The best salespeople are extroverts

27 replies
For years, it has been generally accepted that outgoing, assertive extroverts make the best salespeople.

Adam Grant found out different. An associate professor at Wharton, he conducted a study of more than 300 salespeople to find out if extroverts or introverts sell more.

So who won? This experiment determined that the best salespeople are in the middle -- half extroverted and half introverted.

Successful Salespeople Have Moderate Temperaments - Scientific American

Move Over Extroverts, Here Come the Ambiverts - Forbes

He's not sure why that is the case, but postulates that these "ambiverts" are better at listening at the right times, and asserting themselves at the right moment as well. Plus they may be able to adapt to a variety of different buyer personas better.

What do you think? What is your real world experience on extroverts vs. introverts? Which one are you?

PS. Here's the Abstract:

Despite the widespread assumption that extraverts are the most productive salespeople, research has shown weak and conflicting relationships between extraversion and sales performance. In light of these puzzling results, I propose that the relationship between extraversion and sales performance is not linear but curvilinear: Ambiverts achieve greater sales productivity than extraverts or introverts do. Because they naturally engage in a flexible pattern of talking and listening, ambiverts are likely to express sufficient assertiveness and enthusiasm to persuade and close a sale but are more inclined to listen to customers’ interests and less vulnerable to appearing too excited or overconfident.

A study of 340 outbound-call-center representatives supported the predicted inverted-U-shaped relationship between extraversion and sales revenue. This research presents a fresh perspective on the personality traits that facilitate successful influence and offers novel insights for people in choosing jobs and for organizations in hiring and training employees."

http://pss.sagepub.com/content/early...63706.abstract
#extroverts #salespeople
  • Profile picture of the author SashaLee
    Hi there,

    I think many salespeople are extroverts because that is what is expected, but I know quite a few people you could class as introverts who do quite well at selling. They fall into the "slow and steady wins the race category".

    Ben Feldman would be another example of someone who would not be classified as an "extrovert" but was super successful in sales.

    Interesting post,

    All the best,

    Sasha.
    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[10150329].message }}
  • Profile picture of the author Jason Kanigan
    I don't believe separating people into just two types of abstraction is sufficient for understanding this topic.

    Also, you really need to consider bias in this kind of "study"...not many introverts think of themselves in a way that encourages them into sales roles. The extroverts, on the other hand, think, "Yeah, I could do that!" and go do it. So who is more likely to end up in a sales role? The introverts probably started off being accountants or something and accidentally ended up in sales because they had to. "You're an accountant...you can sell this accounting software now." Seen it time and time again.

    Then there's the misconceptions the public has about the two terms. You can be loud and introverted. You can be contemplative and extroverted. It's about the direction of their THINKING. Inwards or outwards. Themselves or other people. How they go about expressing that is a separate story.

    A tool with more abstraction, like DISC or Myers-Briggs, is much more helpful in understanding human behavior.
    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[10150516].message }}
    • Profile picture of the author Oziboomer
      Originally Posted by Jason Kanigan View Post

      I don't believe separating people into just two types of abstraction is sufficient for understanding this topic....
      A tool with more abstraction, like DISC or Myers-Briggs, is much more helpful in understanding human behavior.
      Let me preface this by I shouldn't answer this type of thread.
      (My brain is a bit like Claude...he'll know what I mean)

      Personally I've found the Choleric and Sanguine types most hyper when it comes to selling. they have delivered the highest dollar sales but it does also depend on how their day is going and in my experience there have been other attached issues like Bipolar mental disorders in several of the people I've encountered that have ruthless sales ability.

      The most consistent results over the years have come from the melancholic type individual that somewhat hates sales but when put into the situation will follow the established path and also be less concessionary during the closing arguments.

      Not sure if that is going to help anyone here but that is my personal experience.
      {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[10150644].message }}
      • Profile picture of the author Claude Whitacre
        First, I want to thank Joe for bringing the subject up. Most people think high earning salespeople are extroverts, because that's what they see in the movies, and pitchmen tend to be hyper enthusiastic.

        I've seen great salespeople of every type except Phlegmatic (submissive).

        But I think it has less to do with their personality type, and more to do with their ability to ignore rejection, and their ambition.

        A salesperson making $50,000 a year, who is happy making that much...will almost never make a consistent mid six figure income. Their self image simply doesn't match a higher income.

        But a salesperson that is us to a high income, will be uncomfortable with less. And they will work harder to avoid that discomfort.

        Salespeople have an advantage over most others. They can determine their income by the work they put into their selling, their ability to learn, and their immunity from rejection.

        About rejection.

