Sales are typically associated with charismatic, Extraverted personality types, those social butterflies who have a knack for saying the right things at the right time in the right way to the right people. It’s a game of playing social politics, which the INTP is not naturally good at. In fact, INTPs often struggle with the gift-of-the-gab, flattery, making small talk and rapport building that come with the territory in sales.
Can they become good at social politicking? Yes. Like with everything, with learning and practice, INTPs can become better.
Can they enjoy it? That’s another question, and the answer is likely no. INTPs prefer authenticity and directness when it comes to communication. And they typically have a very low tolerance for what they perceive as schmoozery or ingratiation.
While sales is not a typical career planning choice for people with this personality type, there is a place for INTP in the world of sales. And it doesn’t require you to become someone you are not – as long as you approach your career in the right way.
Go for sales prospecting over sales closing roles
Most people think of sales closing when they think of the sales industry. This is a major reason why INTPs are perceived to be such a poor fit. The “closer” is your Extraverted, gregarious, charismatic sales rep—the polar opposite of an Introverted, aloof and sometimes socially awkward INTP.
However, closing is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to sales, which actually involves a range of activities. These can be categorized into four key stages: prospecting, qualifying, nurturing and closing.
- Prospecting. This is about finding those potential customers, also known as leads, who could benefit from what a business has to offer.
- Qualifying. This involves figuring out if those leads are a good fit for the company's offerings and if they're likely to convert.
- Nurturing. This involves educating leads about what the product or service can do for them, answering their questions, and guiding them through the decision-making process. The aim of nurturing is to push prospects down the sales funnel.
- Closing. The grand finale of the sales process. This is about sealing the deal by presenting the value proposition in a compelling and persuasive way.
The INTP has the greatest potential to thrive in prospecting sales roles because they leverage the INTP’s knack for analytical thinking. For example, in a sales prospecting role, you’d be expected to research target markets, identify the characteristics of prospects that are most likely to convert, develop value propositions, and devise prospecting campaigns. These tasks play right into the INTP’s career strengths of data analysis, research and strategizing.
Even better, these activities don’t typically require direct interaction with prospects, which is the INTP’s main weakness.
Overall, prospecting is the INTP sweet spot as far as sales go. This is where your analytical skills can truly shine, and it's also a space where you can assume a more background role—away from the front lines of social interaction.
Go into complex, logical (rather than emotional) sales
Beyond the different stages in the sales process, sales can be categorized into emotional and logical. This is not an absolute distinction because all buying decisions are ultimately driven by emotions. But it helps to illustrate the point.
Emotional sales techniques aim to tap into prospects’ emotions, aspirations and desires, and persuade them to buy based on how the offering makes them feel. Think weight-loss programs selling the dream of a trim, fit physique–that's emotional sales doing its thing.
Logical sales techniques appeal to the brain by presenting facts, figures, features and functionality. For example, in business SaaS sales, sales reps often do product demos, demonstrating the software functionality and how it can benefit the customer and their bottom line—that’s logical sales at play.
As you might have guessed already, INTP is more suited to selling products that utilize logical sales techniques. For example, an INTP can do particularly well in selling tech and automation solutions for businesses. In this context, prospects tend to focus on how the product/service solves their specific, complex problem (e.g. automating a manufacturing process).
This is precisely what INTPs need at work. You can leverage your analytical skills to thoroughly understand the product and effectively explain its complex functionality to prospects in a way they understand.
Close sales through understanding
When it comes to closing sales, the key thing to keep in mind for INTPs is genuine relationship building. Even if you're selling something super logical and feature-driven, building strong connections with prospects is still an important part of the closing process.
As an INTP, you should not try to force rapport through techniques that feel forced to you, such as small talk or “fake empathy.” Let's face it, shallow and insincere communication isn't your jam.
The INTP personality type is all about depth. So, you should focus on building relationships with prospects by gaining a deep understanding of their perspectives and situations. In a sales closing scenario, the best way to do this is through active listening, which INTPs tend to be very good at due to their natural inclination for deep understanding and analysis. As an INTP, you tend to focus on absorbing information and analyzing the underlying message rather than just waiting for your turn to speak. In a closing scenario, this is gold because it builds trust, which is a key ingredient for sealing the deal.
To sum up, the way for an INTP to thrive in a sales career is to seek out sales roles that harness your key strengths—analytical prowess, strategic thinking and genuine communication.
Prospecting roles offer an ideal starting point. And when it comes to the products you sell, choose ones that sell more logically—that's where you'll truly shine. Finally, when you're out there building relationships, forget about the usual salesy talk. Instead, focus on building trust by fostering genuine connections through active listening.
Not sure if you’re suited to a career in sales? Take our free Career Personality Profiler to discover your unique job interests and the exact careers that suit your strengths. In just 15 minutes, you’ll get the insights you need to plan your future with confidence.