SCORE Small Business Blog

Marketing: Would You Hire a Shy Salesperson?

Sales. It’s all About Motivation.

As many of you know, my theory is that shy people make better net workers because they tend to listen to their prospects more than talk at them. I was thinking about this the other day and it occurred to me that this may relate to sales people, also.

Since we know that the two most important components of sales are: 1) listening to the prospect to determine their needs and 2) building relationships–why would the theory work? The only major objection I came up with is would they be too shy to ask for the order? That part I haven’t figured out yet, but since I have heard that good sales people are made and not born and if you could train shy people to ask for the order wouldn’t that be a perfect combination? Seems like an interesting thought.

I asked a friend what she thought about my theory and her comment was that I could test it in my company, but not hers. She is definitely not buying into my shy salesperson theory. Which is another interesting twist as she is very outgoing and almost what I could call aggressive so it made me wonder if a shy person would make her uncomfortable.

I’d like to toss it out to you the readers of this theory, what do you think?

Would you hire a shy person and if you are a shy person would you be up for ‘asking for the order’ training?’ Or am I just thinking too much?

Betty Otte, SCORE Orange County
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Discussion (27) Comment

  1. BettyVisitor

    Hi, thank you for your comment and stopping to think about it. There have been some interesting comments above (as you probably read), but I still maintain that business is built on relationships and for that to happen you need to listen more than talk. Check out the book, Shoe Leather Marketing.

  2. “… my theory is that shy people make better net workers because they tend to listen to their prospects more than talk at them.”

    Very interesting words. I never stopped to think about this but, in an initial analysis, it makes sense. I will take a look at this for my company. Thanks.

  3. BettyVisitor

    Hi, CC: Thank you for your comment. I am very excited about the responses received regarding the shy salesperson blog. Again you make the excellent point that sales, like all of business, is built on relationships. You do your research and listen to your customer needs. It doesn’t get any better than that! Thank you for letting us hear your story.

  4. ccVisitor

    I am shy and also a salesman. I have always exceeded my goal for 10 + years. Customers appreciate my style and often comment that I am not in their face and actually listen to their problems. The way I overcome my shyness is I spend a lot of time studying my product, company and customers. This gives me confidence in the meetings as I know what to say and am prepared for any objections. The only place I sometimes struggle are the social type parties that come up in sales. Lets face it most sales people like to drink and party. I do my best in those situations that I can.

  5. BettyVisitor

    Good though, but it implies that a shy person cannot have convincing powers. I pretty much disagree with that. Shy people can be very convincing, but in a more subtle way. Again, that doesn’t mean all shy people are convincing any more than all overt people are convincing just that is hard to categorize in that format.
    any further thoughts?

  6. Your post has set me thinking. Interesting article though. I don’t think a shy person can make for a good sales person. One must have convincing powers to become a good sales man.

  7. BettyVisitor

    Hi, Peter: thank you for your comment regarding a ‘charming idea’, but can you expand on what you mean is charming, please?
    The idea of hiring a shy person or the idea of a shy person coming out when given the task.

  8. PeterMonteeVisitor

    Charming idea

  9. BettyVisitor

    Hi, Paul: thank you for your story. If you have read the other posts on the blog, you notice that there are several folks who totally agree with you and have, also, achieved success being a shy salesperson. In this era when quality truly matters, having the information may be more important than being overt. It has really been fun to see the many posts and the diversity of thought going
    along with this blog.
    Thank you again for sharing your story.

  10. paulscoreVisitor

    As a very shy and stuttering engineer for 25 years I never though about moving to sales. One day the owner of my company asked me to start our an international division. I was shocked since I knew nothing about sales and marketing. The owner overcame my objections and said I had the product knowledge in my head and I would impress international clients. I was turning 50 at the time and decided to try something new. During my engineering career I met with sales people several times a week. I decided to emulate the best qualities of these sales people in my new position. After 12 years as director of the international division we won the US Commerce Department’s E-Star Exporting award in 2000.

    In summary, do not overlook a shy person for a sales position. Customers want to meet with sales people who know their product and can help solve client problems.

    Paul Holzschuher
    SCORE Cincinnati

  11. BettyVisitor

    Hi, Josh: you have very clearly stated my original case. There are going to be advantages and disadvantages to shy and not shy, but
    I truly wouldn’t discount a shy person. The sales is a pull situation rather than a push. Thank you for your comment.

  12. JoshVisitor

    As a congenitally shy person that always wanted to be in sales, I will say I feel my listening skills are superior to those of my more gregarious colleagues. There will be the rare account that may be uncomfortable with a shy sales rep, but the majority of purchasers appreciate someone that listens to and comprehends what their true needs are. My feeling is that shyness is a result of the fear of looking foolish or not being able to adequately express what needs to be said. With that in mind, a shy salesperson will go into most meetings better prepared than the more vocal, aggressive salesman who feels their gift of gab will allow them to dance around any subject they are unfamiliar with.
    Obviously, there will be some disadvantages for a shy salesperson where cold calling and lead generation is required. However, if it is customer service, satisfaction, and retention that you are looking for, I would not hesitate to give someone that may seem a bit quite the chance to shine.

  13. BettyVisitor

    Hi, I assume that was a compliment, but don’t really understand your comment. Anyway, Lera, thanks for letting us hear your perspective.

