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Features : Editorial Last Updated: May 1, 2013 - 9:10:03 AM


Are you an introvert, an extrovert or, perchance, and ambivert?
By Steve Ferber
May 1, 2013 - 9:09:11 AM

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I have a confession. Before last week, I had never heard the word “ambivert.”  Apparently, it’s been around since the 1920s (where have I been?) and is now gaining some verbal traffic thanks to a recent study that asked: are extroverts the best salespeople? (note: one in nine U.S. jobs is in sales).
Conventional wisdom insists that in the field of sales, it’s the extrovert – that outgoing, vibrant personality – that excels.  But a new study led by organizational psychologist Adam Grant (Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania) upends that decades-long notion and forcefully claims that ambiverts – people who skillfully blend the art of talking, with the art of listening – are the best salespeople.
And he has the data to prove it. Grant gathered three months of sales records from 300 salespeople (each one took an extensive personality assessment beforehand) to see which personality did the best. His findings?  The ambiverts finished on top – in a three-month period, they made 24% more in sales revenue than introverts, and 32% more in revenue than extroverts.  
Said the study abstract:
“Despite the widespread assumption that extraverts are the most productive salespeople . . . 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.”
In analyzing the study results, David DiSalvo, writing for Forbes, pointed out:
“Perhaps even more surprising, Grant found that the two extreme personality types pulled in roughly the same percentage of sales. Being highly extroverted wasn’t even a plus when compared against the personality type we generally think of as the worst candidate for high-performance sales.
“The reason for these results may simply be that extroverts pour it on a bit too thick for their own good, and this tendency negates any charismatic advantages they might otherwise enjoy. For example, their overflowing enthusiasm for the sale can cause them to not listen closely enough to the needs of the customer, and this in turn hurts their chances of closing the sale.”
I must admit, I’ve always paused when I hear friends label themselves, or others, as introverts or extroverts. We are, after all, rather complex human beings, and boiling our entire personality down to a single word seems, how shall we say, so imprecise. Now that a third classification is on the board, perhaps we’ll start to break away from these labels.  
More than that, Grant’s findings open the door for a full scale reassessment – both by sales managers and prospective employees. Explained Grant, in a story by Phillynews.com: “My findings suggest that less-extroverted people may be missing out on productive careers . . . and hiring managers may be missing out on star performers."
Grant is author of the book “Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success.”
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