        I know of two types of people that aren't paralyzed by rejection (or fear of speaking to large groups)...

        People who are broken. Some people aren't phased by rejection because they can't see it. It doesn't register with them. It may be a lack of social skills, or slight mental illness.

        People who hold others in slight contempt. I have several wealthy friends. This isn't something we like to talk about, but high achievers sometimes don't see others as equals. Rejection doesn't bother them, because they don't see the other person as important enough to affect them emotionally. This doesn't mean that they are bad people, just unequal in their self image.


        When I was selling in the home, I went to a convention. The month before, I had sold 25 high end vacuum cleaners, out of 26 presentations. To the uninformed, that's like running a 4 minute mile. I was feeling pretty good about myself.

        At the convention, I met the winner of a national sales contest. She was pleasant, and knew who I was. She asked me about my sales, and how I sold 25 out of 26, the last month. After I bored her with the details, I asked her about her award. I asked how many she sold the last month. She said "60". As my eyes dilated (I knew the figure was true), I asked how she did it. She said, "I gave 120 presentations".

        This was more than twice the work output that I had ever seen from even the most ambitious salesperson. So, my question is...who was the better salesperson? My take is that I was more skilled, but she was better. She had ambition and a work ethic, that I had never seen in our business.

        Was she outgoing? Not really. Was she warm and caring? Not more than normal. But she was driven. During several long discussions with her, and watching how she interacted with people, I could see that she was pure Choleric. She directed even the most benign of discussions. I pointed it out to her, and she admitted it, and laughed about it.

        She was driven by income and recognition, I was driven by my need to be the most accomplished salesperson.

        Two sharks circling the pond.
        Signature
        One Call Closing book https://www.amazon.com/One-Call-Clos...=1527788418&sr

        "Those who know that they are profound strive for clarity. Those who would like to seem profound to the crowd strive for obscurity" Friedrich Nietzsche
        {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[10150787].message }}
  • Profile picture of the author quadagon
    I find these 'studies' really annoying as there are so many variables to take into consideration most notably what you are selling and how you are selling. I therefore find it difficult to draw any meaningful conclusions as a result.

    Ozoiboomers thoughts on bipolar are interesting, when we've studied sales people we've seen a brain reaction that is similar to a drug high in addicts and also the reverse. When having a bad day they get withdrawal symptoms.

    I have an early hypothesis that these people need the high of a sale and not the rewards associated with it.
    Signature
    I've got 99 problems but a niche ain't one
    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[10150755].message }}
  • Profile picture of the author JamesBarefield
    Banned
    This goes true with my general observation, and the reason I think they are would be because they have just trained themselves to be an extrovert, to bond with the prospect and get the boll rolling. I may be shooting blanks here but this is what I have believed so far! LOL
    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[10150926].message }}
  • Profile picture of the author joe golfer
    Forgot to mention I first heard about this study from Dan Pink on this Social Triggers podcast:

    To Sell is Human by Dan Pink (Free Audio Download) - Social Triggers

    He discusses the study around the 32:50 mark where Derek seeks to debunk the "natural" salesperson myth.

    PS. If you have time, there is a lot of good stuff in the whole podcast including showing why "getting pumped up" for sales calls can work against you.
    Signature
    Marketing is not a battle of products. It is a battle of perceptions.
    - Jack Trout
    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[10150940].message }}
  • Profile picture of the author bizgrower
    The Four Temperaments - About

    I think it comes down to demonstrable personality traits, regardless of the framework - such as Meyers-Briggs- used to describe the phenomena.

    Can they talk to people?
    Can they influence?
    Can they establish rapport and trust?
    Can they listen?
    Make note of and apply important details, desires, and needs of the client?
    Be organized in their presentations and discussions?

    A lot of the traits/skills can be learned. The needed type of fearlessness, the drive
    and instincts have to be there - perhaps needing to be unburied for some individuals.

    Dan
    Signature

    "If you think you're the smartest person in the room, then you're probably in the wrong room."

    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[10151449].message }}
  • Profile picture of the author MarkHernandez
    Not necessarily, I mean they try to show their extrovert side but my best two sales guys were not extrovert at all if you can believe that!
    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[10151702].message }}
  • Profile picture of the author Synnuh
    Thinking about some of the guys I sold insurance with, I'd lean towards them having slight mental disorders, and being broken down by their life.

    The guys at the top of the IMO were more the guys who would just roll over anyone in their way. Not necessarily bad people, just ruthless in business. They definitely saw themselves as superior to others.
    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[10151739].message }}
    • Profile picture of the author idiots89
      Originally Posted by Synnuh View Post

      Thinking about some of the guys I sold insurance with, I'd lean towards them having slight mental disorders, and being broken down by their life.

