In Melbourne, Australia, in the not-too-distant past, a young salesman barely out of high school stands at the top of Sydney Street looking at the scores of shops and businesses stretched out before him. He just finished three days of training that simply covered the features of the phone plan he is supposed to sell. He has no sales training. The young man suffers from a visual disorder that requires him to wear red glasses, has disfiguring acne and braces, and is extremely introverted. Knowing he has no choice — this was the only job he could find — the young man enters the first business… and 92 rejections later, he finally makes his first sale.
Today, the young man of this story, Matthew Pollard, is now based in Austin, TX, works on sales programs around the world with businesses, from startups to Microsoft, and has written a compelling book called The Introvert’s Edge: How the Quiet and Shy Can Outsell Anyone, which describes how any introvert can replicate his success in sales.
Relying on the System
Pollard’s core argument is that introverts cannot rely on their outsized personalities and improvisational skills to make the sale. Introverts need a system, he writes, an almost automatic process that they can turn on in any sales situation. While this may seem to put introverts at a disadvantage, in fact relying on a system enables them to be more consistently effective. As Pollard explains, “Extroverts’ sales are directly connected to their personality and even their mood. When everything around them is going great, they sell well. But throw in stress or negativity in their personal life… and it derails their sales.”
In contrast, introverts will also experience stress and negatives in their lives, but these will not impact their step-by-step sales system. Introverts rotate through each step of their carefully prepared and well-rehearsed process in the same way each time, no matter how they might feel.
Having argued that introverts make better salespeople than extroverts do, Pollard presents the seven-step sales process for introverts at the core of his book: 1) Establish trust and provide an agenda; 2) Ask probing questions; 3) Speak to the decision-maker; 4) Sell with a story; 5) Answer objections with stories; 6) Take their temperature (e.g., use a trial close to see if the prospect is ready to buy); and 7) Assume the sale.
At face value, these seven steps are hardly revolutionary, a fact that Pollard explicitly acknowledges. However, the goal of the seven steps is not to introduce new weapons for a salesperson’s arsenal, he explains, but to give introverts a framework for a system that they can adjust and adapt to their own situations and customers. The advice and insight in these seven steps, he writes, are “created from an introvert’s perspective for fellow introverts.”
The Power of Stories
For example, objections from prospects can be exceptionally challenging for introverts. Pollard urges his readers not to try to counter the objections with facts and logic. Instead, use stories to work around the objection — specifically, a story of a customer just like them who had a similar objection but decided to try the product anyway and were very happy that they did. (Note that the salesperson never takes on the objection head-on.)
Stories are also effective as the core of the sales approach (rather than listing benefits and attributes). Pollard describes how he helped a piano teacher for autistic children explain the benefits of his piano lessons through a specific story about a student rather than through straightforward factual statements. He uses the less emotional venture of a window-treatment business to show that stories can be applied to any situation.
In sum, Pollard, with the help of writer Derek Lewis, has written a persuasive and engaging selling guide for the “quiet and shy” of his subtitle — although one can venture that any salesperson would benefit from the experiences and insight of someone who has so thoroughly lived the challenges of the introvert salesperson.