The stereotype of a successful salesperson is an extrovert who sells anything to anybody. He (or, less commonly, she) charms customers so thoroughly that they sign on the dotted line before they know what hit them.
Customers, however, don’t find extroverted salespeople charming. On the contrary, most customers tune out the moment a seller looks or sounds like the stereotype.
The dislike and distrust of salespeople is nothing new; the fast-talking, backslapping salesman was a stock villain for nearly 100 years. (See: Gantry, Elmer.)
Customers hate being cajoled or manipulated into buying something they don’t want. As the old saying goes, “Everybody likes to buy, but nobody likes to be sold to.”
The near-universal dislike of stereotypical salespeople stems directly from the traditional definition of selling:
Intruding (to get your foot in the door)
Pitching (to persuade the customer to buy)
Persisting (to push until you make the sale)
Effective selling is quite different. It consists of:
Research (to understand the customer)
Listening (to understand individual needs)
Reacting (to adapt to the identified needs)
Research requires time spent alone on the Web, reading and analyzing information. Listening means being patient and quiet while remaining open to new ideas and perspectives. Reacting is all about letting the other person set the pace and the agenda.
These are all classic introverted behaviors that are difficult for extroverts to do well.
Why, then, do companies continue to employ and deploy extroverts rather than introverts in sales roles? The answer is that such companies don’t understand how technology is changing the sales process.
Back in the day, salespeople needed to be extroverts, because most new sales opportunities evolved from cold calling, originally in person, but later by telephone.
Extroverts tend to be good at cold calling and telemarketing, because they thrive on social interaction and tend to have thick skins and therefore the ability to cope with rejection.
Technology, however, has made cold calling ineffective. What with voice mail, call blocking, caller ID, no-call lists, it’s become nearly impossible to get a decision maker on the phone without an appointment.
(Note to chief sales officers: When your customers spend billions of dollars on technology to prevent your salespeople from interrupting them, take the damn hint.)
The collapse of cold calling as a lead-generation mechanism is the reason inbound or email marketing is so popular, BTW. A savvy email can easily engage a decision maker online and segue into a phone call, especially when that decision maker has already indicated interest.
Inbound or email marketing, however, demands an ability to research a customer, see the world from the customer’s perspective, and adapt to the customer’s situation and specific response–all skills that come easier to introverts than extroverts.
Now that technology has made cold calling obsolete, there’s no longer much reason for salespeople to be extroverts. Or as one might say in sales lingo: “We don’t need hunters, just farmers.”