Who are the best sales people – introverts or extraverts?
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 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.