Written by Karen Zhang
Karen Zhang is an accounting student at the University of Florida and a sales development representative at The Selling Factory. Given the flexibility of accounting, she is also interested in pursuing business law or forensic accounting. Karen’s has the ability to understand others’ needs and convey solutions quickly. This ability will improve the fluidity of the work process when she starts a career path in audit.
“Why are you so quiet?”
As an introverted person with social anxiety, I used to be embarrassed whenever someone would mention how I wasn’t seemingly contributing to the conversation. Usually, I listen and nod on, happy to let others chat about topics they enjoyed. I feel more comfortable listening to others speak and only interjecting when I’m ready to say something. Even though I’ve gotten better at public speaking and speaking in a group in general. I had to steel myself beforehand so I could collect my thoughts and convey a meaningful message.
Working in sales was a new experience for me. When I started as a Sales Development Representative at The Selling Factory, I was apprehensive about calling complete strangers. Because of my fear of rejection, I dreaded dialing the phone and having to hear another lead say “No, thank you”. It was difficult to remain conversational throughout my shift. I had to take a short pause between each call to reflect on what went well and what I could improve to provide a better experience.
However, as I got accustomed to the rhythm, the tasks got easier as I kept going. By adapting the cold calling script to different situations, I became more comfortable with initiating conversations and holding small talk with leads while I provide guidance or offer services. I lost my fear of rejection as I got more rejections from leads. I took it in stride as a part of the process, rather than a reflection of my quality of work.
Even though I continually challenged myself to step out of my comfort zone, sales was no longer a daunting task.
Despite the belief that one needs an outgoing personality to work in sales, studies like Murray Barrick’s of Michigan State University show that extrovertedness is not directly correlated with better sales performance. In fact, a report from the Wharton School of Business “indicates that organizations benefit from training highly extraverted salespeople to model the quiet, reserved tendencies of their more introverted peers.”
A core strength of introverts is their ability to be active listeners. Oftentimes, this allows them to process information thoroughly before giving advice or opinions. When salespeople understand the customer’s needs, they are able to provide a solution and properly address the customer’s expectations. Along the same lines, introverts ask better questions and get to the heart of the issue faster when listening to customers.
Another strength introverts have is their tendency to think analytically and reflect on what they say before they speak. Instead of relying on fast-talking or bravado, which can alienate customers instead of winning them over, introverts convey sincerity through their speech. According to Harvard Business Review, 91% of top salespeople demonstrate traits of modesty and humility, which are often found among introverted people, making it easier to build rapport with clients.
Lastly, introverts rely on preparation, which is sometimes more effective than natural charisma. Since introverts are aware of their strengths and weaknesses, they often practice before they engage in the actual process. As an introvert myself, I don’t mind putting in the extra time to assure that I’m confident about what I am going to do. Introverts who often do their research and prepare are able to mitigate anything unexpected that may occur.
Introvertedness is not a flaw that needs to be fixed. The introvert and extrovert personality types are a kind of spectrum that all of us reside within. Skills from both sides are important to meaningfully engage with others. However, there are a few reminders that make the sales process and dynamics easier for introverts who are hesitant about their sales role.
You are a disembodied voice. The customer doesn’t know what you look like, what your full name is, or how old you are. If you mess up a pronunciation or fumble during a conversation, people rarely remember the small details that happen during the call. Try not to let your fear of rejection cause you to overthink the process. Also, try not to feel like you have failed if you didn’t convince them from your first few attempts. Focus on connecting with the lead and build a compelling argument for your product or service. Don’t be afraid of failure. You are doing a great job!
When I first started calling, I experienced a few social anxiety effects. My hands would get clammy and sometimes my voice would even shake. Compared to the social anxiety effects I experienced when I was younger, when I would tremble just reading a passage aloud in class, I have improved tremendously. I have made over 3000 calls, and this experience made me more confident in my abilities. The iterative nature of the sales call process will slowly help you get accustomed to speaking to customers. Over time, it will get less stressful and the social anxiety effects will subside until it’s second nature.
Calling and interacting with people during a long shift may be draining. Don’t be afraid to take short breaks, drink water, and recharge before hopping onto another call with the cold calling script. If it makes you feel more ready, practice the cold calling script on your own or with someone so that it feels natural when speaking. Once you feel ready, you’ll sound more confident when speaking.
Remember, all things take time and you have all the skills you need to succeed. Best of luck!