The Age of the Introvert Salesperson

Sales has changed. You remember how it used to be, right? Waiting in the lobby for that big appointment. Impersonal boardroom meetings.  You sat across the table from each other; you didn’t tell him too much and he didn’t give you any clues as to what he was thinking.

You bantered and built trust through non-verbal communication techniques — the ones you read about in the sales book du jour.  Or maybe during a sales meeting, one of the more seasoned professionals imparted you with knowledge. “Pace your prospect,” he told you. “When he leans in, you lean in. When he crosses his arms, so do you.”

Your presentation skills involve walking the room, waving your hands, smiling, nodding, looking people straight in the eye. All this comes easy for you, doesn’t it? You are an extrovert.

Back in school, you were the center of attention.  You have no fear of attending parties by yourself. Peers, prospects and colleagues consider you outgoing and engaging. You’re boisterous, lively, energetic, entertaining, maybe charming.

Friends and family have been telling you for years, “You’re such a people person, you should go into sales.” So one day, you took their advice and jumped into the sales profession.

Over the years, your selling prowess was unmatched. Sizing up a room, determining motives, overcoming objections, and schmoozing receptionists came second nature.

You learned to rely on your support team for all the “techie” questions.  You would jokingly say you, “know more about people, less about hardware.” Subject matter experts were the second line of the selling team and the team worked very well.

Our skills have become personality traits.  We can run a presentation in our sleep and love to work off the cuff and improvise. We love to be organic, reactionary, ad-hoc, impromptu, adlib, improvised.

Then COVID-19 happened and the world flipped upside-down, shaking all the stuff out of all our pockets.

“Virtual selling” is no longer an illusion.

Good salespeople can change many things about themselves like chameleons.  But at our core is the insatiable need to stay in the center of the universe, to present with all the pomp and circumstance we can muster.

To help cope, and continue to sell, advisors sprung up schooling us on multitudes of aspects around selling through the camera.  All valuable advice. Yet few are mentioning or even recognizing a paramount aspect.  In this new world of selling, those of us comfortable presenting, working around challenges, and hard closing are less relevant than we were prior to March 2020.

Welcome, the age of the “Introvert Selling Professional.”

Every successful selling professional should have a chill running down their spine.  Introverted personalities are built for remote/virtual selling — not extroverts.

What is an introvert?

 “a shy, reticent person. From modern Latin introvertere, from intro- ‘to the inside’ + vertere ‘to turn’. Its use as a term in psychology dates from the early 20th century.”

When you consider the roots of the word, to “… turn one’s thoughts inwards …” it doesn‘t sound so terrible.

Also, an introvert tends to empathize and listen more than talk, yet has challenges communicating value. “I understand. Let me show you this widget.”

Extroverts talk more than they listen, and their goals are self-centered. “If you sign the order today, I’ll win our year-end sales contest.”

Here’s my take on why what we call introverts have a distinct advantage over the highly successful contemporary selling professional in this virtual world:

  1. More comfortable in front of a monitor
  2. Study and employ systems, process
  3. Do not talk irrelevancies
  4. Listen more than they talk

Gamers, computer geeks, and tech nerds (and I use these references as compliments) can sit in front of a computer screen for days and not think twice.  Communicating over the wire is more natural and easier for the typical introvert.

There is less stress, fewer avenues for misread and subtle cues. The camera presents a narrow and manageable view.

So right off the bat, this personality trait gives them an advantage.

Yet the entire practice of getting out, waiting in a lobby and sitting in a new and unfamiliar place, can be jarring.  The introvert draws power from within. The clamor of the outside world can be overwhelming if not confusing.

This does not happen online, in a virtual world.

In the virtual selling world, time is precious and attention spans are fleeting.  Knowing more about your prospect is supreme because nobody wants to waste time on a virtual call answering basic questions.  To get to the point quickly, we must research and study our prospect deeper than ever before.  The bond and rapport stage has condensed into seconds.

Studying is at the core of most introverted personalities.  You all know what I’m talking about. While my sales pals and I would head out to the local watering hole, the support staff and software specialists installed the latest scanning and workflow package for a demo in the morning.

