Unmana Datta

Introverts: How to Sell Without Selling

By: Unmana Datta | June 10, 2013 | 

Introverts- How to Sell Without SellingIf you are a business owner, selling is an essential part of your job.

But if you’re like me, a shy introvert, you find it uncomfortable to tout your virtues or to ask others to buy from you.

As a somewhat shy, self-conscious introvert, here are five things I do to get the sale…without actually selling.

Don’t sell: Market.

Selling doesn’t come easy to introverts, but marketing usually does. Hiding behind a computer or a piece of paper makes it easier for us to be persuasive. So first, make sure you’re working on marketing. Put together a great website and sales materials, start a blog, and build your presence on social media. Contribute to online conversations and share your expertise, especially where prospects are likely to read what you’ve written.

But that won’t usually be enough. Many clients will want a meeting before they decide to hire you. That’s the one we non-sales’y-people are scared of – the sales meeting.

Don’t sell: Network.

It’s much more difficult to go and meet a prospect if the ostensible reason is sales. It’s much easier to meet and talk to someone if the reason is something else: A networking event, a party, a conference. Go out and talk to people, and if you love your work, you’ll find yourself talking about it if you have a listener who’s interested.

Both my partner and I are introverts, and we have to shove ourselves to startup events on weekends. But we go…both to learn at these events, to find out more about local businesses, and sometimes have interesting conversations.

Don’t sell: Work for free.

We started offering Office Hours to members of a large, active, local startup community. Between the two of us, we have spent up to six hours on one single business, looking through their website and other information they shared with us, talking to them for two hours to understand their goals and give them feedback on their marketing, and then (sometimes) following up with further suggestions or answers. But – even though we are not doing this as a way of selling – several of these businesses expressed interest in working with us, and one of them became our most regular client.

Don’t sell: Do great work.

It doesn’t matter whether you work for free or for a fee, you have to wow your clients. One of the biggest thrills, for me, is when a client introduces us to a friend or colleague, and recommends our work.

Don’t sell: Consult.

Even after all the above, you will have to still go to a few sales meetings. In such a case, forget it’s a sales meeting. Treat it like a consulting meeting. If this were a client who was paying you for your time, what would you say to them? What would you suggest they do? Once you have information, you can decide whether there’s something they need from you, and what you can do to help them. If not, you weren’t going to get that sale anyway.

I became much better at selling once I stopped focusing on getting the sale. In fact, we’ve told clients honestly what we’re not good at, and why they should wait before hiring us: And they told us in turn, that they appreciated the honesty.

Are you squeamish about selling? How do you work on getting business without making yourself uncomfortable?

About Unmana Datta

Unmana Datta is a marketing professional who loves writing. She writes about marketing on the Markitty blog and about other stuff on her personal blog.

  • “Don’t sell: Do great work.”
    This is great advice for everyone, introvert or not! Your work will speak for you, especially in PR.

    • Kato42 I’m in marketing, but yeah… having a client spontaneously tell another client that you’re good is just… awesome.

  • Great points! I’m always amazed at the power of just getting out and seeing people at networking events. And not just meeting new people — reconnecting with existing contacts. I’ve had the experience a number of times after a networking event where someone I chatted with contacts me the next morning with a new project or opportunity. There’s something about that in-person interaction that beats a tweet or an email. (Must be my magnetic personality.)

    • RobBiesenbach Definitely the magnetism. 😉

    • RobBiesenbach Yes, I do think networking events are great… But being an introvert, I have to muster a lot of energy to go to one!

    • RobBiesenbach I love reconnecting with people at events. 
      That’s one of my favourite reasons to go to networking events. I like to think about it as keeping the fires of friendship warm.
       I think cspenn  said something about that a long time ago.

  • This line here- I became much better at selling once I stopped focusing on getting the sale- is key to me. People always ask how I “deal with rejection” in sales. Honestly, I don’t really encounter it. You should have more than one possible take away from each meeting. I live by a few old school sales mantras, but one is “don’t jump to the provide.” It isn’t about making a sale right now-it’s about launching a relationship. Thanks for this!

    • RebeccaTodd Thanks Rebecca: as you can see, I agree with you!

