Online, We're All Introverts

  |  February 6, 2004   |  Comments

You're selling in someone's personal space.

You find yourself saying, "Five more minutes," for the umpteenth time. You're trying to get something accomplished online. No one wants to be interrupted when they're engaged in an introverted activity, such as writing, daydreaming, or reading.

America has an equal amount of extroverts (49.3 percent) and introverts (50.7 percent), so I understand why most salespeople cater to extroverts' needs. Salespeople can stimulate extroverts through conversation and build emotion to gain interest in a product. Introverts, however, want to think things through. The more a salesperson assaults them with information, the less interested they become.

Please don't confuse introversion for shyness. As Meredith Whitten explains, "Research differentiates between shyness and introversion, although they are related. Introverts prefer solitary to social activities, but do not fear social encounters like shy people do." Psychologically, extroverts are energized by people, places, and things outside of themselves. Introverts are energized from within.

Richard Grant, Ph.D., our consulting psychologist confirms:

Extroverts initiate relationships differently [than] introverts. Extroverted talk it through, and introverted think it through. Online, we all exhibit introverted tendencies. When in the introvert mode, we turn our thoughts inward to a laboratory of the mind where we like to "test things out" before taking any action. It is possible that people who go online to chat are creating their own virtual worlds and role-playing through the use of characters; initiating and maintaining relationships from an introverted perspective through the use of the written word."

That explains why spam is so much more offensive than postal junk mail. The email inbox is perceived as personal space. All humans have a need to define and control when and how others enter that space. Spam invades personal psychological space, as does someone who interrupts you when you're reading a novel.

That's just one example of the many ways introverted behavior manifests online. We must understand and be prepared to sell to introverts the way they want to buy. Typically, introverts require a large amount of information. Questions should be answered systematically, in the order they would arise.

The point of resolution is important. Understanding this helps you develop your site as a conversation tool. If you've developed your personas correctly, you can anticipate visitors' questions and answer them appropriately, in the correct time and sequence. Visitors will likely click until they find enough information to feel as if they tried out the product or service in the inner recesses (i.e., pre-frontal cortex) of their minds.


What does the introvert want online? Try:

  • Offering contact options other than just a telephone number. A phone number is definitely something you should have on your Web site. But if you don't answer enough questions in advance, the introvert won't develop enough interest to call or email. Live chat often fails to live up to its potential, but it can be effective for those who have been enticed to leave their inner world and enter yours.

  • Including the price whenever possible. Upscale retailers resist this, feeling it somehow demeans the merchandise. Visitors will be unimpressed with unmarked items. They'll think, "It's obviously overpriced, or they'd be willing to reveal how much they're asking. If I inquire, a salesperson will yammer on until she forces me to tell her it's outside my price range. I'm just not willing to put myself through that." By not attaching a price to every item, you're losing plenty of potential buyers. (Complex sales are a possible exception.) Let visitors know pricing isn't arbitrary and real factors are involved in its consideration.

  • Revealing what comes next. Whether it's something as small as a link or as large as a shopping cart, make sure visitors know what to expect. Use words that intrinsically explain what's to come. With a shopping cart, explain how many steps are necessary and what will happen in each one.

  • Letting the buyer set the agenda. Require a phone number on a form? Ask when would be a good time to call. Put the buyer in charge of what happens by asking the appropriate questions.

Obviously this list is far from comprehensive.

Work From Behavioral Models to Improve Conversions

From Plato to modern times, people have tried to categorize behavioral types. Many are skeptical that people can be pigeonholed that way (thus unconsciously betraying one of their own pigeonholes). Carl Jung wrote, "Man is so smart, he thinks he is above his own psychology."

We may rationalize what we do, but we do things emotionally. Jim Novo said of his Home Shopping Network days, "Even before the Internet, when we where using a TV-to-telephone model, we would track words or questions from callers and use [them] on-air to increase sales. The Internet is no different."

Behavioral modeling is a respected and eminently sensible way of doing business. It helps you correctly anticipate and answer visitors' questions and prevent frustration. Properly implemented, it will create a spike in your conversion rate.

Meet Bryan at Search Engine Strategies in New York, March 1-4.

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Bryan Eisenberg

Bryan Eisenberg is coauthor of the Wall Street Journal, Amazon, BusinessWeek, and New York Times bestselling books "Call to Action," "Waiting For Your Cat to Bark?," and "Always Be Testing." Bryan is a professional marketing speaker and has keynoted conferences globally such as SES,, Direct Marketing Association, MarketingSherpa, Econsultancy, Webcom, SEM Konferansen Norway, the Canadian Marketing Association, and others. In 2010, Bryan was named a winner of the Direct Marketing Educational Foundation's Rising Stars Awards, which recognizes the most talented professionals 40 years of age or younger in the field of direct/interactive marketing. He is also cofounder and chairman emeritus of the Web Analytics Association. Bryan serves as an advisory board member of SES Conference & Expo, the eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summit, and several venture capital backed companies. He works with his coauthor and brother Jeffrey Eisenberg. You can find them at

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