The stereotype of a sales rep is an effervescent extrovert who charms people into buying anything at any price. But really, there are 1,000 ways to succeed in sales, and if you are an introvert considering a sales career, take heart. You can do it, and do it just as well as your extroverted competitors. Coming from a long line of accomplished introverted salespeople, I’ve picked up a few strategies and techniques that help us make sales and nurture customer relationships. Here are three of the most important. I hope they help!
1. Capitalize on Your Strengths
Standing out from the crowd is a very important component of sales success. But standing out doesn’t necessarily mean shouting out. Introverts have their standout qualities — many of which are highly appealing to buyers. Success comes when you hone your natural abilities in these areas:
Listening: Buyers love salespeople who really listen, who take the time to thoroughly understand their challenges and aspirations. In my experience, naturally outgoing, highly social salespeople sometimes may struggle because they never really get a handle on what the prospect needs.
Systematic thinking: Buyers often have complicated business problems. They greatly value methodical thinkers who can strip out the emotion and construct cost-effective, implementable solutions. Sounds like a job for an introvert!
Detailed follow-up. In addition to developing strategic thinking skills, introverts gain even more ground when they become superb tactical workers, returning phone calls and emails ahead of the competition, following through on commitments, dotting every “i,” etc. Buyers greatly value reliability and diligence in the trenches.
2. Manage Your Social Energy
For introverts, social interaction can feel mentally draining. Something that helped me immensely was to spend about half my day (or less) in the field making sales calls. An entire day of meeting customers and prospects was just too much, so I’d make a ton of calls in the morning (my high-energy period) and then spend the afternoon taking care of all of my follow-up from the morning. This not only conserved my social energy, but also gave me time to apply my listening, thinking and follow-up skills immediately, impressing my customers and prospects with extremely fast response time. Along the same lines …
- When you go to conventions, seminars and other social sales engagements, take plenty of breaks to regain your energy. Come prepared with many questions (business and personal) to keep those uncomfortable cocktail conversations going — and leverage your listening skills. But force yourself to go. In the long run these events will further your career, and they get easier over time.
Entertaining customers can be a real chore, but is essential for nurturing relationships. If you have several contacts within an organization, you may find it much easier to entertain one-on-one rather than with the whole group. Even though it takes more time, you’ll be more comfortable and better able to leverage your terrific listening skills. Also, you may find activities such as golf or attending a sporting event easier than dinners and lunches, as the activity itself creates plenty of conversation fodder.
3. Pick the Right Industry
Introverts can excel in sales in any business, but some line up better with an introvert’s inherent strengths. Aspects of the sales job to consider:
- Businesses with repeat sales and ongoing client relationships lend themselves to an introvert’s approach. Introverts tend to wear well over time, as clients come to see the enormous value of their listening, analytical and follow-up skills.
Complex products and services play to the introvert’s strengths. The more application variables and purchasing options, the more the prospect and customer will need systematic, analytical assistance from you — the salesperson.
- Products and services that are sold to engineers, financial officers and operations personnel are fertile fields for introverts. Buyers in these areas tend to deal in facts and measurable outcomes, and are less influenced (or even turned off) by snappy presentations with little substance or relevance.
Sales is a terrific career. It gives you a great deal of control over your time, financial freedom when you do it well, and multiple opportunities every day to help someone or some company do something better. These are incredibly fulfilling career outcomes for introverts and extroverts alike!
About the Author
Brad Shorr is Director of Content Strategy at Straight North, one of the leading Internet marketing companies in Chicago that specializes in SEO, PPC and web design services. With more than 25 years of sales and marketing experience, Brad has been featured in leading online publications including Entrepreneur, Smashing Magazine and Forbes.