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I was doing a sales workshop at a conference the other week, and one of the delegates said to me over coffee “ But I can’t sell because I am an introvert”.  

It is a common theme. People perceive it as necessary to be ultra-extrovert for selling;  a smooth-talking, party-loving animal who has all the answers.   They are wrong.

When I first had a Myers Briggs assessment done several decades ago, I was the extremist of introverts.  Having re-done one recently, I find that this has changed to somewhere in the middle:  Interesting, as I had been under the illusion that personality traits don’t change that much.   Perhaps it is just the glory of age that I genuinely do not care as much what people think. 

That said, on a bad day, I find it very easy to revert to type.  I freeze in a big crowd, I skulk in corners and fail to make contact with people unless I really push myself.   Perhaps you can identify with that total panic when you see everyone else appears to be happily chatting in established groups and you start to shake at the mere thought of trying to introduce yourself.

Introvert! – a help list for you

My first piece of advice if you feel like this and find the idea of selling agonizing is to give the big meetings and conferences a miss.  The bigger the group, the greater the agony, so don’t put yourself through it.   Business is about playing to your strengths and selling is no different.  

Marketing has got better and better at targeting leads that are likely to have a genuine need for what you are offering and the introverted salesperson will find it a whole lot easier to chat with someone who is interested – so use your marketing to the hilt.

If you have to do the first approach yourself and the thought of speaking to someone really makes you cringe, try out your writing abilities and do it that way.  If you can make your written approach sufficiently different, engaging, and unique, you can have as much success at striking up a relationship through social media, emails, or even old fashioned snail mail.

Many of us are held back by hang-ups about how we look.  The phone is the ideal medium, hidden safely away, to develop those sales skills and start chatting and developing really great relationships.   By the time you meet, it will feel quite safe as the relationship will already be in place.   And by the time we get to the stage of having real, in-person relationships, introverts come into their own.   We are at our happiest having one to one conversations, in a “safe” place.

One of the ironies is that the person we are selling to may also be at their most comfortable like that.  Nowhere is it written that a customer must be brimming with confidence, and there is a huge danger that we get so hung up on how we feel, we forget it is about making the customer feel good.  It is the sales person’s job to create empathy to make the customer feel at most at home, and their best chance of that is always on a one to one basis.

To sell, you need to establish what your customer’s emotional needs are by asking a few, very right, questions but mostly by listening and paying attention to what they are telling you.  Only when you understand what makes your customer tick, is it likely you will make a sale.   So, contrary to assumptions that you should turn into some dazzling, all tap-dancing entertainers, the salesperson should instead use their two ears and one mouth in that same proportion and make their customers feel good in the process.

Introverts and non-sales people assume that they need the gift of the gab, that they may even need to bend the truth and “trick” their customers into buying.  That sort of sales is way out of date.   People want to buy from people they trust and have empathy with.  

That credibility comes from two things.   The first is to genuinely know what you are talking about.  Become an expert in your products, your markets, your customers’ markets, and each individual customer.  Then you can share that knowledge from the position of an advisor to your customer, which is a much more comfortable role for an introvert to assume.   You can relax in the genuine knowledge that you are going to be helping their customer, and concentrate on thinking about that rather than how you are going to sell to them.

The other great advantage of really knowing what you are talking about is that you don’t have to bluff.   You may be the best bluffer in the world and get away with it but it will still give you problems.  Underneath, you will feel panicked, and false, two major confidence destroyers.   Knowledge is the introvert’s best friend.

Saying “I don’t know but I will find out” does not lose you any customers.   Instead, it will increase your customer’s trust.   Don’t ever try and fake anything, and that includes faking personae for yourself of what you imagine the perfect salesperson to be.   It will distract you and the customer and ensure you sell absolutely nothing.

An introvert very definitely can sell.  They just need to do it in ways to suit them.  They need to remember to set up meetings that suit their style, ensure they know what they are talking about, create empathy with the prospect by initial connection, and using their great listening skills while enjoying the quiet they like.    They need to be tough with themselves and not let negative self-talk intervene but instead capitalize on their own, introverted uniqueness and treat the customers as they would like to be treated themselves.

Introverted or just shy – we all feel like that sometimes – Photo by Abbas Malek Hosseini on Unsplash

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