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[EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a replay of the Women in Sales virtual learning session sponsored by the Institute for Excellence in Sales on September 19, 2021. It featured an interview with sales expert Aleasha Bahr.]
Find Aleasha on LinkedIn.
ALEASHA’S TIP: “Introverts are often failing at sales because they’re trying to pretend they’re an extrovert. They feel like they have to put on this weird suit or hat like we were talking about and act like somebody else. Introverts have amazing intuition and give yourself permission to just play up your strengths. You don’t have to have a million hours of small talk if you don’t like it. Don’t force yourself to do it. The other person’s going to feel weird too, because they can tell your heart’s not in it. Just really being able to lean into your own strengths and obviously, the ideal is the blend of both. If extroverts can learn something from introverts’ qualities, that would definitely make them a better salesperson.”
THE PODCAST BEGINS HERE
Gina Stracuzzi: Aleasha Bahr is a Custom Sales Strategist, and I’m very excited to get into our conversation about the secret superpowers introverts can leverage to become top salespeople. Because it is quite the urban myth, I guess you could call it, that you have to be an extrovert to be great at sales and it’s just not true. I know you’re going to walk us through that. Welcome, and please tell the audience a little bit about yourself.
Aleasha Bahr: Thank you so much, Gina. I’m so excited to be here. I worked with Cox Media and other media companies for a long time before switching to custom sales strategy, and I sold about 50 million in B2B services, and have since helped people sell many millions more with custom sales strategy for their personality and service and audience.
Gina Stracuzzi: I think that could be such a valuable tool, whether for an individual or for a company, bringing in coaches and strategy experts, because if you can customize your pitch to how you think and speak. I’ve worked for companies in my early days of selling where they just wanted you to stick to the script and it felt so unnatural. It was the worst selling I ever did because it didn’t flow right for me.
I’m so eager to hear what you have to say. Aleasha, where would you like to start with this conversation? Maybe we could talk a little bit about what it means to be an extrovert or an introvert, and then we can go to how you use various qualities in your day-to-day selling.
Aleasha Bahr: That sounds perfect. Yes, most sales strategies are more designed for extroverts actually, and they are more of like a one-size-fits-all. Nothing in life is really one-size-fits-all. That’s like getting a one-size-fits-all suit, it’s just not going to fit the same as something tailored to you. There’s usually parts of a strategy that you’ll like and parts that you don’t like and people just need to throw away the parts they don’t like and keep the ones they do, and they feel obligated to do all of it, and that’s why it doesn’t work as well.
As far as the difference between an introvert and an extrovert, I didn’t even know this until recently. A lot of people think that it’s about being social or shy, but it actually doesn’t have anything to do with that. One of the biggest indicators of whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert is how you get your energy. If after talking and interacting with people you need to recharge alone, then you’re probably an introvert. I mean, you definitely are. That’s me.
I get mistaken for an extrovert all the time because I do love and enjoy people, but I have a total people capacity meter. There are some superpowers that introverts have, these people who need to recharge alone more, that extroverts don’t have. They have their own set of superpowers. But it was such an urban myth that you had to be extroverted to be in sales. Actually, my husband, he’s in sales, but he took a test right out of college and he tested as an introvert and they told him that he would be terrible at sales because of that. He’s one of the top salespeople at his company. He sells millions and millions, because the thing about introverts is they’re incredibly good at listening. They love deep conversation.
Another sure sign that you’re an introvert is if small talk slowly kills you. I have like 20 seconds capacity for small talk. But if we’re going to talk about something real, I am there for it. This can be really beneficial in a sales conversation that you want to talk about highly impactful things and customize it to the person. They’re genuinely curious. They’re listening and asking questions based on the information that they’re getting back. Being genuinely curious is one of the best things you can do in sales.
Extroverts often will get in a rapport hole where they’ll relate so much. They’ll be like, “Oh, my God, me too. My kids play Little League too, and we have so much in common, and this is amazing.” Then they’ll get off the phone and say, we had a great conversation, but the person doesn’t move forward. It’s because they didn’t do enough talking about real stuff about what they’re selling. Introverts have that in their favor, and they’re typically very good at empathy as well.
Empathy is so powerful in the sales process. Fred told me you guys have been talking about that a lot lately. When people feel understood, they feel like you understand how to help them. Again, you need to be able to listen to what’s being said in order to have empathy for the other person’s situation. Then introverts tend to get very excited and passionate. They can’t sell things they don’t believe in, first of all usually. If they believe in it, they’re excited about what they’re selling, and that can be really contagious.