Researching through the copious amount of data available on every niche, industry and company comes more naturally to some than others.

Out of this discipline, processes and structure reveal themselves.  Introverts tend to apply a designed process and study its effectiveness, like an experiment.  Any part of the process that doesn’t work is re-tooled and the experiment is repeated.  This exercise continues until optimal results are achieved. Committing to working a script, or managing a sales funnel is second nature.

Don’t confuse introversion with social awkwardness. Extroverts draw energy from those around them, introverts draw energy from within.  This lends itself to ignoring the frivolous qualities of specific conversations like bonding and building rapport.  This is a superfluous step in the journey.  “Forget about the fish on the wall, let’s get to what I know and don’t know about your problems.” Run through the minds of subject matter experts during the first 15 minutes of the joint appointment.

Virtual selling is a short and to-the-point engagement.  If your prospect feels his time is being wasted, he may not shut the meeting down, but he sure as heck is checking email, websites and other things while the extravert blathers on about industry awards and sponsoring the local minor league baseball team.  “We need to catch a game sometime.”

Your support person or SME-type personality will be curt and to the point. which is what prospects want and expect.

Remember, introverts “turn inside.” This personality tends to be self-reflective and internalize outside ideas and communications before talking – yeah, they tend to think before they speak.

We extroverts believe we know everything and that going off the cuff is the best way to handle any situation. What’s more, we know that if we run into a hurdle or a strong objection, our charisma and ability to say, “I’ll get that answer and circle back to you” through a devastatingly striking smile will get us through.

Your pearly whites might look good on camera, but the real sentiment is shining through.

Time is a precious thing. Listening to your prospect, reflecting on the words and responding in a methodic manner honors the value of the time your prospect is giving. Listening is a natural tendency of the introverted personality.

One more thing: science.

When researching this article I found it interesting that the word “introvert,” although based in Latin, wasn’t generally used until the beginning of the 20th century.  Same with ‘”extrovert.”  It is a denotation utilized in psychology.

I also learned that the most productive salespeople possess traits from both the extro- and introverted modes of thought.  These folks have been categorized as “ambiverts.”

I do not like to label any specific person or a set of people as a type.  This is not my intent with this piece.  However, I do recognize traits from both sides.  I know and have known hundreds of technical folks who have matching characteristics to what some would call introverts.  I have worked with and been spoken to by thousands of sales professionals who readily admit to being extroverts.  This is a real thing.

Fascinating, and at the same time understandable, is the finding that the best salespeople have tendencies from both groups and in a pre-covid era, this aspect would mean less. But today’s environment is much different when most studies were conducted.  The current landscape, in my opinion, gives the advantage to those who love to research, listen intently, get right to the point, and prefer camera to camera over face-to-face communications.

All us old-school, glad-handing, and effervescent sales dogs should feel that cold chill down our collective spines.  This turbulence strikes the direct center of our strengths.

I love the phrase, “Past strengths are today’s weaknesses.”  This is most relevant today.

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is an entrepreneur and founder of the notorious destination site TheDeathOfTheCopier, where he comments on all things imaging, the rise of managed services and the advance of business technology. A prolific writer and frequent speaker, Greg shares his passionate, unique – and often provocative – view of technology and people, addressing the impact of digital on 21st century business. His 2014 book, Death Of The Copier, offers a controversial summary of the early days of Managed Print Services and the not-so-distant future of the hard copy industry. Reach out to Greg at greg@grwalters.com.

Greg Walters

is an entrepreneur and founder of the notorious destination site TheDeathOfTheCopier, where he comments on all things imaging, the rise of managed services and the advance of business technology. A prolific writer and frequent speaker, Greg shares his passionate, unique – and often provocative – view of technology and people, addressing the impact of digital on 21st century business. His 2014 book, Death Of The Copier, offers a controversial summary of the early days of Managed Print Services and the not-so-distant future of the hard copy industry. Reach out to Greg at greg@grwalters.com.