Despite the common perception that sales people have to be outgoing and extroverted in order to perform their jobs effectively this does not hold true for many sales positions. While it is definitely true that the vast majority of sales positions require extroverts and all things being equal an extrovert is usually the more suitable person to hire, in our experience it can be a big mistake to assume that just because an applicant is introverted he is not suitable.
Be careful though, there are introverts that can be very effective and there are introverts that will be complete failures. The key seems to lie in a combination of the other characteristics that they possess. Another important issue is the specific sales role for which he/she is being considered.
As we shall see knowing what exactly is the sales role to be performed and the other qualities that the person has can go a very long way towards making a better hiring decision. Many of these more introverted sales types do not come off very well in interviews so you will be doing them a bit of a favor by investigating them more carefully and you might just do yourself a favor by uncovering a diamond in the rough who goes on to be quite successful.
First of all lets define what we mean by the term introverted. In our salestestonline.com reports we measure this on our Sociability scale. We define this in the following way:
A measure of the need to interact with others or to obtain the stimulation of interacting with other people. It can be thought of as introversion vs. extroversion. An outward (people) orientation vs. an inward (task) orientation. It is not a measure of friendliness. Other ways to view it are: empathy level, need for acceptance of others, persuasiveness. Among the things it will impact are communication style, thinking style, response to others, prospecting.
High levels of this factor mean that the individual is very extroverted, sociable, people oriented, outgoing, needs lots of interaction, is very persuasive, empathetic, needs acceptance and recognition, communicates persuasively.
Low levels of this factor mean that the individual is very introverted, reserved, work or task oriented, analytical, technically oriented, is skeptical, a tangible or concrete thinker, communicates formally, factually or directly.
So what we mean when we use the term introverted is that the individuals are reserved, work or task oriented, analytical, tangible/concrete thinkers, technically oriented, skeptical, formal, factual, direct.
What other characteristics do the introverts possess that contribute to their success? To answer this question lets turn again to the definition of one of the trait drives in our salestestonline.com reports. Specifically our Assertiveness scale, which we define in the following way:
A measure of how assertive the individual is. It can be thought of as the need to control one’s working environment. Other ways to view it are: competitiveness, self-motivation, drive, dominance, confidence, ego, the desire to make ones own decisions or the need to be in charge. Among the things it will impact are the type of direction the individual needs, the way the individual makes decisions, response to incentives, prospecting and closing.
High levels of this factor mean that the individual is highly competitive, dominant, authoritative, assertive, take-charge, needs to “win”, needs to be in control and be recognized, thinks big, is risk oriented.
Low levels of this factor mean that the individual needs harmony, affiliation and belonging, seeks guidance and direction, avoids risk, likes to be a member of the team, is cautious and careful, helpful and considerate.
In our experience the introverts that tend to be more successful in sales tend to have high levels of assertiveness. Therefore, though reserved, formal, factual, analytical, technical and work oriented they have a great deal of drive, competitiveness, self-motivation, need to be in charge, need to win, need to be in control.
What are some of the things you should you be aware of when hiring this type of person?
1. First of all remember that they often do not come off particularly well in interviews. Unlike extroverts they are out of their arena and can be rather uncomfortable and ill at ease during the interview and may seem brusque, cold or aloof. How comfortable they appear will be in direct proportion to their knowledge of the subject being discussed.
2. These are individuals that will often work very hard but have great difficulty with new business development. The harsher the rejection and the more that prospecting is a part of the job they are expected to perform the greater the risk. A qualifier to this is that if the rejection is not particularly harsh then they may be just fine. If new business development is an important part of the job, perhaps team the individual with someone who can open doors or perhaps assist him/her with some lead generation tools.
3. Because they are very hard working they will likely invest a lot of time in the job. There will usually be no lack of effort. Be aware however of their tendency to work long hours (planning, paper work, computer time) while avoiding customer interaction. Call reluctance can be a problem.
4. These are individuals who tend to have a very thorough grasp of their subject matter. They also tend to be very technical in style. For this reason if your products/services are technically oriented they may be a very good fit.
5. These are individuals who tend to be very business-like. As noted they also tend to be very thorough and well prepared. Their style is often a good fit for selling to professional types i.e. engineers, accountants, lawyers, doctors, architects, and senior managers in businesses of a technical orientation or in many financial areas.
6. These individuals can be quite consultative i.e. they may have difficulty getting in front of the prospect due to some of the qualities described above but once in front of the customer their grasp of their subject and their business like approach results in a highly professional style. What they tend to lack in pure persuasiveness they tend to make up for by presenting very logical arguments to purchase. A different approach, but a potentially effective one nevertheless.
7. Training and development in the area of communication and interaction will definitely help. You will never change them into extroverts of course but you can definitely soften a potential weakness.
I hope you can see that despite the widespread assumption that one has to be an extrovert to be successful in sales there are a lot of potentially very good sales people out there that you should not overlook just because they do not interview very well.