Who are the best sales people – introverts or extraverts?

Posted on April 23rd, by Dr Rob Yeung . 3 comments

Quickly, off the top of your head, what would you describe as the stereotype of a sales person? You might think a sales person should be smooth, fast-talking, outgoing and persistent. But of course successful sales people need to ask questions and understand their customers and clients too.

So would you guess that the most successful sales people would be introverts or extraverts?

Introverts tend to be better listeners. They tend to be less outgoing so find activities like networking more difficult.

In contrast, extraverts enjoy meeting new people so they find networking and meeting strangers easier. But they tend to find talking easier than listening.

Researcher Adam Grant at the University of Pennsylvania set out to examine precisely this question. He asked more than 300 sales people to complete a personality questionnaire and then tracked their sales figures over a 3-month period.

The result?

The findings published in the journal Psychological Science tell us that neither introverts nor extraverts make the best sales people. Instead, it’s people who are somewhere in the middle who do best.

People who are somewhere in the middle – what Grant calls ‘ambiverts’ – sold 24 per cent more than introverts and 32 per cent more than extraverts. So, if anything, extraverts made the worst sales people.

The researcher’s thoughts: “The ambivert advantage stems from the tendency to be assertive and enthusiastic enough to persuade and close, but at the same time, listening carefully to customers and avoiding the appearance of being overly confident or excited.”

The lessons then?

Top sales people succeed because they demonstrate both extravert behaviours (such as coming across as assertive and confident when it comes to meeting new people) and introvert behaviours (such as listening carefully). Wherever you fall on the introversion-extraversion spectrum, you need to demonstrate both sets of behaviours in order to succeed.

3 Responses to “Who are the best sales people – introverts or extraverts?”

  1. Nishant says:

    Vow, Im am natural introvert with the inclination towards high ambiversion…. Thank you Dr Rob for such a nice information…I’ll share it …..

  2. Glyn says:

    I would agree with these conclusions. In a past life I had a very successful career selling luxury cars in Mayfair in London’s West End. Over the years I met many wealthy and high profile people with very demanding and ego driven personalities! Qualifying the customers thoroughly was important which meant listening carefully to their answers and understanding their needs. I learnt very early on that being overly pushy and brash was very counter productive. Confidently assumptive and professional was my style with a touch of humour whilst being an attentive good listener. Leading clients in such a way that they always enjoyed the process and felt that THEY had made a good decision with a jolly nice chap on his level rather than being “sold” something by a salesman. Was a great fun job!

  3. Taylor says:

    It’s gratifying to know that intraverts and ambiverts actually make better sales people. From the way the extraverts in our office stride around, you’d think they could walk on water.

    What kind of sales were the people in the study involved in? Would there be different personality types who do better in some kinds of sales jobs as opposed to others?

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