Where did this myth come from? The popular book, Quiet, by Susan Cain, argues that this notion of not being liked, popular, extroverted, overly confident, or the life of the party, being Achilles heel for salespeople, can be attributed heavily to the time when Carnegie grew up and successfully “self-helped” the world into being extroverted.
Did you know that Dale Carnegie changed his name? “Carnagey actually; he changes the spelling later, likely to evoke Andrew, the great industrialist.” If you’ve watched the Gap Sell Keenans, you will know that “likeability,” and “showmanship” aren’t the heart of what sells a product or service in today’s modern world.
Through Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, Cain crafts a well-thought-out and data-driven theory that, while introverts aren’t as common in the business world (and sales profession), they can be the most successful leaders and followers in any business setting and beyond. She argues that personality became the most important aspect of selling and business, popularized by self-help books, like Dale Carnegie’s, in the 1920s. She states “Americans became salesmen who could sell not only their companies latest gismo but also themselves.” (pg 22) And this ever-popular myth haunts us in ASG Facebook comments to this day.
Self-help books in the roaring 20’s “changed from inner virtue to outer charm,” and favoring not the “deep thinker, but a hearty extrovert with a salesman’s personality.” During this time, “the number of American’s who considered themselves shy, increased from 40% in the 1970s to 50% in the 1990s.” “Social Anxiety disorder – which essentially means pathological shyness – is now thought to affect nearly 1 in 5 of us”. But…as Cain questions throughout the book, as does Gap Selling, “How did we go from character to personality, without realizing that we had sacrificed something meaningful along the way?” I would argue that Keenan also points this out when he demystifies the modern salesperson as not just a personality with a smile and excitement, but a deep thinker, and a better listener who asks good trustworthy questions. Cain points out in the early pages that “If Abraham Lincoln was the embodiment of virtue during the culture of character, then Tony Robbins is his counterpart during the culture of personality.”Your personality has little to do with how well you sell.
In this LinkedIn video, Keenan breaks down why he calls bullshit on salespeople needing to be extroverts.
Gaining trust isn’t just an extroverted game.
Introverts and those that may not be the ones to speak up first, don’t need change or chameleon to act like Keenan. Instead, introverts can use their quiet listening skills to gap sell well and sell confidently, addressing the problem(s) their product or service solves. Cain points out that “Peer pressure…is not only unpleasant but can change your view of the problem.” If that happens, their ability to Gap Sell is very low.
Good News! If you find yourself more on the Quiet side, successfully Gap Selling isn’t just an extrovert’s game. As long as you can dig, listen, find the problem, and lead the prospect to water, you can Gap Sell, and should sell better based on character & credibility, rather than personality & likeability. Also read Quiet, because I only scratched the surface. Enjoy!
Written by Reggie Stjernholm