Compared to my oldest son, my younger one is a natural born salesman. He’s always trying to “sell” me on the idea of staying up late on a weeknight, having that caffeine-laden soda right before bedtime, or why that M-rated video game is completely appropriate for a ten-year-old.
There’s no denying that some people are naturally more persuasive and are inclined to use that persuasion to influence others. But is it really true that sales people are “born and not made”? Yet, that’s what most of us believe, especially if you’re not among the more fortunate ones gifted with this seemingly magical ability.
I, too, once thought that being successful at sales required a certain type of personality. But in more than three years of training sales people, I’ve seen a variety of personalities that’s led me to conclude otherwise. I believe that anyone with enough drive and determination can be successful in sales.
So why does this myth persist? Perhaps it’s because certain personalities tend to gravitate towards sales. Most people assume that only extroverts can be successful at it. But that’s because we think of extroverts as outgoing and introverts as shy. Most people who see me in a training situation consider me to be an extrovert. But I’m not.
The key to determining whether you are an introvert or extrovert is where you get your energy from and what drains you. You see, an extrovert is someone who feels energized by being around people. Put them in a crowded room and they’re in their element. Isolate them for too long and they slip into depression. They need people.
An introvert is not necessarily someone who is shy. (Some of the most talkative people I know are introverts.) It’s just that being around groups of people for a long period of time drains them. Solitude is what “re-charges” their batteries. After eight hours of training, I need down time. What energizes you determines what you are.
Many introverts like me are actually situational extroverts—reserved around strangers but very outgoing in the right context.
Are You an Innie or an Outie?
What does this have to do with selling your services? If you think your service is what people are buying and that none of this matters, you’d be mistaken. Before anyone buys your services, they must be sold on you. If that’s the case and, like me, you’re introverted, you might think that you’ll never be successful at it because you happened to be born with the wrong personality. But that’s not true. The recipe for success lies in finding your “secret sauce.”
If you’re old enough to remember when McDonald’s unveiled the Big Mac, you probably recall its signature “secret sauce.” Successful selling can be boiled down to this simple formula: grabbing hold of its principles and combining it with your unique personality and style—your “secret sauce.” The end result may look nothing like the next guy, but different doesn’t mean less effective.
So let’s talk about personalities. Every personality test I’ve ever seen breaks it down into four basic types. They just give them different names. Each has its own set of characteristics, both positive and negative. I’m going to talk about the strengths of each because, as I tell my kids, be yourself, but be your best self.
Where do you see yourself in the personality types above? Most people are a combination of at least two, one being the most dominant.
The first two are extrovert personalities. The Choleric’s approach in a sales call is characteristically authoritative: “I know what I’m talking about and I know how to get things done. You should listen to me.” The Sanguine approach is, “I’m energetic and enthusiastic. You’ll enjoy working with me.”
The last two are the introvert personalities. Again, this doesn’t make their style less effective, only different. Herein lay your secret sauce, especially for the introvert. Are you the empathetic, trustworthy, good-listening Melancholy? Are you the dependable, patient Phlegmatic? How you bring that into a client meeting and use it to your advantage?
If you’re a Melancholy, what you want to convey is this: “I understand you; I hear what you’re saying. You can trust me.”
For the Phlegmatic, the approach is: “I’m easy-going and steady. You can depend on me.”
In a previous article, I talked about seven questions you should always ask on a sales call. The third one, “Why are you considering me,” is the one that will begin to give you an idea of what your secret sauce is. Talk to your existing clients. Ask why they chose you and what they appreciate about you.
Psychology has proven what sales gurus have said for years—that people buy from people they like. What is that? Because liking leads to trust. That’s not to say that we automatically trust people we like. (I’ve met plenty of people I like, yet wouldn’t trust to walk my dog.) But no one will ever trust you unless they first like you. It may not seem logical and it may not seem fair, but it’s the truth.
Are you hiding your light under a basket by comparing yourself to your more outgoing brothers? If so, then cut it out. Let the likable aspects of your personality shine through to help you land that next client.
Former owner and partner of web firm Jenesis Technologies, John is currently Director of Digital Strategy at Haines Local Search, a company providing local search marketing solutions to SMBs, including print and Internet Yellow Pages, web design, and local SEO. When not working or spending time with his family, John offers great sales and marketing advice on his blog, Small Business Marketing Sucks.