Hiring for Your Shop: Can Introverts Be Good at Sales?

Although some experts advise managers to hire extroverts for sales positions, introverts excel at building long-term relationships and understanding customer needs.

Full disclosure: I’m an introvert.

In years past, people held a number of misconceptions about introverts, but recently there’s been some recognition of what introverts bring to the table. That’s why I was so surprised when, as I was reading Phillip Perry’s Archery Business article “How to Hire the Right Staff for Your Archery Shop,” I noticed that one expert advised retailers to specifically look for extroverts. “You need people who are not shy with others,” he said.

Well, sure, some introverts would make terrible salespeople. (Me, for example. I can think of nothing I’d rather do less than talk to people all day.) But don’t make the mistake of assuming that “introverted” and “shy” mean the same thing. Introverts are simply people who “recharge” by spending time by themselves whereas extroverts are energized by spending time with other people.

Of course, given that introverts strongly value their alone time, it makes sense to assume that they don’t have the aptitude for sales. But many introverts really enjoy sales careers, and, what’s more, they make excellent salespeople. In fact, a number of experts advise employers and managers to fill their teams with a mix of extroverts and introverts because the two types have different strengths that complement each other.

hiring sales
Introverts are typically good listeners, which can pay off big time when it comes to helping a customer find the right archery gear.

Putting Customers First

For example, introverts tend to prefer to sit back and observe, a quality that allows them to get the “lay of the land” before they engage with someone. An introvert spends time listening to and understanding a customer’s needs before jumping in with a solution, and this quality often makes them seem less “salesy” to potential customers than other salespeople. And because they strive to genuinely understand a customer’s needs, they’re able to suggest products and services that meet those needs, resulting in more satisfied customers.

Introverts are also excellent at building long-term relationships. They understand the value of repeat customers, and they work to turn new customers into regulars through solutions that benefit both themselves and their customers.

Finally, introverts are good listeners. I’ve already touched on how that helps them suggest more targeted products and services to their customers, but listening also goes a long way to making customers feel valued.

When I worked in retail, I was amazed at how often simply listening to a customer with a complaint helped to solve that problem. I think in a world where many businesses have people jumping through hoops just to get a live person on the phone, people often find it refreshing just to be heard. As I stated earlier, introverts are particularly good at listening.

This doesn’t mean that extroverts don’t make good salespeople. We all know plenty of incredibly outgoing, gregarious, charismatic salespeople who consistently knock it out of the park. And, of course, all of these are generalities. The truth is, very few people are entirely introverted or entirely extroverted. Most people fall somewhere along a spectrum, and there’s even a name for people who fall decidedly in the middle: ambivert. (In fact, one study from Adam Grant of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Management found that ambiverts outsold both their highly introverted and highly extroverted compatriots.)

So while I agree with most of the expert advice in “How to Hire the Right Staff for Your Archery Shop,” I do have to quibble with the advice to discard candidates who don’t spend their weekends socializing with large groups. Those strong, silent types might have quite a bit to offer your sales team.

Images by John Hafner