Throughout my career I have encountered stellar salespeople and snake oil salesmen. The difference between them is like night and day. Snake oil salesmen are the salespeople who are in your face, pushing you to buy. They cajole, convince, persuade, and strong arm their way into a sale. They are pushy and loud, not only in their voice but in their behavior.
They are selling hard because they are always selling. They don’t build relationships so they have to be hunting all the time. They are on the extreme end of the extrovert continuum.
Then we have stellar salespeople. These folks understand they are matching a solution to a need. They build relationships and seek to understand where the prospect is before they offer their solution. They have long term clients and receive referrals regularly. At networking events, they ask a lot of questions and share very little about their product or service.
Stellar salespeople share a lot of characteristics with introverts. The February 6, 2012 cover story for TIME Magazine talks about the “Power of (shyness).” The author, Bryan Walsh, mentions that:
“Introverts are better at listening – which, after all, is easier to do if you’re not talking.”
I submit that listening is the number one skill of an exceptional, stellar salesperson. According to Bryan, introverts are “more cautious and deliberate than extroverts.” Introverts “tend to think things through more thoroughly, which means they can often make smarter decisions.”
Stellar salespeople don’t shoot from the hip; they don’t think they have a ‘one size fits all’ product or service. Instead, they take what they’ve heard from their prospect and they determine how they can help. If they can, they present a proposal that mirrors the need. If they can’t, they say so.
When introverts network, they spend their time getting to know one or two people. They don’t ‘work the room’ and hand their business card to everyone. Other people like to speak with introverts because the introvert is genuinely interested in them. The introvert would rather learn about someone else than talk about themselves. Once again, listening plays a key role.
Introverts build deep, lasting relationships. This is key to sales success. Maintaining lasting relationships with clients is far less costly than hunting for new ones. This is also where referrals can come from.
Because introverts are more deliberate in their processing, I submit they are probably viewed as more trustworthy; and trust is critical to sales. If we put all of these characteristics together we see the perfect model of a stellar salesperson – a trustworthy listener who builds lasting relationships and thinks things through to come to a meaningful solution.
All salespeople would do well to make sure they are embracing these characteristics and skill sets. After all, it’s never been about the salesperson; it’s always been about the prospect. When salespeople stop talking, start listening, and spend their time thinking about how they can help their prospect instead of what they can sell to someone, they will be stellar.
Follow the introvert’s lead – they come to it naturally.
Sales Concept Photo via Shutterstock