Listen up, extroverts!

Bowls of too hot, too cold and just right porridge.If I wielded any real power at Peppercomm, I’d insist every employee read three business books:

- ‘The Outliers’ by Malcolm Gladwell
- ‘David & Goliath’ also by Gladwell
- ‘What’s Keeping Your Customers Up at Night’ by Steve Cody and Richard Harte, Ph.D.

The first two are chock full of wisdom, insights and surprises. The third is dull as dishwater, but I still collect royalties and could use some extra spending money.

But, wait! Don’t buy anything yet.

I now have a fourth book that runs rings around the above-mentioned troika. It’s called ‘To Sell Is Human‘ by Daniel Pink.

Pink’s premise is that, with few exceptions, we are ALL salespeople nowadays. We may not be pushing ’64 Chevy Impalas, Tupperware or McMansions, but we’re all selling most of the time. This holds true for doctors, lawyers, academics and, yes, Virginia, even PR practitioners.

Pink says that, because of social media and other seismic social factors, buyers know at least as much, if not more, than sellers. So, stereotypical hard core sales characters such as Arthur Miller’s Willie Loman and David Mamet’s Shelly ‘The Machine’ Levene are as irrelevant as attaining premium class level on United Airlines.

Pink’s book is full of one example after another of the ‘new’ selling, how it works and who is most likely to excel at it.

My favorite section focused on extroverts, introverts and, what the author calls, ambi-verts.

Conventional wisdom holds that extroverts make far better salespeople than introverts. And, research from the University of Pennsylvania’s Adam Grant, proves that assumption to be true. But, and it’s a HUGE but, Grant says the average ‘ambi-vert’ runs rings around an extrovert, introvert and, one would guess, even an antivert (that last one was for you vertigo sufferers).

Ambi-verts are just what the name implies: they’re neither extroverts nor introverts. They’re a healthy mix of each. They know when to speak and when to listen. They know when to empathize and when to be assertive. Critically, they also know when to put themselves in the prospect’s shoes and understand the sales process from the outside-in. When’s the last time you tried that?

As for extroverts, two recent Harvard Business Review articles say they’re the worst salespeople of all. Why? Two reasons:

- “They possess an excess of assertiveness and zeal that led to contacting customers too frequently.”
- “They talked too much and listened too little, which dulled their understanding of others’ perspective.”

So, forget everything you’ve been taught about being extroverted in job interviews and new business presentations.

Pick up Pink’s ‘To Sell Is Human” and become an ambi-vert. And, while you’re at it, skim the Cody-Harte book. It’s a great cure for insomnia.

And a tip o’ Rep’s cap to Eric Morgenstern for suggesting this idea.

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