Refining a sales team is always a huge challenge. To some people, working a conversation into a business interest and onto a closed deal comes naturally, and some work very hard to be good at it. It is common belief that a specific personality is needed to work in sales, and it’s fair to say that most people have a stock image of a “salesperson” in their mind, especially when they come to us as a voice on the end of a phone. So let’s look at the facts, and discover who sells most- introverts, extroverts or ambiverts.
If you’d like to read more about sales teams, and how you can revolutionise their performance, have a little look at our free guide “Effective multichannel models for marketing and sales”. But for now- let’s look at the people. Who are introverts, extroverts and ambiverts, and who are the best at making sales?
Introverts are independent. They prefer their own company, or company of small groups and are more likely to observe and listen then interject and discuss. Their minds are more analytical and they often have a high self-awareness. Knowledgeable of their capabilities and careful decision makers, they prefer to distance themselves and look at the bigger picture in business environments.
Some people christen introversion as a negative personality, as they believe them to be “antisocial”. This isn’t the case however - introverts are not socially inept or shy, they simply don’t need the external world to feed their happiness in the same was as extroverts or ambiverts do.
Extroverts are social butterflies. Cliché as it sounds- it’s true! They love to be around other people and feed off the energy in a busy room to help boost their morale and performance. They are interested in the external world and take a great personal interest in caring for others and their problems, often carrying the burdens of many along with their own.
They dislike being alone and struggle to find company in themselves after a short period of time. They love to be noticed and the goal of success drives them to work hard in business. It’s been found that extroverts outrank introverts 3 to 1, but some argue this is because an extrovert personality is more accepted in today’s society than it used to be- especially for women.
As you may have guessed- ambiverts are where these two personality types meet. Some people are definitely one or the other (and they’re often aware of it) but there are others who have specific characteristics of both. Ambiverts have an equal balance of both introverts and extroverts- they’re able to employ this balance to have equal care for their surrounding environment and their own concerns. When engaged in conversation, ambiverts act like extroverts when they’re confident or interested in the topic, but when they’re disengaged or unsure they step back and prefer to observe or listen. It’s thought in business, ambiverts make the best employees due to this balance, however it can work against them in that they sometimes aren’t able to excel in specific areas the same way introverts and extroverts can.
So now we know who’s who - we still need to answer – which group makes better salespeople? As always - there are compelling arguments for and against all of them.
Arguments for introverts
Introverts as personalities have many exciting positive skills they can apply to a role in sales, even though they seem far removed from our expected image of a salesperson.
Firstly, they’re incredible listeners. “Curiosity is one of the most powerful talents a person can have” and introverts are blessed with a natural ability to think deeply about what they’ve just heard and respond in a way that continues a conversation with a direct edge. In sales, they have an intense focus on who they’re talking to, avoiding small talk when it’s necessary in encouraging decision makers to commit, giving them excellent control over a conversation.
Secondly, they love systems and think critically. Introverts want to find the best way of making a sale, and are able to follow a system seamlessly when it comes to business. They’re reliable in how they work, and won’t veer from the path desired of them. However they’re incredibly good at thinking on their feet and being critical of a situation. This enables them to be easy to manage - as they’re ultimately able to focus on what needs to be done (and how to do it right). They’re also incredibly hard to catch out - their ability to think fast and take action makes it difficult to rattle an introvert - they have an answer for everything and will be able to regain conversational control in no time.
All of this proves why introverts are great on a sales team, however there are some things that don’t come naturally to them but are still crucial to sales. Due to an introvert’s innate desire for their own company, they do not have excellent small talk skills, which can distance them from the prospect they’re selling to. Being a friendly, knowable face through the phone is a skill salespeople need to fully engage a prospect, and introverts have been known to struggle when it comes to adding that personal touch to a sales pitch. Given 96% of managers display extrovert characteristics, an introverts selling technique can miss the mark - opportunities are missed with decision makers who would prefer an extroverted personality like theirs on the other end of the phone.
Introverts are also difficult to read - both face to face and over mediums like phone and email. Animation and expression in their language (spoken and body) is underplayed and often subtle - meaning it’s hard for their colleagues to know what they need and how to work with them, whilst also meaning the people they’re selling to can’t read them in a way that allows them to put full trust in what they’re selling.
Arguments for extroverts
Extroverted personalities align much more with our pre-conceived vision of a salesperson - in sales, you always have to interact with people, and extroverts find that a piece of cake. Because they gain such a positive energy from interactions, extroverts will always appear positive to the people they’re calling, even if they’re having a bad day on the inside. This positivity does wonders for their use of small talk with prospects and makes it easier for them to earn instant credibility. People are quick to put their trust in extrovert salespeople and rapports are soon built making a more memorable connection.
Extroverts are exceptionally good at cold-calling, and as they gain so much energy from social interactions, they are happy to spend all day on the phone passionately working with people. Extroverts have a huge understanding in the importance of personal connection, so will use their skills to find common ground through small talk before bringing it all round to business. Put simply, extroverts make excellent salespeople because they see a prospect as a person instead of a project to work.
However, in the same way the introverts had an array of warning signs, so do the extroverts. In sales, it can be easy to get so excited about what you’re selling that you overpower the prospect and end up drawing distance from them instead of peaking interest. Extroverts are less self-aware than introverts, meaning they can sometimes become offenders of the above and aren’t able to see that they’ve done something wrong. This can cause mistrust for clients, as 69% of people want a salesperson to listen to their needs above all else, extroverts can sometimes forget where they stand in a sales situation.
Their emotional mind-set and need to be noticed can also mean that they become overly friendly with both colleagues and prospects, so they lose respect. This then causes them to become unmotivated and struggle in a sales environment. When they’re on top of their game, extroverts perform well, but they can be easily knocked.
Arguments for ambiverts
As you can imagine, due to the balance of an ambiverts personality, they combine the excellent personal interaction skills of an extrovert with the focus and analytical mind of an introvert to make a pretty amazing sales person. A study conducted found that ambivert personalities in sales average a revenue-per-hour of $208, whereas those who were either extrovert or introvert made between $115-$127 per-hour. As well as having the figures on their side, it’s easy to see how an ambivert can make use of the positive qualities displayed by introverts and extroverts, combining them to bring an awesome skillset to the table of sales.
But we can’t overlook the fact that a mixture of these two personalities will have a draw back. Ambiverts are able to sympathise with many people, however when interacting with an extreme introvert or extrovert in a sales situation, they can fall short in delivering what’s needed. Ambiverts can be hard to work out, because one minute you think they’re outgoing, then they close up - it’s something that can give prospects mistrust in a salesperson.
So - who’s the best?
As always, there’s no clear answer here, and that’s not down to the salespeople, it’s down to the person they’re calling. You never know who you’re going to get on the end of a phone call, and you never know if your personality will match their thought process or not. No matter how introvert or extrovert (or in the middle!) you are, if you are speaking to a prospect that you understand (and they understand you) - you’ll find it easier to make a sale than if you’re not. The best action to take is mirroring- on the first phone call try and reflect the personality you’re speaking to. If it felt effortless- then they’re like you- be more yourself and roll with it! If it seemed a little forced, then they’re probably different to you - so take time to access their needs and motives before you make contact again
The upside to this is - there are technically no pre-made advantages! Every personality type can be great at sales with the right tactics in place. Why not conduct a test across your sales team, so everyone can found out what sort of personality they have - then they can become aware of why they’re amazing, and where they could improve. A great sales person isn’t just an introvert, extrovert or ambivert - they’re driven to improve.