Do you assume introverts suck at selling? Do you think salespeople always win by being highly competitive and aggressive? Does a lack of sales experience doom a potential career in sales?
The Truth about Sales Stereotypes
Almost everyone has assumptions and stereotypes about what it takes to succeed in sales. But, if you want to crack the code of sales success, don’t think about what or who you need to be – think about what customers want.
The bottom line is, customers don’t want to buy from people they don’t trust – and they don’t trust people who aren’t genuine. They don’t want to sit through closing spiels that are unrelenting and unnerving. They want a connection.
With this in mind, I talked with a few sales leaders to get their take on three common assumptions about what it takes to succeed in sales. Here’s what they had to say.
Assumption #1: Salespeople need to be extroverts.
“A lot of people think you have to be outgoing and likable, but some of the most effective salespeople are nonchalant, very casual, and people you wouldn’t necessarily think of as being in sales,” said Kia McGuire, director of sales and marketing at OralWise Inc.
The true definition of an introvert is often misconstrued and mischaracterized. It doesn’t mean an individual is shy or hates interacting with people. Introverts prefer alone time to recharge after their energy is depleted by a long day of interacting with and being around others.
Where you land on the introvert-extrovert continuum is also misunderstood. Most people aren’t one or the other, but somewhere in between. And, while salespeople do need above-average communication skills to interact with people effectively, that doesn’t mean all sales job postings come with “introverts need not apply” clauses.
In fact, not being an extrovert salesperson has several advantages. Introvert salespeople spend more time listening and asking questions during sales interactions – two essential skills when ascertaining potential customers’ needs.
Introverts also communicate best in one-on-one situations, take time to reflect before speaking or answering questions, and enjoy forming deeper relationships with customers. All of which makes for a great salesperson people want to buy from.
Assumption #2: Salespeople need to “always be closing.”
Alec Baldwin’s iconic “always be closing” speech in Glengarry Glen Ross makes for some pitch-perfect Hollywood drama doesn’t evoke sales dogma any more than Grey’s Anatomy is the truth about working in a hospital. More than ever, consumers have access to an abundance of information about any product or service. They do their research, read about the competition, and know the best price before ever talking to a salesperson on the phone or in person.
“[At least in my industry] the hardcore ‘always be closing’ mentality doesn’t work,” said Lisa Blizzard, ecommerce sales manager at Continental Mills. “It’s more low-key, sharing information; less about the relentless pressuring and more about building relationships and selling based on answering questions.”
This is excellent news for consumers, but especially for those just getting into sales who aren’t comfortable with pressuring people or haven’t honed opening and closing lines. The modern salesperson identifies needs by asking thoughtful questions, listening attentively, and showing genuine interest in helping people – not by using canned lines or responses.
In many cases, customers avoid high-energy and assertive salespeople and prefer to talk with more relaxed and more thoughtful salespeople – especially if they have a lot of questions after spending a number of hours educating themselves on the space or product.
If you take care of those things, closing deals will take care of itself.
Assumption #3: Salespeople can’t win without prior sales experience.
There are plenty of career fields where experience is not only helpful, but also required. Sales isn’t one of those. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been in sales for three years or three weeks. If you have the desire to work hard, do the right things, and be persistent, you can flourish.
“[Experience] helps but it’s overrated,” said David Oman, sales director at Twist-Ease Inc. “Anyone can be successful in sales as long as you learn about the product, learn to listen twice as much as you talk, and have a desire to be successful.”
In many instances, years of experience can lead to cynicism. Sales is a daily grind and requires a relentless pursuit of increasing your product knowledge, building relationships, and following up with every lead you have. And none of that has to do with being someone you’re not.
So, for those launching their careers in sales – or even those who have been at it for years – think about how you would like to be spoken to or treated as a potential buyer. Then, imitate it.
Yes, You Can Be Successful in Sales
To have a successful sales career, you don’t necessarily have to be extroverted, aggressively focused on closing deals, or highly experienced. You just have to be the kind of person customers want to buy from, and you have to use the right tools.
With Zoho CRM, salespeople can customize their sales process to fit their needs, automate routine sales activities, and track every sales interaction so they can focus more on the customer throughout the relationship.