Editing and Writing


Natchez - Return Trip

Yes, we're there. And yes, you can still market to us.

Did that headline get your attention? Now imagine that you are someone who prefers to sit off in a corner and contemplate things rather than be in the middle of a group chattering about them. Imagine how you would respond when confronted with that kind of blaring message from a sales person. What would you do?

Can’t imagine it? Then you’ve got a problem, if you’re trying to market to society in general. Because about one-quarter of the people in society are introverts. They — We — are not weirdos and we don’t need “fixing.” We just perceive and process the world rather differently from the other 75% of people who are extroverts.

Who Are These Introverts, Anyway?

Introverts get “recharged” by being alone. So even if we enjoy being out with people (and some of us do, under certain conditions), the experience doesn’t energize us the way it does for extroverts. Instead, it drains us, and the only way we can recharge our inner batteries is by being alone with our own thoughts. We rarely get bored when we’re alone, because there’s so much to think about and observe. And when we’ve thought about things — then we talk about them, to select people. We really don’t enjoy small talk.

We introverts are the ones who read a book in the cafeteria — and we really do want to be left alone; we’re not reading as a “cry for help,” hoping someone will interrupt us and save us from the book! Extroverts, on the other hand, get all their recharging from being around people. They absorb all that energy and radiate it. They tend to work out their thinking as they speak, kind of “thinking out loud.” And they simply cannot imagine either that anyone could seriously want to be alone in the first place, or that someone would want to be alone most of the time.

Selling to an Introvert? Not if You Push

Okay. So what does all this mean if you’re trying to reach a market with your product or service? It can make all the difference in whether your message gets to everyone, or completely bypasses 25% of the people out there.

Most of the usual sales tactics simply will not work with an introvert. If we feel we are being “sold at,” or that someone is being pushy, you have lost the sale. I guarantee it.

I saw two examples of approaches that would not reach an introvert today. One was an agent standing outside a subway station, pushing a free daily paper at people as they went in and out. It’s rare that an introvert would ever take that paper. The other example was a couple of fundraisers for a very worthy charity, holding clipboards and leaning at passersby, asking, “Can you spare just a few moments of your time today?” The answer, for an introvert: NO.

So How DO You Sell to an Introvert?

I can guarantee that most of the usual attention-getting sales techniques will turn an introvert off rather than attract him or her. But there are ways you can still reach us. For example, I might not take that free newspaper from the person standing in my way as I try to get to the subway — but if it has an interesting (not shouting) headline or a fascinating photo on the front, I’ll stop and look at it in the box. And if it looks interesting, then I’ll take it.

An acquaintance of mine is one of those people who promotes products in stores on the weekend. She says that all her bosses insist she’s supposed to call out and draw attention to the product — which she just can’t do, being an introvert. So she “wastes” time talking one-on-one with customers instead. And just happens to sell things that nobody else can. How can that be? I can almost guarantee that the ones who are stopping to talk (who wouldn’t have stopped if she were calling out and pushing) are introverts. She’s reaching them, which she wouldn’t do if she followed the usual sales technique.

If you simply can’t fathom that people won’t respond to the usual sales techniques that are vaunted (loudly) in every marketing seminar — maybe you should hire someone who gets it. Or decide that you’ll be content, just reaching 75% of the people out there. (That’s still a pretty big market.) But if you use only one technique, the one that “calls out” to people and tries to grab their attention, I promise that 25% of us in society — the introverts — will walk right past you. We will, in fact, actively avoid you.

And if you’ve really got a good product or service, one that might actually benefit us, that’s a loss for both of us.