If you think about it, when you’re buying, do you like someone who’s really smooth and charming, and that’s why you buy from them? Not really, right? It’s actually refreshing when somebody is a pattern interrupt in that scenario, and is just focused on you and what can help you and excited about what they can do for you. Not excited about the conversation necessarily, which extroverts love the conversation, but excited about the result that I’m going to get you.
Gina Stracuzzi: I’m envisioning all of this in my mind in a sales call. I think we’ve all been guilty at one point or another of doing exactly what you just said. Connecting, building that rapport, and we latch on to things that build rapport, but don’t necessarily move the needle at all. You said a couple things in there in your descriptions of extroverts and introverts. I’m an extrovert, I get my energy from people and I just love being out there.
But I don’t like it if somebody comes on too strong to me, or tries too hard to be charming or there’s too much bravado or whatever the case. Even though bravado has a masculine affinity, women can be the same way or they try too hard to be smooth. You’ve gone over some of the qualities that could be the reverse of that. Is there anything else that may be extroverts bring to the table, or they should try to be nurturing in themselves that maybe they’ve been sitting on?
Aleasha Bahr: Usually, extroverts are enjoying the conversation so much that they’re not paying as much attention to the other person’s reaction to what they’re saying. It’s like, oh, I’m having a great time, so they are too. Whereas introverts are extremely aware of the other person’s reaction. Their intuition is like, oh, I can tell they didn’t like that, almost to the point where it can be paralyzing in their head because they’re usually also mental processors, they think before they speak where extroverts have to speak to think.
If anything, I think for extroverts, it’s just really focusing on the other person’s body language, response and the words they’re saying, and focusing on that instead of how much they might be enjoying the conversation. There’s also questions that they can ask, which is one of the other things we’re going to go into to make sure that they are giving the other person the information that they want and need.
Gina Stracuzzi: Katherine asks, “What if you’re an extrovert with some bad habits? How do you fix that?”
Aleasha Bahr: Well, like anything, right? Repetition. Definitely give yourself some grace. I’m sure the habits aren’t that bad. If you’re aware of them and you want to change them, then you’re already ahead of the game. It’s just staying vigilant, being really self-aware. Sometimes I check in, I’m like, “Is what I’m saying helpful? Is this helpful information?” I’ll ask in the middle just to make sure before I just go on about it. You can weave that in too.
Gina Stracuzzi: I was just thinking on what you said earlier. If you’re doing a whole bunch of rapport building, if you can take a second in the middle of that and ask yourself, “How am I helping this person?” Or, “Is this conversation helping them?” That would be enough to make me slow down in the rapport building a little bit and try to get to the heart of the matter. I like your idea that awareness is key. If we can stop and ask ourselves those questions and think about what we’re doing, then I think even if we’re big on the rapport building side, we can take a step back and fix it. I’ve heard you talk about pitch weaving. What exactly is pitch weaving and why does it work?
Aleasha Bahr: The typical sales process is like Q&A, Q&A, Q&A, and then a pitch. You might have a proposal, but it’s still the same format and then pitching the whole time during the proposal meeting or whatever. It can feel a little bit like an interrogation. Think about when you give someone an answer. Let’s say there’s somebody looking at your roof. What kind of shingles do you have? You’re like, telling them the kind of… I don’t know anything about shingles. Why did I pick this example?
Let’s say it’s terracotta. I don’t know if that’s a shingle. “How long have you had them?” “Ten years.” It’s just like rapid fire. You’re like, “Is this good info? Is my roof in terrible shape?” You want feedback naturally. It makes it feel like a conversation when there’s feedback on somebody’s answer. Weaving your pitch into that question and answer section, they’re not expecting you to be pitching during that section.
Their guard is a little more down and they’re more receptive to the information you have because when it gets to the classic pitch part where you’re like, “Okay, can I share a little bit about our services, and blah, blah, blah?” They’re like, cool, this person is about to start selling me and they lean back and they’re going to filter through like taking everything with a grain of salt because they just think you’re going to embellish things, naturally.
If you’re able to weave it in the Q&A section, for example, let me give you an example. Let’s imagine that you weave somewhat, but I think that we were talking about empathy with the weaving in here, which is part of pitch weaving. I’m going to use the media example, since I worked for Cox Media. We had a media company and their communication was really awful. We only talked to them every 30 days and it seemed like there was this huge delay on fixing things and I wanted to tell them what to do but I didn’t know what to tell them. I just knew that I didn’t like the results. They kept playing up the numbers, so it looked like I was getting results, but I wasn’t getting sales.
