Guest post by Ben Colling, Outbound Sales Development Manager at Sage Intacct
We’ve all seen (and avoided) them. You know...salespeople. The successful ones might become those high-pressure bulldozers who coerce people into purchases on the merit of their charisma alone. We might imagine that, in the evenings, these self-promoters attend cocktail parties as buddies of the regulars, instant best friends to the newcomers — social butterflies with the ability to strike up delightful conversations on a dime. In a word, they are not introverts.
I should know, because I’m an introvert: an internal processor of information, and someone who is drained, rather than energized, by social interaction. But although sales is stereotyped as a profession for chummy party animals, being an introvert has actually helped me succeed in sales. So how did I thrive in a smile-and-dial job — achieving the President’s Club award for quota achievement and booking hundreds of thousands of dollars in sales revenue — as a grimace-and-dial guy? Read on and learn.
In 2012, as a budding professional, I moved from New York to California to marry the woman who is now my wife. Overhauling my career, social life and physical landscape meant that I had a clean slate, which allowed me to seek my own path to success. I did what any self-respecting introvert would do: I asked friends for motivation and advice. As you may infer from what I’ve told you about myself, by "friends," I mean "books." Among the volumes of motivational books was a chapter from Dave Ramsey’s EntreLeadership that would change my life. He writes:
Selling is one of the highest-paid professions…it is not unusual for [top salespeople] to make even more than their boss. Because leading involves persuading the team to follow you in a certain direction, people who know how to sell often end up leading. One of the tracks that most often leads to CEO is through the sales and marketing area of a company.
A light turned on when I read this; sales is a profession that actually rewards success. If my purpose in life is to make the most of it, which I believe it is, then sales would offer me the best opportunity to capitalize on my effort. I plowed into my new profession full-force.
If you’re an introvert considering a sales career, my story may help. Here are some common introvert characteristics and how to leverage them:
I'm never sure when to hug, high five, or bump knuckles. A friendly, "Hi, [Client Name]!" escapes my lips, followed by an awkward silence when I forget to introduce myself. Like Clark Kent throwing off his glasses and transforming into Superman, once the awkwardness is out of the way, my superpowers emerge: knowing the product, understanding customer businesses, and intuiting their pains.
Book smarts helps to prepare me above and beyond those who rely on their extraversion alone. I harness these by visualizing the conversations I could have during the day, conceptualizing all the possible benefits of specific sales interactions, and foreseeing prospect objections and probing questions. This gives me an edge. Combined, this shows them that I take their business and myself seriously enough to earn respect.
Please...Please Don’t Speak to Me
Cold-Calling. Shudder. When I started sales, it was my greatest fear. Larger personalities than mine were doing it all the time, and to get the career I wanted, I needed to learn how. To make it work, I had to find companies whose products I could form deep relationships with; to only sell products that I believed could help people. Then, I could tell myself that, if I didn’t make the call, I was actually preventing my prospects from hearing about something incredible — even life-changing.
Thinking about our prospects in the professional accounting world, and what they do for their company in terms of integrity, analysis and expansion, gets me excited to to be a salesperson every day. It comes down to this: Fall in love with the product. Fall in love with the process. And let your introversion become a strength. Happy Selling!