The Unexpected Secret To Being A Great Salesperson
Erika Andersen, Founder/Partner
I have a confession to make: I love reading articles and books that show the stuff I already believed was true is true. I think it’s why Good to Great is, hands down, my favorite business book: I spent my entire first reading gleefully thinking to myself “Yes! I knew that! SO right!”
And that’s why I really like this article by David diSalvo (already one of my favorite fellow Forbesians): he cites data that proves something I’ve been observing for decades. In the article, Move Over Extroverts, Here Come the Ambiverts, he cites a study published in Psychological Science that debunks the widely-held belief that extroverts make better salespeople than introverts. The study found that extreme extroverts and extreme introverts get just about the same (not great) results—and that the people who get the best sales results are those who can flex between introverted and extroverted behavior.
This completely lines up with my own experience as a salesperson, and my observation of many, many other salespeople—as well as my observation of managers and leaders. I’ve seen that people who can flex their approach as the situation demands—to make another person more comfortable or to best accomplish the task at hand—are much more likely to be successful in influencing others.
For example, imagine that you are buying a car, and that you are a quiet and thoughtful person who likes to focus on the facts and take some time to make a rational decision. If you walk into a car dealership and are immediately fastened upon by an extreme extrovert who grabs your hand, claps you on the back, guides you over to a car and begins telling you how great this car is, how much you will love it, that it will make you feel like a kid again…
How successful will that approach be with you?
If, on the other hand, you come into the dealership and the sales person greets you calmly, shakes your hand, asks you how he can help, then listens carefully while you tell him…how will that work?
Now think about how successful the salesperson would be if he could use either approach, picking up on the behavioral cues he got from potential customers as they walked into the dealership.
This ability to modify your approach depending on what the other person prefers is a key aspect of emotional intelligence—and the good news is, it’s developable. At Proteus, we teach a model called SOCIAL STYLE that includes this skill of being able to shift your behavior to create better relationships and results with a wider variety of people; it’s called versatility.
I could spend most of a day sharing this model with you and teaching you how to improve your versatility—but here are some quick tips:
Observe first: when you first meet someone (especially someone who’s important to your success), note how they behave. Are they loud or soft? fast-paced or slower? Immediately friendly or more reserved?
‘Move‘ toward them: If some of your habitual behaviors are very different from those you observe, try shifting them as you interact with this person. For instance, if he or she is fast-paced and loud, and you tend to be more soft-spoken and quiet, try speaking up and speeding up a little. If this other person is more formal and reserved, while you’re naturally more friendly and informal—try holding back a little on the friendliness; be willing to engage on a level of formality that the other person uses.
Don’t confuse how you act with who you are: Some people resist trying this kind of ‘flexing’ because they fear it will be unnatural or inauthentic. Please understand—I’m not encouraging you to change your beliefs or values, or to say anything untrue: versatility is simply shifting your behaviors. Think of it this way: if you were conversing with someone from France who knew very little English, and you spoke pretty good French—would you insist on speaking English with this person because it was more comfortable for you? Would you feel you were somehow compromising your integrity if you spoke French?
If you make the habit of taking this approach when meeting new people, you’ll be in that sweet spot of interpersonal flexibility where great salespeople—and great managers and leaders—live and thrive.