Many people believe successful salespeople are inherently gregarious, but this isn't necessarily so. The ability to communicate effectively is something all top salespeople share, but the degree to which a sales agent is outgoing can vary from situation to situation. For example, some sales reps are spot-on during small group meetings, but if you put them on a tradeshow exhibit floor, their first inclination is to freeze up and withdraw.
In Good SellingTM: The Basics, Paul H. Green told of a merchant level salesperson, Mike, who always felt awkward at large gatherings because he assumed every person there except him knew everyone else, which made him feel isolated. But then, after a flash of inspiration, he eavesdropped on a few conversations. "He realized that most people were either struggling to make conversation with strangers, or they were standing through the entire event talking to the people they came with," Green wrote.
Green added that it's common for sales professionals, even those with many years' experience, to find crowds difficult to handle. He said, however, that overcoming this means "harnessing your confidence" and overcoming shyness "gets easier once you have a few successes and promising experiences under your belt."
If you're inclined to settle for sales you can land online, by phone or through one-on-one meetings, push yourself to face some crowded rooms. Why? According to Green, networking can be highly beneficial to your bottom line. "Group presentation opportunities, from chambers of commerce to Rotary Club meetings, can give you access to the community in which you live," he wrote. "If you give these opportunities half a chance, you'll soon realize that you are probably more ahead of the game than many other people."
Green also advises to not become deterred if you have a bad networking experience. "Your prospect was probably suffering from a more acute case of anxiety or insecurity than you were," he stated.
He also suggested attending events with a colleague, as long as you don't cling to each other, but instead help each other reach out to others. "Choose someone you are comfortable around who understands your shyness, and who will introduce you to a few contacts they'll no doubt meet during the event."
Then, when you are about to embark upon a conversation with a new contact, apply the good listening skills you've likely studied and been practicing in your day-to-day contacts: Face the speaker, smile and make eye contact.
Above all, keep in mind that the more you put attention on other people instead of on your feelings of discomfort, the more fun you'll have, the more you'll learn, and the more relationships you'll spark that will bring you a lifetime of business deals and friendship.
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