The Introverted Salesperson: An Oxymoron?

Hello. My name is Sarah and I am an introvert (an INTJ to be specific).  I must function in this world – I must work and make a few dollars somehow. Thus I am an Introverted Salesperson. Is that an oxymoron?! Yes. A surprising amount of people who are in sales are, in fact, introverts. How do they survive?

First I will dissect the Introvert to help gain a better understanding of how this works. An Introvert gets their energy – recharges their “battery” – during quiet downtime. Usually this recharging time is completed at home or some kind of personal sanctuary (a library, a park or somewhere lovely and chill). The Introvert “spends” their energy when they are socializing and working with other people. The ebb and flow of this function is natural. The key is to not allow yourself (the Introvert) to run that battery into the red, or worse – deplete yourself!

Introverts come in a variety of degrees, which means some folks can socialize more and their batteries last a lot longer. Some of us know our battery lifespan and hope and pray we can finish up our socializing before we get too tired! Over the years I have toughened up and my battery lasts longer than it used to. This brings me to the next question; How can an Introvert make a decent salesperson?!

I have worked in service industries for years as waitstaff, a barista at a coffeehouse and other odd jobs. I am currently a professional photographer. I can function in a service industry better than a sales or commission-based industry because in a service industry the customer already WANTS the product or service. I do not have to “push” or “persuade” anyone into any decisions. This alleviates a lot of pressure from my Introverted self. However, I have also worked several jobs where I had to be a salesperson. This is truly challenging for me. First of all, as a customer, I loathe salespeople. I KNOW they are doing their job – it is nothing personal. When I am the customer and I go into a store, I already know exactly what I want and if that business does not have what I need, I move on to the next option. I also know that not everyone operates like I do (thank goodness). When it is my turn to be the salesperson I have to reconsider my perspective on things.

I created and adopted an approach to sales that helped me function successfully in the world of capitalism and also saved me from burning out my Introverted batteries. Using common sense and intelligence, I adapt this approach to fit the client/sales relationship for each customer.

1) THE INTRO: I am not a nosy, pushy or talkative person. I do not like to pry. I feel safest by initiating the meet-and-greet with a simple approach. When I meet with a client I always say, “Hello! My name is Sarah and if you have any questions, please feel free to ask.” Whew. Done. The ball is in the customer’s court. When it comes to physical contact I have to use my best judgement. I have learned that there are a lot of people out there who do not like to be touched. Most people expect a handshake, but I am hyper aware of those who keep a little bit of distance between us. Never force physical interaction.

  • I live in the South so sometimes during an introduction, unexpectedly, a client will grab me up and hug me. I just let it happen. It is a Southern Handshake.

In a service industry setting (as a professional photographer) I adapt this approach to fit each meeting which means I still take the initiative to greet my potential client. I say, “Hello! I am Sarah. Lovely to meet you.”

2) LISTENING TIME: If the customer needs assistance they speak up and ask questions. I listen. I do not interrupt. I make eye contact. I use my good manners. I allow the customer to ask questions and finish speaking before I respond. This behavior validates the customer, shows respect for the customer and creates a trust between the salesperson and the customer. Easy-peasy! Work from there to meet the customer’s needs. Done.

In a service industry, like my photography business, I sometimes open the conversation by saying, “Thank you for calling me. If you have a moment, I would love to hear your ideas and share your vision for this project.” This promotes an open conversation where I can listen and allow the client to talk. This VALIDATES them. I watch their body language, listen to what they are saying – I take it all in and I do not interrupt them.

3) PLANS: Once a meet-and-greet has been initiated and the questions have been asked and the ideas have been shared, now the plans can begin. In a sales environment you can meet the demand with a product – or products – and satisfy the customer’s quest. Easy. Even if they are picky – let them be picky. It does not cost me anything to hear someone be specific or state their crazy needs. Smile and listen. Out of an entire day, how long do you have to deal with this picky or difficult person? Probably minutes. You got this.

In a service industry like photography I glean all the information the client has shared and together we create a plan. If I need to ask questions, I make sure those questions are clear and concise. Do not lump 2 or 3 questions together. Ask the client if they have questions.

  • Once when I worked at Macy’s in the upscale women’s clothing department we had a male customer. The other sales ladies fussed saying he was difficult. They disappeared and let me, the rookie, “handle him.” This gentleman was in his 50s and I greeted him. “I need to buy my sister something beautiful for her birthday,” he said.  I said, “Does she have a favorite color?” “She wears lots of reds and she is a business woman,” the man answered. I walked over to a rack which had some gorgeous red suit sets and held one up. He shrugged and nodded. “What size?” I asked. He pointed at me. “Actually maybe about your size.” I grabbed my size and rang it up. He was ELATED. We had it gift wrapped. He returned two weeks later to gush about how his sister LOVED the suit! Later I asked the other salespeople why he was so difficult. They said, “He never knows what he wants and can’t answer questions…he doesn’t know much about women’s clothes.” These women weren’t LISTENING!

4) SEAL THE DEAL: Once the customer’s needs have been met, always close the deal with some statement of appreciation. The whole secret to human interaction is trust and validation. Everyone needs to be validated on some level at some time, even during a sales transaction. Keep the human element in the deal and send the customer away with a sense of validation.

In a service industry I do the same. Validate the client! Forget rolling out the red carpet. Just the act of listening along with the act of acknowledgement can have the power to endear and build trust. “I am here to serve you” is the message the client should receive. By doing these simple acts I am capable of providing quality customer service AND functioning successfully in the business world.

As an Introverted Salesperson I have long understood one more super important thing:

LET YOUR WORK SPEAK FOR ITSELF.

That takes a load off of you right there! Do your best work each time and understand that just as actions speak louder than words, your work will speak louder than any advertising. You do not have to shout from the rooftops or sell yourself when your work is outstanding. Most Introverts have an incredible work ethic and can be perfectionists. The quality of work is not my issue. It is the “people” part of the equation! Good clients are worth minutes, and even a few hours, of your life. You do not have to overexert yourself to be a great salesperson. You can be an Introverted Salesperson and stay sane. Keep things in perspective. You got this!

 

 

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