      The guys at the top of the IMO were more the guys who would just roll over anyone in their way. Not necessarily bad people, just ruthless in business. They definitely saw themselves as superior to others.
      Destroy mfer!
      {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[10151758].message }}
      • Profile picture of the author Synnuh
        Originally Posted by idiots89 View Post

        Destroy mfer!
        They had a gun?
        {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[10152074].message }}
        • Profile picture of the author Ron Lafuddy
          Originally Posted by Synnuh View Post

          They had a gun?
          now that's selling...with an edge!
          {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[10152094].message }}
  • Profile picture of the author MarcParkinson
    Couldn't agree with you more, it's like one of their natural characteristics, after all, they need to be talkative and welcoming if they want to make sales!
    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[10151895].message }}
    • Profile picture of the author joe golfer
      Originally Posted by MarcParkinson View Post

      Couldn't agree with you more, it's like one of their natural characteristics, after all, they need to be talkative and welcoming if they want to make sales!
      Welcome to the forum.

      Sorry, brother, but you missed the gist of this thread. Slow down and read the posts. You'll get more out of WF that way. Have fun out there.
      Signature
      Marketing is not a battle of products. It is a battle of perceptions.
      - Jack Trout
      {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[10151912].message }}
  • Profile picture of the author tryinhere
    Not a major factor in regards what makes the best but one to add into the mix is "hungry people" people who are skilled in the things above but need to make money, put those things together and you often have a top performer.

    The opposite is a sales person who has no wants or urgent needs, these people tend not to be as fussed about closing the sales time in and time out / day after day as the hungry ones do, a bit like Claude was saying about being driven above.
    Signature
    | > Choosing to go off the grid for a while to focus on family, work and life in general. Have a great 2020 < |
    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[10152125].message }}
    • Profile picture of the author quadagon
      Originally Posted by tryinhere View Post

      Not a major factor in regards what makes the best but one to add into the mix is "hungry people" people who are skilled in the things above but need to make money, put those things together and you often have a top performer.
      Now I would really disagree with this people who 'need' to make money can get desperate and that often translates into the pitch.

      People who want to make money is different.
      Signature
      I've got 99 problems but a niche ain't one
      {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[10152134].message }}
      • Profile picture of the author Oziboomer
        Originally Posted by quadagon View Post

        Now I would really disagree with this people who 'need' to make money can get desperate and that often translates into the pitch.

        People who want to make money is different.
        Because a large part of my business relies on people paying an upfront fee and then a balance upon completion I have to agree with the desperation aspect or anxiety that can be "in the air" after a period of "light" selling.

        It is a bit like the sharemarket where rises tend to be gradual with occasional breakouts that if you are a chart follower tend to be indicated by rising flags.

        In selling one can get on a roll and whether that is just confidence shining through in your presentation or demeanour, or whether it is because you have gathered a group of prospects who are drawn into a purchasing frenzy where they have been influenced by others around them making positive purchasing decisions.

        I'm yet to really work out why there are sudden slow downs but sometimes you have to just shut out the negative thoughts when those situations arise and continue to sell as if the result didn't really matter to you other than to deliver the best outcome for the purchaser.

        Even when it's tough I tend to try to portray the impression that I've always got more than enough business to be going on with.

        Most of my prospects are usually referrals or have been through pre-qualification sequences, whether they know it or not, so usually by the time they are in a sales consultation they already know they are there to buy and it is just a question of what the best result will be for both of us.
        {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[10152160].message }}
      • Profile picture of the author tryinhere
        Originally Posted by quadagon View Post

        Now I would really disagree with this people who 'need' to make money can get desperate and that often translates into the pitch.
        People who want to make money is different.
        Well let me rephrase that for you then, Based on personal experience and going back many moons, getting a sales role and having that as a commission only job, you have 2 choices, you learn to sell well, or you starve.

        I see so called sales people today who will not take sales roles as comm only for fear they wont get paid or if they like they can slacken off and still take their pay home.

        Often through life comm only roles were my best paying gigs, where taking home on average 2 - 4 times the average worker was the norm and often more, so to put it into better perspective then for some people being hungry as a term of speech / not desperate ( having a wife and family and bills to pay ) can be a motivator for some to improve their craft in selling and become better at it through the need to succeed, it can and was scary back in the early days, where knowing people relied on you to get the job done or go hungry, so you took every detail every lesson and learnt at every moment.

        Yes I have seen and worked with the people who you talk of, they are dime a dozen hopefuls who are desperate but also do not have the time / ability to make the whole thing work, so you are correct when you say that.

