Paul Jarvis

How to be an introverted or awkward salesperson

I’ll never forget the time I was teaching an online workshop and a student mentioned that they weren’t good at selling because they were introverted in business and awkward around other people.

I stopped in my tracks and said to myself, then out loud to the folks watching, “Hey, I’m awkward and I can sell pretty well. Let’s talk about this!”

I proceeded to explain that I honestly don’t think you have to be the stereotypical sales person, with an answer for everything in order to sell well.

I don’t have any of those things. In fact, I’m a super awkward and excitable nerd. I speak too fast, don’t always have answers to questions asked by potential clients, and swear too much when I’m talking to others. I rarely look others in the eye when I talk, and I could have my own TLC show I give birth to so many pregnant pauses.

But still, I consider myself really good at sales. When I did client work, I would “close” pretty much every call I got on. Not because I was slick like the hot tub guy (pre-purchase), but because I did a few things really well, none of which required much talking.

Most sales calls I was on took about 45-60 minutes. Which for any introvert, seems like a worst idea ever to have to talk to someone for that length of time. But what I realized was that in selling services, especially higher end services, my participation was only barely required.

To sell well, I had to three things: Ask questions, shut up and listen, then repeat the answers back. At most the conversations would be 90/10 for them talking to me talking.

If someone asked me to “pitch” them on what I do, I’d stumble, trail off and really, just do an awful job. I suck at talking about what I do and why anyone should hire me. I know I’m awful at this, so I stay away from it. What I am good at is being curious (this helps a whole lot with writing too). I’m good at thinking about what I want to learn from someone else and asking them about it, in lots of questions if necessary, until I’m satisfied that I get it. If you put me in front of a group of people to talk, I’d be awkward. If you put me in front of a group of people where I had to ask them questions, I’d have total confidence in how to lead the conversation and the room.

Even though I’m awkward, I’m good at learning by asking questions. In sales, especially when it’s custom services, you’ve gotta really understand what someone wants in order to have an any chance of them wanting to hire you to help them fix what they need fixing. So sales for me starts with asking questions about the other person and their business until I’m satisfied.

Being introverted in business means more listening than talking

The good thing about asking questions is after you ask something, you really just have to shut up and pay attention. It’s hard to be awkward in a conversation when you don’t have to do much of the talking.

So since I’d rather listen than talk in most situations, being good at sales meant hearing what someone else had to say and paying attention to what they said and how they said it, so I could fully understand how what I knew how to do could help them.  Not in a general way, like, “oh ya, I can design your website, sure” but more in a laser-focused, hyper-specific way, like “oh ya, based on the fact that you generate most of your revenue from automation funnels on your MailChimp mailing list, I can help design your website that increases conversions to subscribers, and work with you to increase your open and click rates so more sales happen”.

Because I would spend most of a call asking questions and listening, when it finally did come time for me to talk, all I had to do was quickly mention the specifics of how I could help them. How I said it didn’t have to be confident or slick, because I knew exactly what to say (based on where their problems where) and how to say it (based on the words they used to describe their problem). I could be the most the awkward person in the world, with awards to prove it, and still, if I basically just repeated back what someone needed and how my own skills could help them, they’d be paying attention to what I had to say.

In business, it requires twice as much work to do things in a certain way, just because someone else told you that’s how things are supposed to work. Or because you think something works in a certain way because you read about it on a book or saw it on Suits (probably don’t run a business like those folks). That’s because you’ve gotta do the work and you’ve got to fit yourself into the box you think you should be in because you think that’s how things should work.

The rules for being introverted in business are that there are no rules

There’s no one way things should work in business. Only the way the way you do them.

So if you’re introverted in business or just awkward, be fucking awkward. Own it. Use it. Be the most awkwardly successful business person ever. That way you don’t have to work twice as hard to do things, because it’s way easier to just be yourself, even if you’re selling something.