Updated: July 24, 2020
Are you an introvert or are you an extravert? Actually, extraversion and introversion are on a continuum, the extraversion continuum. You're never totally one or the other. So, when we say you are one or the other, the reality is that you lean more heavily to one or the other side of the scale. Keep that in mind as you read this blog.
An introvert is drawn to the inner world of thoughts, ideas, and reflection. A typical introvert doesn’t need a lot of human interaction. The extravert is the opposite. The extravert strives on human interaction and things outside of self. Extraverts are sometimes described as “people persons,” whereas introverts are considered to be loners by anyone not close to them. They bring different behaviors to the sales table.
The question I want to address in this blog is which one makes the best salesperson? I’ve coached both personality types over the years and I honestly cannot say that one type is best for sales. Each one brings unique skills to the sales process. They also bring unique potential pitfalls. The default behaviors of each one can help or hinder selling. The best salespeople are the ones who capitalize upon their own positive defaults and minimize their negative defaults. For example, the naturally outgoing and friendly extravert may unknowingly intimidate some prospects and oversell, while the inward-focused introvert may unknowingly undersell. The good news is that both the introvert and the extravert can learn the natural sales enhancing skills of the other and add those skills to his or her personal success formula. Sales superstars often do that intuitively; the rest of us can learn to do it. Consider the following key activities of selling:
Handling rejection: Rejection is not fun for anybody. Extraverts are set up to handle rejection better than introverts because most of their focus is outward. They talk it out. Introverts internalize. They send self-deprecating messages to themselves, even missing sleep to ruminate about what they did wrong. Though extraverts may take rejection to heart, they let it go and move on faster than introverts. They consider it just part of selling. Introverts can learn to handle rejection better over time. They need to realize, however, that taking rejection too seriously can have an adverse effect on future selling.
Listening: Introverts have it hands down on this important aspect of sales. They’re natural listeners. Extraverts have to learn to talk less and listen more.
Glad handing: Friendly and outgoing, extraverts do this better. Their open friendliness and spontaneity are palpable, whereas introverts ease cautiously into friendships. Introverts can remedy this situation by forcing themselves to smile and pretend to be outgoing. This will not be easy, as it takes a lot of psychic energy, but it is essential to sales.
Evaluating options: Introverts tend to be deep thinkers. Using their concentration powers gives them an edge when assessing selling alternatives. They spend a lot of time pondering and considering alternatives. Extraverts can learn this, too, but they have to avoid quick fixes and closing issues too early.
Attention to details: Although extraverts can be attentive to details, nobody does it like introverts. Take, for example, micro-expressions. Micro-expressions are involuntary slight movements in the face and changes in tone of voice that initiate in the nervous system. They show up immediately before the prospect has time to correct them. They disappear fast, though, and are very easy to miss. They are clues to what the prospect is thinking about what was just said or suggested. Reading micro-expressions is a major talent in negotiations. Typically, extraverts are too busy talking to notice them. The remedy for them is to talk less and observe more—really observe, that is. (It is not unusual in best and final group negotiations for the buyer to have someone in the room who is there only for the purpose of observing and noting micro-expressions!)
Getting noticed: Extraverts have this one. It’s natural for them. Extraverts are attention-getters while introverts can disappear into the surroundings. Introverts should hang with some extraverts to learn how they do it.
Cold calling: Extraverts do this better and with less effort. Introverts can learn to do it, but it will take a lot of positive self-talk and practice.
Projecting confidence: Extraverts do this better, even when faking. Introverts can be pretty self-critical and harbor thoughts of failure that impact self-confidence. Because thoughts become things, this can set them up for revealing their lack of confidence. Until introverts decide to let negative thinking go by the wayside and replace negative thoughts with positive thoughts, they will find it difficult to project confidence--though not impossible.
Public speaking: Most people fear public speaking. Everyone is at a disadvantage. Both introverts and extraverts can psych themselves up for presentations and other public speaking events by using visualization techniques and positive self-talk, but both will do better at this when they realize that it’s normal to feel discomfort at public speaking in any form or forum.
Building relationships: Both extraverts and introverts do this well, but differently. Extraverts are better at superficial relationships; introverts are better at deep and long-lasting ones. Both can learn from the other. Introverts must learn that a good superficial relationship is essential to getting the sale; extraverts must learn that a deep relationship based on earned mutual respect retains customers.
So, here’ the upshot: The natural behaviors of each personality type are simple defaults. They happen automatically. They come with the territory of being one or the other. But nothing is cast in concrete to the extent that it has total power over you. It does not mean that an extravert can’t learn to act like an introvert when necessary, and vice versa. We are not robots. We can learn. We can apply learning to make us better at sales. The support structure for doing this is the realization that you can do it. You can be that sales superstar!