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Introverted Selling: The Principle of Trust in the AEC Industry

In every major industry, there are preconceived notions of who can and can’t succeed in sales. The AEC industry is no different. The stereotype of a typical salesperson is an effervescent extrovert who could sell sawdust to a lumbermill. But in order to achieve success, do you have to act like the stereotypical salesperson? Must you be the smooth-talking, outgoing conversationalist, completely at ease with cold-calling and pitching to Owners? Of course not!

While these natural salespeople certainly exist, it’s a huge misconception to believe you must have a naturally extroverted personality to be a successful salesperson. We sat down with Joe Mynhier, author of The Introverted Hunter: An Introvert’s Field Guide to Become Super at Sales! to discuss the innate skills introverts have that allow them to build trust, foster new relationships, and truly excel in the professional service world.

Trust and the AEC Industry

Trust is an integral component of the AEC industry, and it is the fundamental principle behind every successful sales relationship. “As an architect, you don’t sell things, you don’t sell objects,” says Mynhier. “You sell ideas, hopes, and dreams. You sell trust.”

For many industry leaders, relationship building is the most important part of an ongoing partnership. Your network is your net worth, and in an industry where much of the workload is often from repeat business, every relationship fallen to the wayside is an opportunity missed. But a critical advantage most introverts possess is the ability to build and nurture relationships for the long term. High levels of transparency, trust, and communication create an effective work environment and ongoing business. Create a system to follow up and stay in touch with people. Begin by putting contacts in your task management system. If you do not touch base with someone for months, you are off their radar. Get into the habit of contacting everyone on your contact list at least once per month by a phone call or email. By building a longstanding relationship with each partner and client on a project, you are expanding your network and becoming top-of-mind during the next hiring opportunity or building boom.

The Introverted Seller

As an introvert, you don’t have to undergo a metaphysical change in order to succeed in sales. “You can be yourself,” says Mynhier. “You can be an introvert, use your listening skills, your observation skills, your trustworthiness, your creativity to be a super salesperson.”

Selling for introverts requires emphasizing your strong points, which means you must understand your natural skills and how to effectively utilize them. Mynhier outlines the following as innate strategies and techniques many introverts possess over their extroverted counterparts:

  1. Strategic Listening. Being a successful sales professional in any industry requires attaining specific and detailed knowledge about your prospect’s needs. This is where introverts tend to shine, as extroverts may spend too much time delivering assertive, enthusiastic pitches, and too little time asking questions and listening to answers. Introverts know how to listen sensitively to hints and clues about what someone is really saying, thus uncovering problems you can solve for them and ultimately forge a stronger connection. Connecting with these prospects hinges on understanding what value you bring to the table so that when it comes time to pitch your proposal, you’ll know exactly what to say to create the most impact.
  2. Observation and Preparedness. You’ll often hear that someone’s a “natural” when it comes to sales. But the reality is, a strong salesperson succeeds because of preparation. Before talking to a prospect, you should understand their firm, their needs, and how you have the right solution for them. As an introvert, this need for research and analysis plays to your strengths — and while exhaustive preparation can sometimes feel over-the-top, it’s the key to building the confidence to approach any situation.
  3. Creativity. Most people associate design as creativity. “But I think creativity is how you approach problems and potential clients,” says Mynhier.  “It involves taking the pieces of information gathered in research to formulate a creative strategy that develops differentiators in such a way that it captures the client’s imagination.” Introverts tend to be methodical thinkers with a talent for thoughtful, analytical problem solving and constructing cost-effective solutions.

However, Mynhier warns that you cannot become super at sales unless you’re motivated to use these innate skills. Learning the importance of clients, people, and relationships across all levels is key. “It’s the golden rule. People want to be treated the way you want to be treated.”

The Hunting Continuum

Although AEC is a multibillion-dollar industry, it often feels like a small niche where everybody knows each other. When growing and nurturing your network, you must start with what Mynhier calls the hunting continuum.

The hunting continuum, at its most basic definition, is the circular process of gathering trust. This circular process consists of becoming interested in a project, leading the interview, negotiating the contract, assembling the team, executing the project successfully, and using that relationship to get more work and foster new contacts. It is a continuous process that never stops.

The hunting continuum relies on the concept of quid pro quo. Meaning, if you want people to do something for you, you must be able to do something for them. Quid pro quo is built upon the established trust within the relationship, as your network is your bedrock of what you do in sales. Using the quid pro quo to cultivate and grow your relationships is the key to sales and opening doors. By knowing how you make a relationship worthwhile to a client, you are gaining ground on the hunting continuum with Buyers and Owners.

Remember quid pro quo when closing a deal as well. Focus on the client, rather than yourself, using your introverted skills through strategic listening and persuasion. “Persuade the client to see the efficacy of what you’re going to do for them and why your differentiator is unique,” says Mynhier. “Solve the problem. Bring value in your offers in a way that your competitors can’t.”

Key Takeaways

Change your mindset about sales. The world of sales does not belong to the extroverted salespeople; it belongs to the highly influential person who is comfortable and knows the value of their natural strengths. Frame your work around forging connections, fostering relationships, and solving problems through the hunting continuum. 

For more on the hunting continuum and how to excel at sales as an introvert, check out Joe Mynhier’s book THE INTROVERTED HUNTER: The Introvert’s Field Guide to Become Super at Sales! You can also hear more from Mynhier on Episode 30 of the AEC Marketing for Principals podcast.