WHEN INTROVERTS FAIL AT SALES
In the modern world of business, it is useless to be a creative, original thinker unless you can also sell what you create. —DAVID OGILVY, Confessions of an Advertising Man
Alex Murphy's dream-come-true was fast becoming a nightmare.
With financing from two family members, he had set up his own videography studio. Professional-grade cameras, cutting-edge software, boom mics, an impressive roster of talent—Golden Arm Media had everything going for it.
As the owner and face of the business, that fell to Alex. Unfortunately, like many people who begin with subject matter expertise and then create a business out of it, he didn't have a knack for sales. In fact, as an introvert, he kind of hated it.
After junior high, he had developed a pronounced stutter, resulting in a lack of confidence. Since he was already somewhat shy, this only increased his natural aversion to casual conversations with strangers. His discomfort with social situations persisted through high school and college as well.
Fast-forward a few years to Alex starting his videography business from scratch. It wasn't an established business with an existing customer base. He didn't come out of another business with a portfolio of client projects or an extensive network of people and businesses to tap. He had to build his client roster from the ground up.
So if we're taking inventory: a natural introvert with a stutter (made worse during times of stress)...with an aversion to creating small talk (a normal trait of introverts)...a skewed self-perception and the lowered self-confidence resulting from it...who faces the challenge of forming new relationships that comes from all those factors...puts himself in a situation where his livelihood depends on being able to sell intangible services...to complete strangers. Sounds like a recipe for disaster, doesn't it?
When he got on the phone or in front of potential clients, he didn't know what else to do but talk about videography and business. If they tried to make small talk or if they happened to share something personal, Alex would just simply clam up. There was a long, unnatural pause while both sides figured out how to get out of the conversational sand trap they'd somehow stumbled into.
We often say, "People do business with people they like." Having spent hours with Alex myself, I know he's a likable guy. But in a sales situation, he had a hard time getting over the hurdle of creating basic rapport with the potential client, much less establishing the necessary trust to persuade them to buy a customized professional service like videography.
So sales sucked.
THE PROBLEM WITH INTROVERTS
We introverts live in a world (or, at least, in Western culture) that looks up to people who act like extroverts. (Even though a little digging shows that extravert is actually correct, extrovert is the far more common spelling. I've chosen to stick with it for convenience's sake.) We often describe the leaders we admire as outgoing, charming, and charismatic. Successful people look and act extroverted. Therefore, extroverts are the people we believe we should model.
That doesn't work for introverts like you and me. It goes against who we are, how we're wired, and how we think. Sure, we can pretend to be extroverts and learn the tricks that mask our introversion, but at the end of the day, we can't escape our DNA. Asking a hard-core introvert to get excited about working the room is like hiring a performing artist to get excited about accounting: It's just not in their nature.
Carl Jung defined introverts as being inwardly focused while extroverts are outwardly focused. In another explanation, he described how these two types of people draw their energy: introverts from being alone; extroverts from people. In practice, that means an introvert can spend energy networking a crowd or performing for an audience, but we recharge our batteries primarily from being alone. Extroverts, on the other hand, can work in isolation, but they recharge from going out with a group of friends or being in a crowd of people.