    • RebeccaTodd Along those lines, I’ve never been rejected when I said “hey, it’s great to talk with you, how can I best be of help / where do you want to go from here?”

  • @Unmana I enjoyed your post and despite what some people think, I’m a painfully shy extrovert or an outgoing introvert. I’ve tried several of your suggestions and they work well. I’ve never focused on the sale when I’ve met with potential clients. Sometimes I wonder if that’s a bad quality. Glad to know it’s not. However, the biggest challenge I face is the line between paid and free. I’ve been testing some creative ways to deal with it and would welcome any insights for how to deal with people who try to push the envelope. I’m beginning to think they aren’t the best to work with anyway. Thoughts?

    • EdenSpodek I believe many introverts aren’t shy… 🙂 
      I agree — people who try to push too hard are probably not the best fit (at least I know they aren’t for me). How about outlining the “rules” clearly at the outset, explaining what you will do for free and what you won’t? That might help!

      • Unmana Thanks! I find that approach works better in some situations than others. Sometimes there’s a fine line between sharing to demonstrate value and being taken advantage of by others.

        • EdenSpodek Unmana Hate to say it, but if they don’t respect the rule setting they’re not going to respect your time and maybe won’t pay you. Generally if it’s consulting type stuff I say “hey, I’m happy to give you the 2 minute drill / overview, if that’s interesting to you we can talk about a partnership/collaborating.” 
          Emphasizing of course that collaboration means there is something in it for BOTH of us.

        • JoeCardillo I agree. 
          EdenSpodek For me it helps to tell myself what I’m expecting out of the first meeting. I usually go in expecting a consultative session and an interesting conversation. If they want to take it further, we have to agree on terms first.

        • Unmana JoeCardillo I agree with both of you. I’m dealing with one sensitive situation now and have decided the potential business relationship isn’t one I want to pursue further. Whenever I’ve turned down offers, a better opportunity usually arises but there’s no guarantee. The joys of self-reliant employment. 😉 Thanks for the sanity check.

  • I dig this Unmana, I’ve definitely done and still do all of the things you recommend, to good effect.
    Generally I try to think of it as a conversation, with the opportunity for everyone to learn. I give the same advice to people job hunting a lot, hey, everyone knows you are trying to SELL something in this life, or if you are sending resumes they know you are looking to sell yourself. It’s not something that needs to be ignored, you simply don’t have to be a slave to it if you choose instead to have great conversations with people. When that happens, the product or service, as RebeccaTodd  notes below, will be part of your relationship.

    • JoeCardillo I agree totally — thanks for commenting!

  • bitofmomsense

    I love this post, all of these tips are extremely helpful. I have a much better time thinking about relationships rather than the sale.  And I couldn’t agree more regarding ‘Do Great Work’ – referrals are so important!

    • bitofmomsense Thanks: glad you like the post!

  • Outstanding suggestions – and as a fellow introvert, I’ve used a few of them. I definitely prefer to use my social media profiles/interactions…and face-to-face networking events…to ensure any “sales call” is already a “warm lead”.
    I do not have it in me to go for a hard sell. I actually wrote a 12 Most post a couple years ago titled 12 Most Obvious Reasons I Suck at Sales 😉

    • dbvickery Ha. Definitely — the idea of a “cold call” sends shivers down my spine!

      • Unmana dbvickery Ditto – I did it briefly for a period of time…thought that there MUST be a better way (and I know how I respond to cold calls).

  • The Sales Quiz – Are You an Introvert or an Extrovert? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k4ayr-hrZ2M

  • Pingback: Working Like An Introvert()

  • Dennise Lannister

    Wow, this is great! Selling without selling. I’m not a shy type of person but I find this article interesting.  I’m just curious if it’s possible to sell without selling at all. My brother is working as sales manager and I wonder how can he have that kind of job knowing he’s an introvert,  maybe he is also reading this helpful article giving tips but one thing’s for sure he was hired with the help of a platform they called Invisume.com. I joined Invisume too as advised by my brother and yes,  it helps me get connected with the top companies with best sales professionals and potential employers in a hassle-free way and at the same time, keeping your privacy sealed so this is also a good news for those who have their current job but looking for an extra job, no worries anymore. Anyway, just sharing the good news!