucial to sales, as is the capacity to handle rejection well. Introverts need to develop these skills as well. The difference tends to be that introverts will often work hard to develop the extrovert’s skills, while the extroverts will continue to try to get by on their natural charms.
As an extrovert, you can still be a top performer in your field; simply take the best qualities of introverts and pull them into your sales style. You’ll be topping the charts in no time.
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