One of the prevailing personality stereotypes we rarely question is that extremely extroverted people do best in sales. On the flip side, extremely introverted people may as well not even try to sell anything because it's a foregone conclusion that they simply can't.
A new study published in the journal Psychological Science suggests that not only are these stereotypes wrong, but there's an entirely different personality type that stands well above the others in sales prowess.
The study was conducted by researcher Adam Grant of The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, also author of the book Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success. Grant predicted that extroverts, contrary to popular lore, would not bury other personality types when it came to closing sales -- but rather, ambiverts, people who are more or less equal parts extroverted and introverted would perform best.
Grant conducted a personality survey and collected three-months of sales records for more than 300 salespeople, both men and women. As he predicted, people whose scores put them in between extreme extroversion and introversion turned out to be the best salespeople. In a three-month period, they made 24% more in sales revenue than introverts, and 32% more in revenue than extroverts.
Perhaps even more surprising, Grant found that the two extreme personality types pulled in roughly the same percentage of sales. Being highly extroverted wasn't even a plus when compared against the personality type we generally think of as the worst candidate for high-performance sales.
The reason for these results may simply be that extroverts pour it on a bit too thick for their own good, and this tendency negates any charismatic advantages they might otherwise enjoy. For example, their overflowing enthusiasm for the sale can cause them to not listen closely enough to the needs of the customer, and this in turn hurts their chances of closing the sale.
Because ambiverts embody traits from both sides of the personality spectrum--in a sense, they have a built in 'governor' that regulates their exuberance--they don't trip over the obstacles that handicap their more extroverted counterparts.
"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," Grant said.
If you are wondering exactly who these well-balanced ambiverts are, you may be interested to know that chances are you are one of them. Personality surveys show that most people fall into the ambivert range--an ironic twist, since sales managers often go to great lengths to find extreme extroverts, thinking they're the best bet to improve sales, when all the while plenty of ambiverts are in their midst.
Once again, balance proves more beneficial than extremes -- and another personality myth hits the proverbial rocks.