What do you think of when you think of sales?
In my workshops I always begin by asking this question, and depending on the experience of the group, I get answers that fall into one of two camps: the clichéd response; slick, slimy, fast-talking and wearing the bad suit of the used car salesman. And sometimes the more positive response that equates selling to service; helpful, knowledgeable, and problem solving.
And while the first response may have been based on a reputation built in years past when salespeople had all the knowledge and power in a buying situation, that is no longer the case. It never really was, but those sorts of salespeople were still able find success, hence the stereotype.
Buyers Have All the Power Now
Today, buyers have all the information they need at their fingertips and they hold significantly more power in a sales conversation. Today’s salesperson is helping their prospective customer navigate the wealth of information available to help them find the best solution for their problem. There is simply no room for hoodwinking.
Selling has always been about service, and service does in fact lead to sales. (More on that in this post.)
But You Need to Be an Extrovert to be Successful in Sales, Right?
There are two clear traits that today’s successful salespeople possess. And more often than not my clients are surprised to learn this. It's my favorite part of working with introverted clients who tell me they can't sell!
Too many people believe successful sales people are gregarious and outgoing, maybe even brash. And that has been the reputation of salespeople for a long time.
And yet, the classic introvert trait of listening to those more extroverted people talk is one of the key skills for success in sales. The other is having the courage to ask the questions that will get people talking, introverts and extroverts both.
Yes, the quieter people are more often successful in sales. Because asking the right questions and listening, really listening, to the answers are what makes for a successful salesperson.
Research Proves Listening is the Key to Success in Sales
I love those folks over at Gong because they do real, quality research on what is happening in successful sales calls compared to unsuccessful sales calls. This post has data that confirms what the best sales people have known intuitively; the more questions you ask and the more you listen to the answers, the more likely you are to win business. That’s it.
It’s hard to listen well. Even for those who don’t really want to talk much. And it’s hard to ask the right sort of questions to draw out a prospect. But it’s so critical. And that’s why the quieter people who are more skilled at listening are often more successful.
I’ve been taking a dive into Dale Carnegie’s timeless wisdom lately. And mostly finding confirmation of what I already believe (and share with you here). I found this nugget in ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People in the Digital Age’:
"People want to be listened to and they want people around who will listen. So I listen. And I've found that listening imparts a great deal of respect - more so than any planned speech ever could." From John, an aspiring political writer.
And guess what? Listening like this helps you garner respect too. Which leads you neatly to sales, and funnily enough, life success.