Why Introverts Make Great Sales Talent

Mar 21, 2018 by Bill Golder

sales talent

This one is personal for me.

I'm an introvert and...
  • I love parties and people.
  • I don’t want to curl up in a ball at festivals and concerts.
  • I enjoy presenting to large groups of people. Just don’t ask me to act out a scene from Les Miserables.
  • I am not afraid to tell you what I think.
  • I like to compete, and I don’t like to lose.
  • I’m energized by calculated risks.
I’m different from my extroverted friends because…
  • I need time to recharge and reflect alone.
  • I listen and observe just as much (if not more) than I talk at parties and meetings.
  • I don’t feel awkward with silence and long pauses.
  • I’m okay sharing the stage and completely comfortable watching others take the stage.
  • I formulate some of my best ideas during my reflection time.
I attribute the success that I’ve had in sales, as a manager of teams and now as a revenue growth consultant, largely due to my natural introversion.

That’s why I sometimes cringe when a client of ours has reservations about hiring a seller or manager who has a bent toward introversion.

We’ll be in the middle of the hiring process and someone on the hiring team will express their concern: “Doesn’t she seem a little introverted?”

Don’t get me wrong. In the talent assessments we do for our clients, candidates who hover in the middle between extroversion/introversion tend to be better fits than those candidates that have tendencies in the extremes.

Despite our experience, hiring teams still cling to the old-fashioned notion that salespeople who get results are gregarious, cavalier charmers with booming voices.

Today, modern selling requires sales talent to tap into their quiet, more thought-filled (introvert) side for a variety of reasons.

1. No more “winging it” – Sellers are pressed to develop insight-driven messaging that offers relevant data. They need to illuminate risks that prospects are facing. Risks could be ones they didn’t realize they had or ones they underestimated.

They need to marry risk with resolution – how those risks can be resolved – to meet critical outcomes.

This ability requires an affinity toward research. Introverts tend to excel in this area because they favor a brain chemical called “acetylcholine” which is linked to the parasympathetic side of the nervous system.

It’s nicknamed “the throttle down” or “rest and digest.”

On the flip side, extroverts favor the sympathetic side of the brain or the “fight/flight/freeze” or “full throttle.” This preference can lead to snap decisions and speaking before thinking.

While it typically makes extroverts more daring, it can also reduce their ability to think.

2. Listening is paramount – Today’s modern seller needs to ask uncommon questions and listen. Talking incessantly doesn’t get deals across the finish line anymore. Sellers need to talk less, reflect more, and pay attention to what prospects are saying and what prospects are not saying.

Nancy Ancowitz, author of Self Promotion for Introverts, writes: “As an introvert, your listening to talking ratio is higher. You tend to be processing things quietly in your head as opposed to out loud, which adds noise to the conversation.”

Listening means refraining from jumping to conclusions based on personal judgment, opinion, or experience and hijacking the conversation to make it about you. Instead, it’s the seller’s ability to see it from the prospect’s point of view.

The ability to take another perspective has become one of the keys to both sales and non-sales selling. And the social science research on perspective-taking yields some important lessons for all of us.

-Daniel Pink, author of Drive and To Sell Is Human

3. Servant selling differentiates – You need to construct a roadmap for helping your prospect shore up vulnerabilities in their business.

If they win, you win. This mindset isn’t one you can fake over an extended period of time. Your success is tied to your ability to let your prospect be the star, the hero.

This modern selling approach may come easier for introverts, as they are less energized by the neurotransmitter dopamine and repetitive rewards.

For introverts, money and social status are typically less motivating to them. Focusing on the needs of the prospect may come more naturally to them, if you take into account that introverts find pleasure in “turning inward” or thinking – taking time to reflect.

Research shows that a neural signal with in an introvert’s brain follows a longer path than in an extrovert’s brain. That fact suggests that more connections are made when introverts are asked questions.

I tend to believe that leads to potentially richer insights and thinking (that’s me talking, not necessarily the research).

Introversion is misunderstood and undervalued in a sales culture where whoever talks the loudest and longest typically is heard, hired, and elevated to bigger territories and titles.

Your sales team’s ability to strategize thoughtfully about how to challenge prospects with disruptive insights that inspire them to stop doing what they’ve always done will see incremental revenue growth.

Setting this buying vision that disrupts the status quo seems like the perfect job for a stellar seller with a natural bent toward introversion.

It's Time to Apply

#1: Know what makes your salespeople tick.

You've seen them in action at work, but do you really know the natural tendencies that help or hurt their likelihood for success?

Let's face it. Human beings are complicated. How we are wired impacts how we think, how we behave and the the activities that capture our interests.

In addition to understanding their natural inclination toward introversion or extroversion, there are a number of other tendencies that can be understood with a high-quality online assessment.

If you are going to be a high-impact sales manager, then you need to add some scientific insights to your observations at work in order to develop your salespeople into their full potential.

Incorporate a high-quality talent assessment into your talent development plan.

#2: Incorporate assessments into your talent selection process.

Outdated belief systems regarding what makes good salespeople vs. bad salespeople can get in the way of making good hiring and development decisions. 

By all means, make sure you determine what skills and experience will be required for each selling role. However, equally important is knowing the thinking style, behavioral traits and natural interests align well for the role. 

Using a talent assessment tool that allows you to build custom performance models for each role can pay major dividends with regard to making better hiring and promotion decisions.

Here's the sales talent assessment we use.

Assessing new hires to see how they align with the exact model you need helps to formulate better interview questions and get to the heart of what makes someone tick versus simply focusing on background and experience related topics. 

#3: Bring out the introvert in your sales team.

Most likely your sales team is made up of individuals who skew a bit toward the outgoing and extroverted side. Regardless of their natural sociability, invest time and energy to build up the thinking, listening and planning side of the equation.

Today's sellers certainly need to enjoy being around people and good at engaging with others. They also need to be very good at the less social related activities. 

Invest in training that increases their knowledge for the customer's business (business acumen training), research and planning best practices, asking thought provoking questions and active listening.

Slingshot helps companies grow by putting operational rigor to their sales organizations.

Click here for our one pager. Click here for a 30-minute consult.

About the Author

Bill Golder

Sales growth consultant with decades of small and large enterprise experience. Former CSO for Miller Heiman and Bulldog Solutions.



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