When people conjure up an image of a good sales rep, they often picture a charming and sociable extrovert. Sales reps will find themselves conversing with others often and as such, people skills are somewhat of a requirement. Since all of this comes easily to extroverts, they are thus often appointed as sales reps.
“Introverted” and “extroverted” are not labels used for shy and outgoing people respectively. Additionally, they do not necessarily predict someone’s ability to speak with others. Psychologically speaking, an introvert is someone who expends energy in social situations while an extrovert is someone who is energised by social situations. This does not mean that there aren’t differences in their abilities though. Introverts will generally approach their tasks differently from extroverts.
What strengths do extroverts have that introverts do not?
You would be hard-pressed to find a sales position where a rep does not need to speak to any customers or clients. Meeting with prospects is part-and-parcel of the job and an extrovert may thrive in such a situation, and be less likely to burnout. Put in a more conducive environment, extroverts may show more enthusiasm, utilise more gestures, and generally wear their positivity on their sleeves. This can easily rub off on clients. This is unlike introverts who are less emotive in general.
Small talk comes a lot more naturally to extroverts. Introverts invest a lot in meaningful connections and relationships. To many introverts, small talk can be “intimidating, boring, or exhausting”. Conversation does not necessarily need to have any emotional weight behind them for extroverts to navigate them. This allows prospects to quickly warm up to a sales rep before launching into business talk.
These points make it seem that extroverts will generally find being a sales rep more pleasant, and that may be true at times. Extroverts surely have a lot more space to let their natural qualities shine, but there are definitely other parts of the sales process that introverts can naturally excel at.
What makes introverts good sales reps?
An introvert’s brain generally makes more mental connections when accessing and storing information. This might lead to an introvert needing a longer time to come up with responses, but they also tend to be more well thought-out. This kind of detail-focused thinking encapsulates more than just an introvert’s conversations. It extends to other tasks a sales rep may have besides speaking with prospects. Proper research is often an advantage when reaching out to prospects and introverts tend to excel in this by gathering and utilising as much information as possible.
While introverts may not excel in meetings or presentations where a dozen other people may be watching, their true strengths lie in one-on-one conversations. Introverts are generally less active in a conversation, preferring to listen rather than talk. This makes them good listeners which can be an important trait for sales reps who can offer more meaningful advice.
Furthermore, while introverts are more hesitant to make connections, they are good at injecting emotion into a story. A sales rep who can leverage the power of emotional storytelling may perform better than one that only tries to appeal to logic. This makes their stories a lot more memorable and helps a sales rep to appear more authentic in front of their clients.
The best of both worlds?
Introversion and extroversion do not sit on two dichotomous lines, however. It is nigh impossible to find someone who is fully introverted nor one that is solely an extrovert. They exist on a spectrum. Introversion and extroversion refer to people who lean to one side or the other.
Both groups have negatives that would count against them when working as sales reps. Extroverts may often seek social validation and that can possibly stunt their work performance. Introverts, on the other hand, may not have the right social experience to perform well.
An ambivert is someone who is neither an introvert nor an extrovert. They are equally drained and energised by social situations. In essence, these people may embody the best parts of both sides of the spectrum. While an extrovert may come off as overtly charming – to the point of distrust – an ambivert can reign themselves in with their introverted side and appear more genuine and trusting.
Other promising studies actually show that extroversion has no correlation with a sales reps performance. In fact, personality has less weight than actual skills. A certain personality type may influence how naturally one leans into specific skills like how an extrovert naturally has better social skills, but this does not mean that introverts cannot learn these skills as well.
So, can introverts make good sales reps? Yes. Is it because they are introverts that they can make good sales reps? No. Introverted or extroverted, a sales reps performance is based on their skills and willingness. It may be harder to train certain people over others, but there are far many other factors than just introversion or extroversion that determine this.