The most effective salespeople are neither too assertive nor too shy, but instead are "ambiverts," or those who possess qualities of both introverts and extraverts, new research suggests.
For the study, researcher Adam Grant, of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, had 300 salespeople take a personality survey. He also collected their sales records for a three-month period.
The personality data helped him determine if the participants were extraverts (who tend to be outgoing, talkative and enthusiastic) or introverts (who tend to be quieter, more thoughtful and good listeners).
The study findings revealed that those who had intermediate extraversion scores were the best salespeople. Over the course of the study, these ambiverts, who possessed characteristics of both personality types, sold roughly 24% more in revenue than introverts and 32% more in revenue than extraverts.
Most extraverts brought in the same amount of revenue
Grant noted that the most extreme extraverts brought in roughly the same amount of revenue as those who are extremely introverted. He concluded there is a downside to extreme personalities and what boosts job performance at a moderate level can backfire at an extreme level, resulting in lost sales.
In contrast, ambiverts may be less likely to dominate a conversation and more likely to listen more carefully to customers, Grant said.
"The ambivert advantage stems from the tendency to be assertive and enthusiastic enough to persuade and close [the deal], but at the same time listening carefully to customers and avoiding the appearance of being overly confident or excited," Grant said in the news release.
The findings could help hiring managers and job candidates improve the hiring process for sales jobs, Grant suggested. He added that extraverts should practice sharpening their listening skills and not just develop their assertiveness and enthusiasm.
The study was published online recently in advance of print publication in the journal Psychological Science.
The American Psychological Association has more about personality.