Build Your Sales Skills: A Playbook for Introverts
Sell using your quiet strengths – without pushing, cornering, or nagging.
Posted Oct 15, 2018
Matthew Pollard’s new book, The Introvert’s Edge: How the Quiet and Shy Can Outsell Anyone, offers myth-busting insights to help you excel at sales – without being that salesperson we all want to dodge. To play to their strengths, introverts sell differently from extroverts. I offered a whiff of that in my post, “Can an Introvert Sell Well?” In his book, Pollard goes much further, with compelling stories and techniques you can use right away. He’s here to share a taste of his collaborative and thoughtful – yet highly effective – approach to selling.
NA: I appreciate that you tell your personal story in The Introvert's Edge. Would you share some of the highlights?
MP: As a highly introverted teenager with terrible acne and the reading speed of a sixth grader, I fell into sales when the company I worked for went bankrupt, and commission-only sales was the only job I could find. On my first day, with a little product training and no sales training at all, I received 92 rejections in a row. I knew something had to change; I’d promised my father I would support myself, and I had to figure it out. But I couldn’t exactly pick up a Zig Ziglar or a Brian Tracy book – it would have taken me a year to read it!
I decided sales had to be a system, a learnable skill like any other; otherwise, I was going to have a really hard year. Then I went looking for a way that I could learn that system. I turned to YouTube, new at the time, and discovered a lot more than just cat videos.
I watched video after video on various elements of a sale, focusing on one at a time. The next day, I’d go out and practice what I learned. This went on for six weeks – eight hours of working my sales job, then eight hours of teaching myself sales; each day, my results improved. At the end of that six-week period, my boss called me into his office and informed me that I was the #1 salesperson in the company, the largest sales and marketing firm in the Southern hemisphere. Soon after that, I was promoted multiple times to teach others the sales system that I’d created. Soon after that, I took the leap into business for myself. Fast forward a little over a decade and I’d been responsible for five multimillion-dollar business success stories across a diverse range of industries, such as telecommunications and nationally accredited education.
More importantly than that, I’d gone from scared to sell, really terrified to do it, to teaching hundreds how to do it.
NA: What got you to write your book?
MP: I wrote The Introvert’s Edge to let other introverts know that this success is possible for them too. You don’t have to use any uncomfortable bulldog techniques or hard closing tactics, and you don’t have to change who you are. You simply have to embrace your introverted gifts and follow the process.
NA: What myths can you dispel about introverts and sales?
MP: The biggest myth is that you must have an outgoing personality and the gift of gab to be an effective salesperson. This idea is so hardwired into our understanding of sales culture that everyone just takes it for granted. But it is simply not true. Introverts have several innate qualities that actually make them better salespeople: empathy, active listening, preparation, and analytical thinking, just to name a few. When these qualities are leveraged into a clear, repeatable, reliable system, introverts can outsell their extroverted counterparts hands down.
NA: You describe seven steps to attaining an introvert’s edge in sales. What is the essence of each one?
MP: First, establish trust and chart the course. You have to connect on a personal level. Without trust, you’re not going to get far. In addition, set a clear agenda, so the prospect knows where the conversation is going.
Second, ask questions to help you find the pain points. They may understandably not want to open up to you, a complete stranger. If this happens, tell stories about customers like them who’ve had the same problems. They’ll soon share that they’ve experienced these problems as well.
Third, make sure you’re speaking to the decision maker. Are you actually in a sales meeting, or are you still trying to get one in the first place?
Fourth, tell a story. Customers can compare you with the competition in a matter of seconds. So instead of trying to sell a solution, tell them the story of a customer you had just like them, and how you provided the exact result they were looking for. Stories work incredibly well because they defuse the logical mind and engage the emotional mind. In addition, research from Princeton describes the “neural coupling” that takes place between the storyteller and the listener, synchronizing and creating coherence in the brains of both people, stimulating instant rapport. And Stanford research has found that people are 22 times more likely to remember information told in a story versus in a recitation of facts.
Fifth, answer objections with stories. Customers don’t want to hear why they’re wrong or why their reasoning is flawed. Just tell a natural, prepared story of a past customer who had the same objection or concern, and what a great result you ended up getting for them.
Sixth, “take their temperature.” Traditional sales techniques say you have to “ask for the sale.” But such a direct question can immediately put people on their guard, and makes introverts uncomfortable. Instead, I use the trial close. You can try a casual question, such as, “So, would package A or B work better for you?” More often than not, they will pick an option, a good indication that they are likely going to move forward. If they don’t, you can go back to sharing more stories.
Seventh, assume the sale. Even after a successful trial close, I still don’t like to ask for the sale. Give them an easy way to say yes, a task to take the next step, and then assume the sale unless they say otherwise.
Lastly, but most importantly, perfect the process. This is really the cornerstone of my entire approach to sales.
NA: What takeaways do you hope readers of your book will gain?
MP: I encourage them to understand that sales is a system like anything else, and that once you learn the system, you can outsell your extroverted counterparts. Being prepared does not make you less authentic or robotic-sounding; it’s the opposite. You can be even more genuine because you’re not stuck in your head wondering what you’re going to say next. You can feel natural and comfortable when you’re following a clear process and simply going through the steps. Finally, recognize that while this may seem like a lot of work at the outset, it really doesn’t take that long. It took me six weeks to develop and practice my process to become the #1 salesperson. Even better, the process is something that will serve you for the rest of your professional life.
NA: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
MP: Introverts can be great not only at sales, but at all business activities traditionally associated with extroversion, such as networking, presenting, pitching investors, and being an inspirational CEO. Introverts simply need to stop trying to be more extroverted, and instead, discover how to leverage their innate skills inside a structured process.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that introverts have to enter these fields; I probably would have been perfectly happy continuing to do data entry for the rest of my career. So if you prefer to be a writer or a coder, or in some other traditionally introverted field, go for it! Just know that if you choose to, you can do any of these things. I’m so glad I took the leap myself, and I would never trade my life now for anything else.
Copyright (c) 2018 Nancy Ancowitz