Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Can Introverts Sell?

Having read my post "Selling for Introverts", a senior level professional at a well known US institution recently shared with me that she is being considered for a promotion, and that position will require her to drive revenue growth as part of her role, i.e. sell.  Given her introverted nature, she asked if I thought she could be successful in such a role.  She was experiencing self-doubt and wondered if an extrovert would be better suited for the role.  

In our society, sales is traditionally viewed as a role for those with outgoing personalities.  Yet I believe introverts too can and do succeed in sales.  The real question to me is: In which types of sales and sales environments are introverts likely to be more effective and more successful, for both themselves and their organizations?  I will answer this question in this post.

To use the classic metaphor, there are two types of sales environments.  First type is in which one is required to possess excellent hunting skills and in the other farming.  Thus, two types of sales people, the hunter and the farmer.

In an organization where sales success depends on hunting, that is you "eat what you kill", I would not recommend it for introverts.  In these situations, one has to be in essence constantly "Dialing-for-Dollars", be on the go searching and hunting for deals.  Here you close one deal and then move onto finding your next one.  It's endless. Sales in such environments tend to be very transactional, relatively simple from complexity view point, and with little opportunity for reoccurring revenue.  For example, think selling life insurance, vacuum cleaners, driveway sealing.

If however the sales position is within an organization that meets the following criteria, then it's a great fit for introverts.  These criteria include:
  • Solutions are complex, requiring in depth subject matter expertise
  • Success depends on cultivating and building long-term relationships
  • Markets are highly targeted
  • Sales once made turn into reoccurring revenue
  • Opportunities exist to implement multiple solutions within clients organizations
  • Achieving success requires long-term mindset and one that is focused on providing solutions to complex problems rather than selling simple products
  • Organization supports, and even actively encourages, your being active in groups such as associations that represent your target markets, publishing articles, speaking at conferences, conducting workshops
If you're an introvert and are contemplating a career in sales, or you are in a position that requires you to sell as part of your role, ensure you are in the second type of organization where your success will be based more on your farming skills than hunting. Given your expertise, here you will sell from a place of being an expert, a consultant, an advisor.  In such an environment, you are bound to succeed, provided you:
  • Patiently, consistently, diligently follow a sales process
  • Enjoy being the expert and freely sharing your expertise to help customers solve their business problems
  • Take time to not only understand technical nature of your offerings but also how they apply to your customers to help them achieve the business results they desire
  • Grasp both technical language and business language and become comfortable in both worlds
  • Enjoy getting out and building strong relationships
  • Enjoy helping others succeed as well as find joy in winning, for simply the sake of winning and being your best at what you do
If you're an executive within a sales organization, just look around and see for yourself which types of sales professionals are being more successful within your own organization.  I believe you'll see a pattern as to which types achieve greater long-term success given what you are selling and your sales environment.

So to answer the question stated in the subject line, yes, introverts can absolutely sell, and do.  And to achieve long-term success, just make sure you're in the right environment where you will be able to leverage your strengths, maximizing your success as well as that of your employer.

PS. For those of you who have some fear selling, I like to recommend a fun and inspirational book, written by my good friend Myron Radio.  It's called Dream Makers and is available at Amazon.

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