Do you manage a sales team that’s suddenly populated by more introverted reps? You’re not alone.
With the help of a recent informal LinkedIn poll, we found there were just as many introverts as extroverts in sales. While it’s a common myth that most salespeople are extroverts, you probably manage more introverts than you may realize.
This impacts the way you lead your sales team, especially when considering more challenging sales activities like cold calling, which presents a huge opportunity for sales leaders who learn to lean into their reps’ unique motivations and strengths.
As a consultancy run by unexpected but proud introverts, we’ve put together this field guide for sales leaders looking to motivate introverted team members to embrace cold calling as an opportunity to channel their natural strengths.
Introverts are not wallflowers
Unhelpful stereotypes about introversion and extroversion abound. Take our CEO, Jordan Greaser, for example. Because of his socially boisterous nature, anyone who knows him would be surprised to hear he is an introvert.
However, Jordan is a classic introvert because, though he loves people and social activity, it wipes him out. After spending time around people, he has to withdraw for sanity’s sake.
By “introvert,” we don’t mean a bashful wallflower. Instead, we mean a thoughtful colleague who may prefer to work alone, listens well, typically avoids confrontation, and recharges either alone or with small numbers of close friends.
By “extrovert,” we don’t mean Jerry Seinfeld, though he 99.9% is. Rather than performing spontaneous standup in the produce section, we mean our colleagues who often prefer working in groups, processing verbally, solving problems with others, and spending time in groups.
Introverts can kick a$$ in sales
It is a fact that most extroverts are more comfortable, in many circumstances, striking up conversations with strangers. However, it would be incorrect to apply this reality to an introvert’s ability to perform in a sales role.
A meta-analysis of almost 4,000 salespeople, across 35 different studies, showed zero correlation between extraversion and sales performance. There is no reason introverts can’t thrive in sales roles.
But we’ll take this a step further; there’s also no reason introverts can’t be great cold callers. There is a camp, including Hubspot, which suggests that introverts should focus on other sales tactics, but we believe sales leaders should encourage introverts to leverage their natural skills and cold call with the same confidence as their extroverted colleagues.
Step One: Change the way your team talks about cold calling.
Know that B2B selling is usually more comfortable than B2C
We already dropped the bomb that our famously gregarious CEO, Jordan, is an introvert. Now we’ll drop another. Our master of relationship building and VP of Strategy, Erika Davis, is also an introvert.
We sat down with them to learn how they have honed their skills to become powerhouse salespeople and cold callers. For both Jordan and Erika, the first major step was to reframe the way they thought and talked about cold calling.
Erika initially thought B2B (business to business) cold calling would feel uncomfortable because people would perceive her as “slimy” and “scammy.” As a 96th percentile introvert, she didn’t like people interrupting her, so she felt hesitant to call others. Within a few days of her first SDR gig, though, she changed her mind.
Jordan felt the same way. In his words, “it was super weird to call somebody who didn’t know who I was.” But, he soon learned that a B2B call was completely different than calling a grandma at her house to talk her into buying something.
The truth is that B2B clients want to hear from salespeople who can help them.
- 71% of buyers want to hear from sellers when they’re looking for ways to drive stronger business results.
- 62% of buyers want to hear from sellers when the seller wants to help solve a problem.
- More than half of C-level and VP buyers prefer to be contacted by phone.
- More than two-thirds of buyers have accepted cold calls in the last 12 months.
Especially if it’s within the context of other types of outreach, a cold call may be a welcome and encouraging opportunity for a prospect to learn how to address a pressing problem. And if it isn’t, then it’s likely more of a reflection of the prospect’s current priorities than it is of either your sales reps or cold calling, as a tactic.
Show your team that rejection on cold calls isn’t personal
When he was first starting out, Jordan took cold calling personally. Rejection felt like a reflection on who he was as a person, rather than a signal that a prospect was not a fit. But then, he changed his mindset.
In his words, he started to think of it as a game. “They have their move; I have my move. Let’s see who wins.” Then, if the outcome is a hangup or a “no,” it’s no more personally costly than a lost game of Monopoly. The rest of your life isn’t impacted by the outcome.
In a similar way, our VP of Growth, Erika Davis, started going into call blocks with the goal to practice and “show up.” She took the pressure off of herself to get the meeting and, instead, focused on getting better at — and more comfortable with — cold calling. With this new objective, every connection, regardless of the outcome, was a success.
Josh Braun, host of the Inside Selling podcast, founder of Sales DNA, encourages a similar approach, which he calls “detaching from the outcome.” In his words:
“I’m going to reach out to people that might have a problem I can help with. Some will be open to sharing about how they’re currently getting the job done and continuing the conversation. Some won’t. It’s okay either way. I’m not for everyone.”
To Braun (and to Jordan), the goal sales leaders should be pushing is not to book meetings. It’s to learn whether a prospect is open to having a conversation and giving you an opportunity to qualify them. If they’re not, then your rep has still achieved the intended outcome: (dis)qualifying prospects.
That’s not to say that your reps shouldn’t have quotas. The point isn’t to remove expectations, it’s to reframe them in a way that sets everyone up for greater success.
Step Two: Your introverted colleagues have superpowers. Unleash them.
Introverts are uniquely gifted in several key areas that help to overcome some of the natural aversion people have to being “sold.”
A Hubspot Research poll found that only 3% of people trust salespeople. The only professions which scored worse were used car salesmen, lobbyists, and politicians. Ouch.
Josh Braun’s take is that people are actually afraid of salespeople. They think they’ll be talked into buying something they don’t want or need.
And if they’re not afraid, they’re annoyed. Many people perceive salespeople to be pushy, forceful, and dominant. Few hear “salesperson” and conjure an image of someone with whom they’d want to have a heart to heart conversation.
