Extroverted vs. Introverted Sales Reps: Who Should You Hire?

Ask anyone to describe a salesperson and you’ll likely get a similar slew of adjectives: “outgoing,” “charismatic,” “persuasive,” all of which generally boil down to “extroverted.” It’s an age-old assumption that good salespeople are extroverts. But is it true?

Alen Mayer, author of Selling for Introverts, says no. He argues that an introverted sales rep might not fit the typical mold, but their approach can be just as successful. And having a mix of both introverts and extroverts will make a positive impact on the business. We sat down with Alen to learn more, and get his take on how to train and retain introverted salespeople.


Author Bio: Alen has over 20 years of experience in international sales and business development. In 2013, he was voted #2 on the Sales Lead Management Association’s “Top 50 Most Influential People in Sales,” and has published six sales titles, including Selling for Introverts and Introverts in Business. Visit his award-winning blog at www.alenmayer.com.

1. Why is it a mistake for sales organizations to only hire extroverted reps?
The most successful businesses have a balance of talents and personality traits that optimize every aspect of a business. For example, extroverts make great first impressions; introverts make lasting impressions. Extroverts talk to think; introverts think to talk.

The introvert isn’t better than, or worse than, the extrovert. Both have unique and valuable qualities that enhance any business situation.

2. What strengths do introverts bring to the table?
The first major strength involves composure; many introverts love to sit back to give themselves a better vantage point. Relationship building is high on their priority list, which means they’re far more likely to build long-term streams of revenue by working with the same customers again and again.

Introverts are also quite adept at letting people talk around them. They take in all the details and statements, asking questions for more information, and getting the big picture that matters to the customer, instead of relying on a script.

3. Where do introverts typically fall short?
For introverts new to selling, interacting with people is a common fear. They’re afraid of introducing themselves, not knowing what to say, or coming across as awkward. The good news is that they can overcome that fear–an introverted salesperson just needs to make a point of practicing and interacting with many people on a regular basis.

4. Should introverts try to mimic extroverts?
Many introverts have learned to become more extroverted as a survival mechanism. However, trying to be something you are not is a recipe for unhappiness. When you work with introverts, you’ll want them to get past the mask that many introverts wear, and get down to the genuine person beneath. Let them be who they are.

5. What should sales managers keep in mind when training introverts?
Recognize differences in motivation. Extroverts are shameless self-promoters and may sometimes lose sight of the team’s goal in favor of their own agenda. Keep them focused and on-task with frequent meetings and feedback. You can let the introverts fly here, as they’re typically self-motivated and stay on-task until completion.

Also, understand that introverts and extroverts handle stress differently. It’s vital that you, as a leader, keep the lines of communication open.

6. What helps introverts be successful?
For introverts, connections are important. While an introvert might not have a thousand clients, you can be sure the clients that he or she does have are treated with respect and have a basis for a real connection.

Introvert salespeople are typically content to spend a lot of time by themselves and attack problems from a variety of angles. In doing so, they tend to come up with unique ways of seeing a problem and solving it.

7. What training technologies are best for introverts?
Technologies that allow for self-paced learning are best. Give your team autonomy by setting clear, concise expectations, and allow them to meet those expectations in their own way. Don’t judge your team members’ contributions by how much they talk about those contributions; let everyone’s actions speak for themselves.

8. Any final words for sales managers training introverts?
Most sales training is geared towards extroverts, chiefly for the fact that few introverts entertain the idea of a sales career. But when introverts do join the ranks, they can bring a lot to the table that extroverts cannot. It’s important to identify the positive traits that introverts can bring, and how to mine them.

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