Autistic Salespeople: Why some autistic people can make businesses lots of money!
25th September 2020
Sales is the most important function of profitable organisations.
When we think about autistic people in employment, is it not true that our minds flash to non-customer facing, back office roles like computer programming? Or repetitive, predictable type work like shelf stacking or manning factory conveyor belts? Of course, the view will partly depend on your experience with autism.
But the selling profession involves social interaction. And autism is a disability related to social interaction. So, it’s logical to assume that autistic people will be no good at sales because they are not good at social interaction, yes?
But actually, no! You do not need good social skills in order to be good at sales.
Selling Skills and Autism
To be good at selling you need:
- Good knowledge of the product you are selling
- The ability to follow a process
- Exceptionally good listening skills to find out about the needs and desires of your customer - what problem do they have to which they need a solution?
- Honesty (honesty is best to keep people coming back)
- Enjoyment of meeting new people and talking to people
- The ability to build an emotional connection with people (not all autistic people can do this, but some can.)
The key is that the sales process is not about social communication, but about a structured conversation within a structured process, and this is perfect for some autistic people.
Sales is a structured conversation and selling is best done systematically. The limited amount of social chit chat required can be learnt. The key part of the sales process is structured.
And many autistic people are extremely good at following structured processes.
Other reasons why autistic people can be really good at sales
Autistic salespeople are very likely to have great knowledge of the product(s) they are trying to sell - often much better in fact than non-autistic salespeople. You may have heard that some autistic people have special interests which means their whole life can revolve around something. Cars, for instance. These people may excel at selling products which are included in their special interests.
You may find autistic people selling in specialist shops (for example, music shops), where the staff are enthusiasts.
I find it easier to buy products from people who have inside knowledge of the product, and I appreciate it when salespeople can answer all my questions about what I am buying in a simple and forthright matter.
There are also many autistic people who listen more than they speak. Contrary to what some people (sadly, even some salespeople) think, listening is a vital skill for a good salesperson. How else can they work out what product will be suitable for you, or recommend the right product to solve your problem?
The worst thing is when a salesperson phones you up, and without waiting for you to answer the question ‘how are you?’, or asking if you are busy or not, launches into a long sales spiel.
Maybe you too have come across people who just want to sell you the most expensive item, or the one they will get the most commission on.
Linked to this, is honesty. Honesty is a well-known autistic trait (although beware there are exceptions), and honesty is the best policy. For repeat business, honesty is paramount. Would you go back to a company to buy something if you found out you were lied to or misled previously?
Unfortunately, salespeople have a reputation for exaggerating, manipulating and misleading customers. And I am quite sure nobody enjoys that. Honest salespeople are refreshing.
And there are also autistic people who really care about people and enjoy helping people. Isn’t this a good trait for salespeople in general?
The downfall for some autistic people when it comes to selling is that although they do really care about other people, they are unable to forge an emotional connection with other people during a conversation. This does not mean, however, that they do not connect emotionally with people at all: they just do it differently.
However, many autistic people can make that emotional connection, and like most of the population they need to connect emotionally with people. Some of these people could potentially have a very successful career in sales.
Regardless of all the benefits of hiring an autistic salesperson, there are some things to beware of, and this relates to their likely extreme honesty.
For example, autistic salespeople will likely be the ones who will call out dishonest colleagues who mislead potential customers, promising something that cannot be delivered, and they will be extremely unhappy with any dishonest processes designed to inflate sales figures.
But if you are a company which values honesty and integrity in the whole of your workforce, then there may be a budding autistic salesperson who will thrive in your environment.
Just like non autistic people, not all autistic people are suited to a career in sales. But those who are suited to it can be excellent.
We actually know of one such autistic man, who drove his mother to distraction during his early childhood - to the point where she nearly put him into care because she could not cope. Now, he is a millionaire salesperson…
Would you like to know how to attract a star salesperson into your team, while increasing your company diversity? If so, get in touch with us now.
Aspiedent is a not for profit autism and training & consultancy company helping employers to benefit from a better understanding of autism.