You don’t have to be an extrovert to excel in sales; you do have to own up to your style and strengths. Extroverted agents may have an easy time gaining attention, but Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, points out how the building of one-on-one connections may lead to the most effective business relationships.

Is it useful for real estate pros to think about their identity as an introvert or extrovert as they conduct business? First of all, people should be self-aware about where they fall on the introvert-extrovert spectrum and specifically where they get their energy. Many real estate agents and other great salespeople are introverts. They are very socially skilled, and they really like people. But, at the same time, they get their energy from being in a quieter space and from recharging in solitude. They need to schedule that into their day. If you’re an introvert, on a day when you’re going to be showing houses all morning long, you need to schedule something—maybe a lunch date alone—and honor that commitment as being just as sacred as the time you give to potential clients.

It may feel like a waste of time. Yeah, it’s not a waste of time. It’s going to allow you to be more energetic and more present with your clients when you come back to them, so that’s really important. Extroverts are the opposite. If you get your energy from being around people, you’ve got to schedule that in and make sure you don’t have days where all you’re doing is paperwork.

How common is it to be introverted? We have about a third introverts, a third extroverts, and a third “ambiverts” in the population. You have to be honest with yourself about where you fall in that spectrum and not where you wish you fell. I say that because introversion is not seen as a prized trait in our culture; many introverts will describe themselves to me as ambiverts or extroverts, and I can see they really are not. They’re not being honest with themselves, and they’re doing themselves a disservice. 

Do you have a sense that, through your book, you’ve reduced the stigma that introverted people face in business and in life? Yes, I believe it’s happening, which is really exciting. I see a lot of famous people identifying themselves as introverts in ways they didn’t in the past. Harvard Business School professors told me that in the past they would ask students to raise their hands to identify if they were an introvert or an extrovert. It used to be that nobody would raise their hand as an introvert, and now they do. There are all these qualitative indicators that things are changing, but at the same time, people need to really answer this question honestly to assess who they are.

And how about the importance of tuning into your clients’ personality type? Extroverted clients probably want to spend a good bit of time sort of schmoozing and connecting before they plunge into house hunting. If they’re more on the introverted side, they’ll still want to connect with you and know who you are, but they’ll probably want to get more quickly into the matter at hand. They’re going to want crisper, more succinct answers and to get to the point more quickly.

If you’re introverted and find yourself working with an extroverted client, how difficult will that be? It’s not necessarily a problem. Introverts and extroverts often enjoy each other’s company and will appreciate what the other one brings to bear. There can be a real chemistry between introverts and extroverts. You obviously are going to need to connect to the extroverts in ways they enjoy, but introverts are good at that. Extroverts like to do the talking, and introverts are often really comfortable with that. They may be great listeners and great posers of questions that draw others out. It can work incredibly well in a sales relationship. You can be the one asking perceptive questions and listening carefully to the answers.

There’s a misconception that introverts don’t make good salespeople. That’s decidedly not true. It’s just that introverted salespeople have to manage their energy more carefully. Another misconception is that introverts are antisocial. Many introverts enjoy connecting with people, but they tend to connect in a deep way that gets to the core of things. They like the challenge of figuring out what makes clients tick and what would be the right home for them. They tend to be great observers and don’t look to have a lot of attention on themselves. The idea that it’s all about the client comes naturally to them. Extroverts have a lot of social energy to spare and are often naturally charismatic. Introverts have another set of strengths. It’s a question of figuring out what set of strengths you have and using them in business.

How do introverts handle decision-making differently from extroverts? Introverts tend to be more deliberative. All of us have reward networks in our brain that get activated at the prospect of something exciting happening. It could be a new deal or it could be meeting a new person. Extroverts have stronger reward networks than introverts do. The advantage they have is that it’s easy for them to get into this “just-do-it mode” and attack a new project with great enthusiasm, and that’s wonderful. However, we know from scientific research that when extroverts get so focused on the reward, it’s harder for them to see potential downsides or to carefully consider all the aspects of a problem. That’s easier for introverts, not because they’re smarter but because they have a different emotional response toward reward-seeking. They’re seeing the reward, but they’re also seeing and feeling the other side of the picture, which can temper their enthusiasm.

What happens when a forceful, talkative agent encounters introverted clients? As an introvert, I’m turned off when I see an agent who takes a very self-promotional approach to the business. What I love is when I ask a question and the salesperson takes a moment and answers in a very reflective way. We shouldn’t assume that all clients want the same thing with regard to an agent’s personality. You should, of course, try to adopt your presentations to the perceived style of your clients.

How can people make connections that feel solid and long-lasting with clients or prospective clients? Every person you meet has something interesting about them. If you think of every meeting as a fun and exciting challenge, you’ll find points of connection. And you need to know how to read people and think of what they’ll be most receptive to. Many people who are introverts have an understandable reluctance to reach out. If that’s you, one key is to do what you’re most uncomfortable with early in the day. Get it out of the way so it’s not hanging over you. Make a deal with yourself about how many of those things you’ll do each day. And when you’re done, you’re done.

Finding The Fit  With Your  Clients

In a real estate transaction, the economic and personal stakes are high, so misunderstandings are inevitable. Insights on brain science and personality can help you nip problems in the bud or avoid them altogether. Two leading thinkers, Daniel Gilbert and Susan Cain, know a lot about the emotions and individual styles that drive human behavior. Gilbert and Cain will be speaking at the REALTORS® Conference & Expo in Orlando, which runs Nov. 4–7. In exclusive interviews with REALTOR® Magazine, the two share their thinking on how to keep your business relationships, and sales, on a positive track.

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