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The Art and Science of Selling: Insights from our Summits
Is sales an art, or is it a science? Throughout my career in sales and marketing, I have heard arguments for both.
Is "introverted salesperson" a total oxymoron? Not at all! Introverts — with their talents for careful listening and thoughtful, analytical problem solving — are uniquely well suited for modern, relationship-based sales techniques. On the surface, of course, sales can appear to be an extrovert's game, playing to the social skills and confidence that tend to go hand-in-hand with extroversion. But charisma and a gift for small talk can only take a person so far. What truly lands a sale is showing how your product eases a problem — and doing that requires a deep understanding of a prospect's needs and concerns. That's precisely where an introvert's talents can shine.
If you're an introvert working in the world of sales, here are five ways to use your innate advantages to flourish in an environment everyone assumes is made for extroverts.
Where extroverts thrive on stimulation, introverts flourish in quieter, more low-key environments, says Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. What does that mean for introverts in sales? Your first step is to identify what level of stimulation is comfortable for you. Next, engineer your schedule to suit your needs: If group meetings are a challenge, organize your calendar accordingly. Give yourself time to recover and recharge after energy-sapping tasks, rather than stacking them up in a row.
Are you better at written conversation than verbal conversation? You’re in luck! Social media is one of the best resources for networking, no phone calls or awkward small talk while trying to read someone's poorly written nametag required. Invest time every day in connecting with prospects on social media platforms - especially LinkedIn, which provides high returns on your prospecting investment. Social selling allows for you to connect, human to human, and get to know your prospect a little before you make that first call.
For extroverts, this can be a struggle. As a report out of the Wharton School points out, “...extroverted salespeople may spend too much time delivering assertive, enthusiastic pitches and too little time asking questions and listening to customers’ answers.” In contrast, introverts are excellent listeners. Roy Bartell says, “the most effective salespeople know that listening is the most important part of their job.” Introverts in sales can use this innate advantage to figure out your prospect’s needs and forge a stronger connection with them. When it comes time to land your pitch, you’ll know exactly what to say to make the most impact.
Sometimes you’ll hear that someone's a “natural” when it comes to sales. But the reality is, a strong salesperson succeeds because of preparation. Before talking to a prospect, you should understand their industry, their company, their needs, and how your product fits in. As an introvert, this need for research and analysis plays to your strengths — and while exhaustive preparation can feel over-the-top when it's focused on small tasks (like choosing a restaurant for a dinner meeting), it's ideal when it comes to pre-meeting homework. Use a tool like Sales Intelligence Tiles to streamline your research and to give you the information you need to approach your conversation with confidence.
Do you grit your teeth before every cold call? Need to take breaks during networking event? Some of these tasks may always feel challenging to you if you're an introvert. But, as with most things, practice makes it easier. Introverts in sales can use a script for cold calls and practice until the language and delivery become second nature. Plan out your small-talk questions beforehand or steer the conversation toward questions (not only can this make conversation easier, but asking questions is key to connecting with your prospects).
At networking events, take a few breaks to jot down notes on the back of someone’s business card after a particularly great conversation. Not only does this give you a minute of alone time to mentally recharge before the next conversation, but it will also help you send a super personalized follow-up note or LinkedIn request.
The overly aggressive, “Always Be Closing” attitude of some salespeople doesn't resonate well with prospects and is a poor fit with the introverted, introspective personality type. Don’t fake it. Instead of forcing yourself to focus on selling a product, frame your work around forging connections and solving problems. This plays to your strengths as an introvert. Use those skills mentioned above — patience, analytical ability, and listening — to understand your prospect’s needs and develop a successful strategy to address concerns and solve problems.
If you're an introvert, how do you succeed in the sales world? Share your favorite tips in the comments.