But remember: in the B2B world, buyers are not looking for effective persuaders; they’re looking for helpful guides who know their pain points and priorities, listen to their concerns, and deliver a valuable solution.
While extroverts can be great at this, too, introverts have certain soft skills that make them uniquely capable of guiding prospects through a genuine and comfortable sales process that breaks down these assumptions, barriers, and fears.
Understanding what these skills are, and how to coach your introverts to embrace them, is like tapping into a set of sales superpowers.
Superpower One: Stop, collaborate, and listen.
Introverts naturally follow Vanilla Ice’s advice and, “stop, collaborate, and listen.” Rather than thinking about what to say next, introverts are more likely to focus on what the other person is saying. Once someone else has finished speaking, most introverts take a moment to process, and then they respond directly to what they’ve just heard.
As a result, it’s naturally easier for them to:
- make other people feel “heard,”
- understand and incorporate other people’s ideas,
- and implement the best solutions, which draw from multiple sources.
This is critical, because a truly effective salesperson is one who guides a prospect to solve a problem. It’s a collaborative process, where the buyer and seller listen to one another, share information, and identify the right solution.
While these skills are valuable throughout the sales lifecycle, they are particularly suited to cold calling in these two ways:
- Effective listening helps sellers to tailor their pitch, sharing the most relevant information.
- When sellers listen, prospects will self-qualify. They will hear, in responses to questions they pose or value propositions they share, whether or not prospects are a fit.
When introverts apply their superhuman listening skills, they will often create genuine connections with prospects, breaking down some of the barriers which they naturally erect against the idea of being “sold.”
Superpower Two: Reading the room
You might guess that extroverted folks who derive their energy from interacting with others would, by consequence, know a lot about them. However, research would suggest the opposite.
A new Yale research study concluded that the people who are the best “natural social psychologists” are introverts.
Introverts naturally observe people, and the environments in which they live and work, more than extroverts who are busily contributing to the social settings they occupy. The ability to emotionally remove themselves from a situation, and critically evaluate it, will give introverts a much deeper understanding.
When cold calling, this gives introverts an edge in interpreting what their prospects might be thinking and feeling, which leads to more easily identifying both problems and solutions.
Superpower Three: Research and preparation
Because introverts are naturally less comfortable diving into unknown social settings, they’re more likely to conduct research and to prepare for all possible outcomes. They don’t relish the idea of being asked a question they can’t answer or catching someone on the phone and knowing nothing about them. To put it simply, they utilize research and preparation to build confidence.
Our VP of Growth, Erika Davis, leveraged this strength both as an SDR and an AE. Before making a call, she did a bunch of research so she wasn’t “calling in an abrasive and impersonal way.” Then, even if a prospect tried to brush her off, she could point to her research and identify a specific way she thought she could help.
As an added benefit, the time introverts spend on research is usually in quiet and solitude, meaning it’s an opportunity to refuel, much like Batman after a night of saving Gotham. Whether it’s between calls, before a call block, or at the end of the day, this time set aside for prospect research is beneficial.
Coaching tip: If your introverted team members like research, then you might consider telling them to cold call first thing in the morning and, when they have completed their call tasks for the day, research for the next day. It’s often easier to push through less desirable tasks if something more appealing is on the horizon.
Superpower Four: Authenticity
Authenticity may be simultaneously the most fragile and the most important introverted superpower. It’s fragile because, before people are comfortable doing something, they often mimic others.
However, if introverts attempt to play a role, behaving like their apparently confident extroverted colleagues, they may undermine the traits that can make them the most successful.
Erika learned this lesson firsthand, as a sales rep starting out. Rather than trying to channel traits that are not comfortable or natural to her, she had to learn to be herself, bringing her personality into a sales environment.
In order for this to be possible, leaders have to cultivate working cultures which don’t either create unspoken expectations for conformity or reward people for preferred personality traits that don’t ultimately impact job performance.
Step Three: Practice makes perfect.
The last step to empowering your introverted team members is to create practice scenarios where they can learn without experiencing as many potentially discouraging social rejections. They will get a lot of “no’s,” but it helps to get used to the rejection in a slightly safer setting.
When Erika was an AE, she took one or two other reps into a conference room and made cold calls on speaker phone. Only one person talked, but, no matter what happened, others were there to share the experience.
When each call wrapped, everyone shared feedback, advice, and encouragement. It was a great way to learn and stay motivated.
“The Meat Grinder”
Jordan employed a slightly higher-stakes tactic, when he was Outreach’s first SDR manager. The “meat grinder” was a call block when SDRs sat together in a conference room and took turns calling members of Outreach’s leadership team, who would act like prospects.
It was scary to call senior leaders but, at the same time, reps knew they would get fantastic feedback. At the end of most “real” cold calls, you don’t get to debrief with a master who can help you get better.
Because introverts are often natural learners, feedback is helpful data which, even when critical, builds confidence.
There are many ways to be a successful salesperson, and a master cold caller. To bring out the best in your team members, don’t try to change who they are. Instead, channel it, adding skill and practice to their existing talents and strengths.
Building your cold calling program
Coaching people with varying personality types to place cold calls isn’t easy. Few parts of building a cold calling program (at least one that doesn’t suck) are.
Our consultants are introverts, extraverts, and ambiverts. They’ve cold called, managed SDR teams, and coached leaders on cold calling enablement.
We’ve shared our combined expertise on creating a winning cold calling program in this free guide, and we’re here for any additional coaching your team may need.
Whether you and your team members are energized by crowds, solitude, a hike in the wilderness, or a good slice of pizza, it’s possible to create a cold calling program which empowers everyone to mix grit, good coaching, and natural skill to create an unstoppable sales team.