Written By: Jason Coleman, Business Development Manager and MentorU Coach, Uniglobe Travel Center
“Hi, my name is Jason, and I’m an introvert.”
I can remember back to my first week as a freshman in college when I took the Myers-Briggs Type Inventory during orientation and learned I was an introvert. For years, I hated social settings, preferred my alone time, and tried to hide whenever my dad talked to strangers. I never knew there was a name for my personality characteristic. But armed with this information, I was on a path to discover more about my personality and traits that made me unique.
Imagine my excitement when I saw Matthew Pollard’s new book on the shelf at the Seattle Public Library. The Introvert’s Edge: How the Quiet and Shy Can Outsell Anyone was an overnight read that had my mind wandering and my head nodding in agreement. I learned things about my personality that translate into assets for selling. And the insights he shares are not limited to introverts; extroverts and every other -vert on the spectrum can learn fantastic selling skills and advice in this very easy-to-read-and-understand business book.
Pollard starts the book by presenting three truths he’s uncovered from years of working with thousands of people:
1. Sales is a skill anyone can learn.
2. Anyone can create a sales process.
3. Armed with these two facts, introverts make the best salespeople.
Far too often, sales advice focuses on the “extrovert” part of selling, the face-to-face networking and tactics that give the selling profession a bad name. Introverts are natural systems people. We create processes, checklists, and scripts to help us navigate the areas where we’re uncomfortable. However this skill is an asset when it comes to selling. This book is unique in that it does not focus on the extrovert side of selling; rather it identifies a process that us introverts can use to feel comfortable and secure in this scary world of sales. That’s where the beauty lies. Systems is a process anyone can follow. You don’t have to be an introvert to master this process.
Interestingly “extroverts’ sales are directly connected to their personality and even their mood,” claims Pollard. Think about it; when the extrovert salesperson is in a good mood, that comes across in their interactions with prospects and sales happen easily and naturally. On the other hand, when this same seller is having a bad day or stressed in general, their personality changes and that reflects as well. Introverts follow their system, regardless of their mood. We have our ups and downs too, but we tend to be focused on the task and getting it done no matter what.
There are seven steps in Pollard’s system that apply regardless of your sales personality:
1. Establish trust and provide an agenda.
You’ve heard the marketing adage that people do business with those they “know, like, and trust”? It’s true. I don’t hand my credit card over to someone to charge thousands when I don’t know or trust them – do you? You don’t have to be best friends, but they have to be comfortable with you. Connecting with people does not have to be painful. I followed Pollard’s advice and attended a dinner recently armed with three topics at the ready. It was much easier than traditional “networking” that I dread.
2. Ask probing questions.
As travel agents, we’ve been trained in the art of qualifying. Whenever I find myself qualifying on the fly, I tend to talk too much and listen too little. However when I use my qualifying script and questionnaire to guide my conversation, I learn so much more and I’m a better agent overall. My lesson here is to stick to the script and let my clients do the talking. Pollard shares some fantastic advice for how to get people to open up, pay special attention to that part!
3. Speak to the decision maker.
We’ve all made the mistake of presenting and offering our recommendation to someone who says something like “Sounds great, let me ask my husband and get back to you.” DOH! (Insert Homer Simpson voice here!) All my effort is now left to someone else to communicate, likely without all the enthusiasm and details that I provided. Get it right the first time and be sure any qualifying consultation and recommendation presentation is done with the decision maker present. That requires knowing who the person is up front, so be sure you find a way to ask the question.
4. Sell with a story.
Travel agents can do this better than other professions. I love how visual our industry is; pictures and videos really are terrific assets we should exploit. But go one step further and put the client in the picture. Help them visualize their day, their experience, their life with your recommendation. Preparing and practicing a few travel stories that you can swap out with specifics and details is a great way to make a presentation. Pollard says it so beautifully: “tell them a story that helps them see the transformative magic of the product or service you sell.”
5. Answer objections with stories.
I love this part. You’ve heard the business advice that “the customer’s always right”? So have I. And I completely disagree. But you’ll never hear me say that to the client. Instead, a better way to approach this topic is to use the storyteller technique and present your response in the context of “another client who had a similar objection or issue…” and then you go on to point out how their fears were addressed. We say that there are those who buy logic and facts, and others who buy the vision or the dream. Stories is one way to accomplish both. Here’s one example from the book: shift the conversation from a yes/no conversation to a story where “this is what happened when…”
6. Take their temperature.
This step replaces the traditional asking for the sale. Essentially, it’s the same thing; but taking their temperature is a softer way for us introverts to feel comfortable with it. There’s lots of ways to approach it. “Would you prefer A or B resort?” “Which credit card would you like to use for your $500 deposit?” However the genius in taking their temperature is that you have a way out if you encounter resistance. This chapter is pure brilliance; take detailed notes here. I use these every day!
7. Assume the sale.
How can you create a scenario where the client never has the opportunity to say no? Give clients an easy way to say yes, assume the sale, and move forward in an easy and seamless process. And then rehearse, practice, and repeat your process until you’ve got it perfected.
The Introvert’s Edge was an inspiring and motivating sales book that helped me identify my existing strengths and areas where I can improve. As you know from my previous book review columns, I’m also a big fan of the audio edition and regularly re-listen to portions of the book while I run or workout. Whether you’re an introvert or not, I hope you will give this business book a read and prepare to improve your selling skills as a result. If you’re interested in reading the book and joining an informal book club discussion group with other travel agents, please send me an email at email@example.com. I’ll be facilitating a reading and discussion of the book during the month of August. I’d love to have you join me!