What’s more, when Grant plotted total revenue over the three months against employees’ scores on the 1-to-7 scale, he found a distinct, and revealing, pattern. Indeed, revenue peaked between 4 and 4.5—and fell off as the personality moved toward either the introvert or extravert pole. Those highest in extraversion fared scarcely better than those highest in introversion, but both lagged behind their coworkers in the modulated middle.31 “These findings call into question the longstanding belief that the most productive salespeople are extraverted,” Grant writes.32 Instead, being too extraverted can actually impair performance, as other research has begun to confirm. For example, two recent Harvard Business Review studies of sales professionals found that top performers are less gregarious than below-average ones and that the most sociable salespeople are often the poorest performers of all.33 According to a large study of European and American customers, the “most destructive” behavior of salespeople wasn’t being ill-informed. It was an excess of assertiveness and zeal that led to contacting customers too frequently.34 Extraverts, in other words, often stumble over themselves. They can talk too much and listen too little, which dulls their understanding of others’ perspectives. They can fail to strike the proper balance between asserting and holding back, which can be read as pushy and drive people away.* The answer, though, isn’t to lurch to the opposite side of the spectrum. Introverts have their own, often reverse, challenges. They can be too shy to initiate and too timid to close. The best approach is for the people on the ends to emulate those in the center. As some have noted, introverts are “geared to inspect,” while extraverts are “geared to respond.”35 Selling of any sort—whether traditional sales or non-sales selling—requires a delicate balance of inspecting and responding. Ambiverts can find that balance. They know when to speak up and when to shut up. Their wider repertoires allow them to achieve harmony with a broader range of people and a more varied set of circumstances. Ambiverts are the best movers because they’re the most skilled attuners. For most of you, this should be welcome news. Look again at the shape of the curve in that second chart. That’s pretty much what the distribution of introverts and extraverts looks like in the wider population.36 A few of us are extraverts. A few of us are introverts. But most of us are ambiverts, sitting near the middle, not the edges, happily attuned to those around us. In some sense, we are born to sell.
It was an invention with huge potential in saving money and lives, but Otis faced a skeptical and fearful public. So he rented out the main exhibit hall of what was then New York City’s largest convention center. On the floor of the hall he constructed an open elevator platform and a shaft in which the platform could rise and descend. One afternoon, he gathered convention-goers for a demonstration. He climbed onto the platform and directed an assistant to hoist the elevator to its top height, about three stories off the ground. Then, as he stood and gazed down at the crowd, Otis took an ax and slashed the rope that was suspending the elevator in midair. The audience gasped. The platform fell. But in seconds, the safety brake engaged and halted the elevator’s descent. Still alive and standing, Otis looked out at the shaken crowd and said, “All safe, gentlemen. All safe.”1 The moment marked two firsts. It was the first demonstration of an elevator safe enough to carry people. (Otis, you might have guessed by now, went on to found the Otis Elevator Company.) And more important for our purposes, it was a simple, succinct, and effective way to convey a complex message in an effort to move others—the world’s first elevator pitch.