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"Rethinking the Extraverted Sales Ideal: The Ambivert Advantage"

Review of the findings in the article Rethinking the Extraverted Sales Ideal: The Ambivert Advantage by Adam M. Grant at: https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797612463706

Relate these two questions:

  • Do you believe Extraverts make the best salespeople?
  • Have you heard of Ambiverts?

Research by Adam Grant of Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania (DOI: 10.1177/0956797612463706) shows that extraverts may not be the best salespeople, rather ambiverts in his study had greater sales productivity.

WHAT he is talking about is that the extraversion through introversion spectrum has a middle piece that describe people with both characteristics and are able to use extraversion and introversion appropriately to achieve greater sales success than extraverts or introverts. We wouldn't expect introverts to be more successful at many types of sales (they are in some types, but that isn't the topic here), but the general expectation, perhaps yours, is that people at the high extraversion end of the scale would be the best at selling. In Grant's study of call center employees, he found that this middle group were better.

The definitions of extraversion and introversion, and in between, vary depending on the user. Psychologists may use the terms to define inherent personality, whereas a social scientist such as Grant, looks at the interactions with others and the results. The characteristic of extraversion that include assertiveness, enthusiasm, confidence, and forcefulness have been cited as to why extraverts should be most successful in sales. However, studies had not show this to be true, so Grant looked into the idea that perhaps another personality type would be most successful in sales. Studies had shown that extraverts could be too "me" focused, and not on the customer. That they could be too forceful and repel potential buyers. That their enthusiasm was seen as "selling" and turned off buyers.

Ambiverts have characteristics of extraverts such as those described above but are able to naturally temper the self-centeredness and focus on customer needs. They may be forceful, but in a more mild-mannered way. Their enthusiasm does not seem so "salesy" but authentic interest and attentiveness. In other words, they have many of the "inner-looking" qualities of an introvert, but are able to easily engage with customers in a sales process.

Grant found that with a group of 340 people employed in outbound call centers:

Average revenue per hour was $1382
Extraverts averaged $125.
Introverts averaged $120
Ambiverts averaged $154

That is the WHAT.

WHY this is important is first to see if this shakes up your ideas about extraverts and sales success. If it did, then you are open to fitting this into your leadership model. Perhaps this is directly related to you if you are a sales leader. The second reason this is important is that the same thought process Grant went through regarding salespeople and extraversion applies to many job functions. Sometimes a personality type first thought to be the most appropriate for a job might not really be the best. Sometimes the job changes over time and looking to each job on a regular basis is good management.

HOW to integrate these findings into your leadership role. Beyond the management functions of finding the right people for the job which entails both job definition and personality considerations, there are your roles as a leader of your team. Paying attention to personality characteristic along the introvert-extravert spectrum pay off in terms of your personal leader-follower relationship with each team member. How you interact with each team member regarding subjects such as:

  • Changes in job tasks, responsibilities, pay
  • How they feel about you, their job, their home life.
  • What is rewarding to them and how their job fits that
  • Getting better at their job and as a person
  • Where they get help if needed

makes a huge difference in that critical relationship that creates productive, loyal, and engaged team members. Read the whole abstract below, and read the whole article at the URL.

Rethinking the Extraverted Sales Ideal: The Ambivert Advantage Adam M. Grant https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797612463706

Adam M. Grant, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, 3620 Locust Walk, Suite 2000 SHDH, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6370 E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Despite the widespread assumption that extraverts are the most productive salespeople, research has shown weak and conflicting relationships between extraversion and sales performance. In light of these puzzling results, I propose that the relationship between extraversion and sales performance is not linear but curvilinear: Ambiverts achieve greater sales productivity than extraverts or introverts do. Because they naturally engage in a flexible pattern of talking and listening, ambiverts are likely to express sufficient assertiveness and enthusiasm to persuade and close a sale but are more inclined to listen to customers' interests and less vulnerable to appearing too excited or overconfident. A study of 340 outbound-call-center representatives supported the predicted inverted-U-shaped relationship between extraversion and sales revenue. This research presents a fresh perspective on the personality traits that facilitate successful influence and offers novel insights for people in choosing jobs and for organizations in hiring and training employees.

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