Inability to find good sales talent is a common source of frustration among business owners and hiring managers nationwide. I would contend that it's because many are simply focusing on the wrong candidate profile.
It's a common stereotype that extroverts make the best salespeople. You've no doubt experienced your fair share of highly extroverted salespeople in your lifetime -- those that talked so much, you couldn't get a word in edgewise and whose aggressive style was such a turnoff that it ultimately prevented you from buying.
A recent study, called "Rethinking the Extroverted Sales Ideal" published by Adam Grant in Psychological Science, indicates that an entirely different personality type excels most in a sales capacity.
They're called Ambiverts, and they are essentially equal parts extrovert and introvert. That balance equates to an innate versatility -- an invaluable sales trait.
The study draws conclusions from the performance records of 340 outbound salespeople. Ambiverts outperformed their introvert and extrovert counterparts by 23 and 32 percent respectively. Why? Because ambiverts instinctively engage in a flexible communication style, so they are able to more easily match the style of their prospect. They are able to balance the desire to talk with the need to listen, and as a result, avoid the appearance of overconfidence. But they also demonstrate the assertiveness and enthusiasm necessary to ultimately close a sale.
Another interesting study finding is that extreme introverts and extroverts perform at virtually the same level. The absolute most critical skill in sales is the ability to listen. Introverts more readily possess that skill, which can make up for any deficiencies in more extroverted qualities such as building rapport or closing the sale.
So how do you identify an ambivert in a sales candidate interview? Ask him or her to rate these ten questions on a scale of one to five where one is strongly agree and five is strongly disagree. You're looking for an average of responses that falls in the middle.
1. I prefer one-on-one conversations to group activities.
2. I'm a big risk taker.
3. I prefer to express myself in writing (versus verbally).
4. I enjoy solitude.
5. People tell me I've never met a stranger.
6. People describe me as soft spoken.
7. I am most energized when I'm around other people.
8. I prefer work that allows me to "dive in" with few interruptions.
9. I prefer to work alone.
10. In sales pitches, I'm good at "shooting from the hip."
You likely know where your sales team falls on the introvert/extrovert scale. Compare this information against their sales performance to see if this study holds true inside your organization. And consider an ambivert for your next sales position.
Lori Turner-Wilson is an award-winning columnist and CEO/Founder of RedRover, a sales training and marketing firm based in Memphis, Tennessee -- www.redrovercompany.com. You can follow RedRover on Twitter (@redrovecompany and @loriturner) and Facebook (facebook.com/redrovercompany).