  14. BettyVisitor

    Hi, Cynthia: thank you greatly for bringing another perspective to the conversation. You hit at the core of what I was trying to say, but was unable to say as well as you did. Congratulations on the revenue increase. You are tr uly doing something right!
    Thank you for your comment.

  15. CAVisitor

    As a shy person, who does work in account management/sales, – for the sake of anecdotal evidence – my year to year revenue increase from 07 to 08 was over 20%.

    And I attribute that in large part to the listening skills, which then leads to product development and solutions that met my clients goals.

    so Betty thank you for highlighting the idea that shy folks can be great networkers. In fact, I met my current boss by networking with her at a luncheon.

  16. Interesting subject matter. I believe, as has been previously stated, it depends on the degree of shyness.

    I think it was Dale Carnegie that said “the reason you have 2 ears and 1 mouth is because you should listen twice as much as you talk”

    A sales person talking; thinking about what they are going to say next; saying what they wanted to say; and than saying it again, is all fine. However, if, the sales person, doesn’t know if the prospect is even interested than, you, as a sales rep, have missed the opportunity.

    The majority of situations, in which I am a buyer, and interacting with a sales rep are disappointing. I am a walking sale, but very few sales reps, understand or even remotely ask my needs.

    The question can be translated into the value of understanding the sales process and if shyness is even a consideration. Extreme boisterousness, or an extreme extrovert, just like extreme shyness, do not make a good sales person.

    Listening, however, is one of the least practiced skills by a sales person, but a powerful necessity for the sales professional.


  17. BettyVisitor

    Hi, Teri: thank you for your comment regarding shyness being a weakness. Yes, you are correct that it truly can get in the way of sales, but my point was just they often tend to listen and process what is being said in greater detail than the rest of us. From the comments coming in on my thought, I need to rethink how my theory is presented. I have found that when consulting with shy clients at SCORE, it gives them a new perspective on their shyness
    and I have been told it gives them something else to focus on during conversations. Guess it is a good topic to think about.
    Thanks for commenting.

  18. BettyVisitor

    Hi, Ursulina: you have hit a cord at the heart of the matter in that a sales person has to believe in their product. You mentioned that you sell a pricy motorcycle service. If you didn’t believe your service had more benefits than the less expensive ones, you
    would not be able to come across with sincerity. Believing in the product is more important than shy or not, as it is the base for the whole transaction. Sometimes that takes a bit to develop — especially with high priced items.
    Excellent observation. Thanks for your comment.

  19. BettyVisitor

    Hi: Chitraparna: thank you for your perspective. I guess what I am learning from the thread of comments is that much depends on the product or service being offered and the manner in which it is presented. Great to hear both sides of the story.
    Thank you for your comment.

  20. BettyVisitor

    Hi, Jamila: thank you for your perspective. You are absolutely correct regarding the need for a dash of charisma. Unfortunately, I don’t think that can be learned if you are shy or not. Part of that is the desire to help others and believing in your product or service to the point that you believe you can help them.
    Great comment.

  21. In theory a shy person is a person that can be somewhat afraid to communicate to others.

    This is professional “death” in sales! I think shyness is a weakness that most people work to overcome. A sales person and a networker must be able to both communicate AND listen to be effective.

    Too many people go to counseling to not be shy, so it is difficult to view it as an asset.

    I Blog at: "So Much To Say" Single Moms and
    and Teaming With Brooks

  22. ChitraparnaVisitor

    Never would I do that…My company (if so happens) will wind up even before it begins…

  23. JamilaVisitor

    I am shy. I do listen intently and come across as perceptive and smart focusing in on the needs even between what was said, but the networking piece is such a hinderance sometimes. Asking for the order, could be a thing I am trained to do and when coupled with other insights gained could be a good combination. I think it would also need a dash of charisma though, which even an aggressive person has to have. People have to like that little something about you. Too aggressive can lose and too shy can lose the deal as well.

  24. Maybe … if the correct motivation is applied.

    I am not a professional sales person but as the business mgr to my husband’s small biz (it’s just the 2 of us) I have to help sell pricy motorcycle services & restorations. It took me a while to get past my own shyness to realize if I don’t push or ask for the sale or upgrade, I don’t eat. Once I got that, moving toward closing the deal was no longer an issue. Also, the time it took me to learn the mc restoration biz developed my understanding and appreciation for the work my husband does, so heck yes, I want to see him get paid for his hours of hard work.

    But, not sure if non-commission sales person will feel the same emotional connection to the product. Develop a connection & how their sales = food on their table, and you may motivate that shy person to close the deal. Be ready for steady positive motivators, though. Going from shy to “how many can I order for you?” probably won’t happen overnight.

  25. BettyVisitor

    Hi, guess shy is a grey area. I agree if they are totally afraid to talk, but my point was that they are more inclined to listen to others and in that way can pick up the clues on what that person’s needs may be. I had a SCORE client recently that was probably the shyest person I ever met. I would have to agree with you if the person was that far right. Thanks for a good comment.

  26. I don’t think I’d hire a shy salesperson. They’re supposed to convince every single person they see to buy the stuff I’m selling. How are they going to do it if they’re affraid to talk to people?

  27. BettyVisitor

    Hi, I don’t think you are the same Cynthia that made another comment so I wanted to reflect on what you said above.
    Your comment about them asking what your needs are is very interesting. I found that to be true even in social situations. The conversation can go on for a long time before the other person asks about your perspective. Insightful point.


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