Being an Introvert in B2B Sales

We often think to be successful in sales, you need to be an extrovert.

True, lots of salespeople are extroverts. Sometimes, maybe a little TOO extroverted. We all know that person.

Sales can involve a lot of speaking to new people, engaging an audience, presenting to customers, cold calling, reaching out, interacting, and taking clients out for dinner, for example.

But that doesn’t mean that being an introvert is a bad thing in sales. It can bring with it some great sales superpowers.

So what does the science say about being an extrovert in sales?

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Research actually found that in studies of 4000 salespeople, there was almost zero correlation between extroversion and sales performance. (See here and here.)

So, why do we associate extroversion with choosing B2B sales as a career?

It’s probably to do with a number of things:

  1. Extroverts already working in sales are likely to hire other extroverts – in effect, we are hiring people with traits that we ourselves have.
  1. Because we tend to assume that to work in sales you need to be an extrovert, many introverts don’t even consider sales as a profession.
  1. Sales is associated with some extrovert qualities – such as engaging with customers and reaching out to new people – however, in many other types of jobs people have to do these activities too. It’s just more common in sales.
  1. Our perception of sales is skewed. We exaggerate the extrovert qualities of the typical salesperson, and ignore other, more introverted qualities that are required in sales.

So, how does being an introvert actually help improve your chances of success?

Firstly, you are more aware of what’s going on in your environment by sitting back and listening, rather than jumping in and talking. In effect, you make your customers the centre of attention instead of yourself.

Secondly, this ability to listen means you are great at really hearing what your customers are telling you. Are they saying one thing, but implying something else? Does their body language match what they are saying? 

Thirdly, you will probably ask great questions. Your focus will be on asking useful and pertinent questions and considering your customers’ responses, instead of ‘telling’ or ‘talking at’ your customers.

Do we even ‘like’ the typical extroverted salesperson persona?

Another important point to consider, is that buyers probably don’t like the stereotypical ‘extroverted’ salesperson figure that we are used to hearing about. 

Put yourself in their shoes: if you were making a large purchase, would you want a salesperson who was thoughtful and considered in their approach, and was attuned to your way of thinking and intently listening to your answers? Or would you prefer a gregarious, over-confident salesperson who talked over you and told you information rather than trying to ask you sensible and well-thought-out questions?

In reality, many salespeople are somewhere in the middle between full extroverts and introverts. However, we shouldn’t assume that people who are more on the ‘introvert’ end of the spectrum can’t make good salespeople. And we also shouldn’t let our own bias about the ideals of the stereotypical salesperson affect our judgement when hiring into new sales roles. We need to instead understand what our customers need and want from a salesperson, and use that information to inform who we hire – or how we conduct ourselves as professional salespeople.

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