You would say, that’s really frustrating, so you use a feeling word. A lot of people think empathy is like, I’m so sorry, or that’s so hard, or me too, or I know that feeling, but you want to use the feeling word. “That’s so frustrating when you trust a company and it feels like you’re not being made a priority or you would just feel better if you even knew what was going on. That’s why we have created a dashboard where you can check in every week, and even have a call with your account manager if necessary so you always feel like you are aware of what’s going on and we can be faster at fixing anything that we see going on. Does that feel like that communication would make a difference for you being more comfortable?”
That’s pitch weaving. The way people normally do it is definitely just going to the next question, but even if they don’t, they’ll be like, “Well, we have reports, a dashboard, where you can log in and look at any time and you can make a meeting with your account manager each week if you want.” It just doesn’t sound as nice as wrapping it with some empathy usually. Which one would you rather? It’s almost like the selling is lost when you wrap it in empathy. Did it sound like I was selling?
Gina Stracuzzi: No, I get the approach. It makes sense.
Aleasha Bahr: Yeah. It’s just more effective because by the time you get to the pitch, it’s very little heavy lifting you have to do at that point, since you’ve discussed everything in such a custom way to this person’s experience by weaving in the points that matter to them based on their answers with empathy.
Gina Stracuzzi: Do you find with your clients and the companies you work with that women are more open to this approach? Because as I was listening to you talk about the feeling and, doesn’t this feel better kind of thing, I wonder if that’s an approach that comes more naturally to women. Or are men willing to adopt it and at least try it?
Aleasha Bahr: Yes, both want to try it. Women are definitely picking it up quicker. It’s much more natural for them, a lot easier. For men, it is something that they have to really work at, because empathy just isn’t something that we’re really taught growing up at all. Then also the specific way that it’s presented too. Women are a little better at not being as “I, I, I” focused. You want to present the information after the empathy as, that’s why there’s this dashboard. Instead of saying, well, we have a dashboard, or I have a dashboard where you can log in, because then it sounds like selling. You’re talking about yourself. Women just pick stuff up.
Gina Stracuzzi: We’re good, let’s face it. [Laughs] I can say that because this is the Women in Sales program and we excel at those kinds of things. I don’t think it’s that men aren’t empathetic because I think they are. It’s just as you say, it’s not something that gets nurtured and it’s almost like it gets squashed quite a bit in growing up or whatever. It’s just not something you wrap your mind around a lot.
There’s also been so much emphasis on emotional intelligence, and some people don’t respond to how do you feel? Or, would you feel better if we did this? I know, speaking for my husband, if somebody was trying to speak to him about a product or a service and they asked him how he felt about it, he would have the kind of response like, “It doesn’t matter how I feel about it, what does it do?” As you were speaking, I was wondering about the incorporation of this idea, and who takes to it more naturally, and the outcomes that they have, and maybe it would be enough for men to adopt it more if they saw their colleagues adopting it and doing really well with it.
Aleasha Bahr: I do hear this sometimes that men don’t want that empathy as much and you have a point about maybe not asking them how they feel about it after you’re done pitch weaving, but you could say, “Does that seem like you would be more comfortable if you had that kind of transparency in what we’re doing?” You can change that word, but men absolutely appreciate empathy too.
Like you saying, that’s so frustrating or that’s really scary when things are unpredictable, and you don’t have a huge budget and you’re invested. It’s not that you’re scared to invest. You’re investing, but you can’t even get feedback on how your investment is going to get your money back if it’s not going well. They have feelings too, for sure, even the most analytical of men.
Gina Stracuzzi: Yes, absolutely, they do. We’ve heard you talk about your unique strategy for uncovering objections early or I have anyway when we spoke. I know that you speak about it in posts and things. Can you talk to us a little bit about that? What is your unique strategy for uncovering objections early and how do you use it to your advantage?
Aleasha Bahr: A lot of times, salespeople will just avoid the objections. They’re like, if we don’t talk about them they don’t exist kind of thing. We’ll just talk about all the good things. Then the objection might come at the very end of the conversation where they’re going to be less receptive to what you have to say because they’re just expecting you to overcome it. Whenever there’s an objection, there’s two things. This is not about overcoming them early. But if an objection comes up at any point in the conversation, maybe later, ask a question, get clarity.
If they’re like, this seems really time consuming, the instinct might be to say, well, it’s really only like an hour a week, and we do this and that, and it’s really not. Instead, try, how much time do you have? What does your time look like right now? Getting more clarity behind the objection, because a lot of times they don’t have the information they need to realize that their objection is not real, and they won’t hear it if you just overcome it, even though you’re saying that. They won’t connect that dot.