        A bit like this forum really, desperate people who think this is where to make some money and they try everything desperate for 2 minutes and throw their hands in the air and then there are the few who sit back, learn and develop their skills and become successful, not much changes really.
        Signature
        | > Choosing to go off the grid for a while to focus on family, work and life in general. Have a great 2020 < |
        {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[10152783].message }}
  • Profile picture of the author Freebiequeen1999
    Interesting....I do think a "mix" or middle ground is best..

    I have worked with old style phone room "monsters"...old guys with heavy NY accent who just steamroll and it works. Not my style but you do learn from them

    Being able to listen to the person on the other end and then find the right "key" for them has always been my best method. One size doesn't fit all. To do this an "extrovert" talker personality has the edge.

    I also am blessed (or cursed) with a phenom memory and I have found this works well for me too.

    Nature or nurture? well I do think most people can learn how to sell , some will find it so hard it will be impossible.I am not athletic but I guess with coaching, diet and personal trainers, and dedication I could learn to ice skate without falling down. Maybe I could make it around a rink - poorly. BUT not worth the time and effort and I would never be great or even good I think.

    Some people who are really introvert, shy, hate going out or calling might rethink their path. OR (as I have suggested to little response) get a dang job in a phone room or in a biz to biz selling company and learn - be a sponge.
    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[10152675].message }}
    • Profile picture of the author Claude Whitacre
      I've known successful salespeople who were drunks, cheated on their spouse, had mental problems, were mean, had speech impediments, never showered, had broken teeth, were hyper religious, were incredibly ugly, chain smoked, were addicted to gambling, and worse.

      But I never met a great salesperson who was lazy. And they had just a couple of things in common;

      They knew exactly why they were there. They were there to sell, not make friends, not build their brand, not chat....no matter what they were doing, they had their eye on making the sale.

      They expected to make a sale. I never met a great salesperson who was surprised when someone bought.

      They expected people to buy from them. Making a sales wasn't the exception, it was the rule. There was no mental masturbation about, "It's all a numbers game". They expected this prospect to buy from them.

      Every word, every gesture they made...showed the prospect that "buying from me" was the most natural thing in the world, it was expected, and normal.
      Signature
      One Call Closing book https://www.amazon.com/One-Call-Clos...=1527788418&sr

      "Those who know that they are profound strive for clarity. Those who would like to seem profound to the crowd strive for obscurity" Friedrich Nietzsche
      {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[10152777].message }}
  • Profile picture of the author PennyBurgess
    Yeah, I can totally second that! In fact, all the sales guys I know who are pulling in great numbers are
    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[10153908].message }}
    • Profile picture of the author joe golfer
      Originally Posted by PennyBurgess View Post

      Yeah, I can totally second that! In fact, all the sales guys I know who are pulling in great numbers are
      Slow down and read the thread. You'll learn a lot.
      Signature
      Marketing is not a battle of products. It is a battle of perceptions.
      - Jack Trout
      {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[10153927].message }}
      • Profile picture of the author Barry Unruh
        Originally Posted by joe golfer View Post

        Slow down and read the thread. You'll learn a lot.
        I don't think she can.

        I believe she is related to MarcParkinson and MarkHernandez, at least if their habits and posts over the last 48 hours are any indication.
        Signature
        Brain Drained...Signature Coming Soon!
        {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[10154699].message }}
        • Profile picture of the author SashaLee
          Originally Posted by Barry Unruh View Post

          I don't think she can.

          I believe she is related to MarcParkinson and MarkHernandez, at least if their habits and posts over the last 48 hours are any indication.
          Hi there,

          Well spotted!

          All the best,

          Sasha
          {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[10154781].message }}
  • Profile picture of the author TrumpiaTim
    I'm going to go against the tide and say that a lot of good salespeople are extroverts but in my opinion the best ones are still strategic introverts because of their ability to quietly listen and speak at the right moment to move the sale forward.
    Signature

    www.Trumpia.com

    Trumpia: The Most Completed SMS Text Messaging Software & API Solution.
    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[10165256].message }}
    • Profile picture of the author joe golfer
      Originally Posted by TrumpiaTim View Post

      I'm going to go against the tide and say that a lot of good salespeople are extroverts but in my opinion the best ones are still strategic introverts because of their ability to quietly listen and speak at the right moment to move the sale forward.
      I think you'll be surprised if you read all the posts.
      Signature
      Marketing is not a battle of products. It is a battle of perceptions.
      - Jack Trout
      {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[10165362].message }}

Trending Topics