Hiring Salespeople: Introverts over Extroverts? Or is there a middle ground?

 

What should hiring managers be looking for in the personality of a salesperson? Someone who is outgoing that will talk-it-up with anyone and everyone and not take “No!” for an answer? Maybe, since this type of “extroverted” personality is probably what comes to mind when you think “salesperson”. Extroverts are the best sales performers, right? They have the confidence to pick up the phone, walk up to anyone, start a conversation and just go for it, correct?  They speak louder, with loads of animation and enthusiasm. They inspire confidence in prospects and clients. Extroverts can make the smallest amount of small talk interesting. Clearly, extroverts dominate when it comes to sales, and they are the type of people that you should be looking for when hiring a salesperson. Before your head falls off from all of the nodding, you might want to think again about how effective “extroverts” really are at sales. Are you missing something by taking only this into consideration?

The Ex-factor: A tricky issue with salespeople with extroverted personalities can be deficiencies in their listening skills.  Many spend a lot of time speaking and focusing on their own viewpoints and not enough time on really hearing customer’s perspectives. Although extroverts may have no problem being assertive and enthusiastic, successful selling does require a balance.  They must also be considerate when it comes to needs, interests, and values of customers. Extroverts live for the spotlight and cannot help but dominate conversations. Everyone knows someone that’s like this- they can control a room and have everyone gravitate toward them. Or they bug the crap out of them, depends on who you ask. In sales, an extrovert may appear overly enthusiastic and customers can sense that and begin to resist. They may lose trust and start scrutinizing words and make counterarguments to the point of total resistance. 

 

Inward Bound: On the other side of things, introverts, are more likely to have the critical thinking, listening and asking questions skills in their favor. Critical thinking is exactly what it sounds like when it comes to sales-- critical. Introverts have a natural ability to think deeply and are typically good listeners. Customers do not want to deal with someone who won’t allow a word in edgewise or steamrolls past objections. Introverted salespeople don't feel the need to dominate a conversation simply because they like the sound of their own voice. Instead, they’ll sit back and let a prospect talk through their problems before offering advice.

 

The obvious problems with introverts is the inability to be persistent when selling. They are not as aggressive as extroverts and this can be frustrating for sales managers. They do not have the innate ability to pick up the phone without fear and sell to close. It is important to have the courage to resist and have those conversations that are not always comfortable.

 

Here’s the thing: The difference between extroverts and introverts is not necessarily cut and dry but rather a spectrum. How often do you hear people say “once you get to know me, I never shut up.”? Well this is because many people exhibit characteristics of both extroverts and introverts – they are called ambiverts. As you might have guessed, those who have this very balanced ambivert personality are undoubtedly the best salespeople. Ambiverts have the great mix of the enthusiasm and assertiveness of an extrovert along with the listening and analyzing skills of an introvert. They are social at times when it suits them, but can also be self-reflective and have solid understanding of people. They have a knack for analyzing a customer’s personality, tone of voice, and wants/needs and using that information to adjust their pitch. Ambiverts tend to do well adapting to any situation that they are placed in, whether it be a busy social scene such as an event for networking or a quiet environment where they have no issue being in solitude. Their ability to be confident without coming across as cocky is unlike some extroverts who often teeter the line of arrogance. In short, ambiverts are able to show confidence in their knowledge but also have a willingness to listen and learn. They are persistent without being overly aggressive. Ambiverts tend to find the right balance between informing the customer and pushing the customer to make a purchase. They often have an intuitive understanding of their customer’s emotions, and that allows them to adjust their aggressiveness based on what approach they feel will work best with each specific customer.

 

When it comes down to it, what should you be looking for? – Balance. Strive for individuals who wow you with their enthusiasm and engagement, but not to the point of self-absorption and the inability for self-reflection.