For overcoming the early, you know the objections that most people have and it’s so helpful to have questions around those in the Q&A discovery section. If time is often an issue with people that you talk to, how much time do you have for this on a regular basis, on a weekly basis or whatever? You can talk it through with them right there, instead of it happening at the very end when everybody’s tired and they’re just expecting you to sell them and say that their objection is invalid. Like, do you have staff members who can help you with this? Do you have somebody we can work with so that it takes it off of your plate but doesn’t take up your time? Something like that. Then you have that plan ahead of time, so all objections are overcome with a plan early.
Gina Stracuzzi: I was thinking about your example of the objection itself that, “Well, I don’t have time to do this.” When you just try to overcome it, it dismisses it as if it’s not real. That is no way to ingratiate yourself to someone you’re trying to sell to. What you’re saying makes perfect sense. It doesn’t sound like any of these tips would be hard to weave into the format that you’re already using to sell. Is that the case?
Aleasha Bahr: Absolutely. You want to let them know if they have staff members, great, absolutely no issue, we’ll be able to work with them and you will only have to be there for the kickoff call. You want to let them know if whatever their answer is realistic. Oh, you have two hours a week? That’s more than enough time, we only need 30 minutes.
Gina Stracuzzi: We’re getting close to the end of the conversation. Let’s think about some last closing thoughts that you want to share. Then I’m going to ask you for one action item that our listeners can put into place today to start taking advantage of some of what you’ve taught us.
Aleasha Bahr: Okay. Introverts are typically very good at pitch weaving. I’ve heard extroverts do well with it, too, but I know that this episode is about introverts. I do have a three-video series and a worksheet that shows you how to pitch weave specific to your customer, and the challenges that they come into. You can get that for free at aleashabahr.com. Should I tell them the action item?
Gina Stracuzzi: Well, you can. They can also find you on LinkedIn too. Is that correct?
Aleasha Bahr: Oh, yes, LinkedIn. I have a free group in Facebook that has a ton of free content called Sales is NOT a Dirty Word.
Gina Stracuzzi: That’s great. Your biggest thinking though as we wrap up, and then we’ll get your action item, is that if you’re an introvert, you can really leverage the traits that make you an introvert to your advantage. If you’re an extrovert who’s selling, you can learn some of these techniques and put them to work for you even if they don’t initially come naturally. Is that correct?
Aleasha Bahr: Yes, definitely. Introverts are often failing at sales because they’re trying to pretend they’re an extrovert. They feel like they have to put on this weird suit or hat like we were talking about and act like somebody else. Just lean into your intuition because introverts have amazing intuition and give yourself permission to just play up your strengths. You don’t have to have a million hours of small talk if you don’t like it. Don’t force yourself to do it. The other person’s going to feel weird too, because they can tell your heart’s not in it. Just really being able to lean into your own strengths and obviously, the ideal is the blend of both. If extroverts can learn something from introverts’ qualities, that would definitely make them a better salesperson.
Gina Stracuzzi: Absolutely. I think a lot of us have some tendencies of both. We have one that’s the overarching, kind of where we lean, but I think we can build on the other qualities if they exist within us and rock our sales. We’ll have all of your website and your LinkedIn information and your Facebook group on the show notes when we post on LinkedIn. If someone didn’t catch all of it, not to worry. We are at that point where I will ask you for an action tip that introverts and extroverts alike can maybe put to work for themselves today.
Aleasha Bahr: Something that is really commonly done in sales that will make a massive difference on you actually getting more sales is connecting the end result to your deliverables. A lot of times, you’ll be talking to a client about what you could do for them. Let’s say for example an audit. We’d say like, we can do an audit, and then we’ll put together a plan.
But instead, make sure you’re connecting that end result that’s like, we’ll do an audit to make sure that we preserve the things that are working instead of reinventing the wheel, so you’ll get results faster by just replacing the things that are not working. The plan that we put together will be based on the elements that are going to get you more clicks, or whatever the end result, more dollars, more appointments fastest. Areas of impact in that order of priority. You know that you’ll start seeing results sooner than later and then we’ll focus on the less impactful things after.
Gina Stracuzzi: That I would think would be a great way to build trust, too. Because if a company knows that you’re telling them right up front, we’re not going to try to resell everything, we are going to highlight only what you actually need, to me, that would be a great way to build trust which is such a huge piece of all of this.
Aleasha Bahr: Oh, yes.
Gina Stracuzzi: Thank you so very much, Aleasha, for joining me today. I really enjoyed our conversation. It gave me a lot to think about and I know it gave our listeners quite a bit to think about. I hope everyone will reach out to Aleasha and take her up on her very generous offer and I look forward to seeing you all again next week. Thank you very much, Aleasha. Bye, everyone.
Aleasha Bahr: Thank you so much for having me, Gina.
Gina Stracuzzi: Absolutely. My pleasure.
Transcribed by Mariana Badillo