Sales Tips for Shy People

You’ve probably all heard of the proverbial natural salesperson. You know the one I’m talking about–the one who can sell anything to anyone at any time?

Well, that person is not me. In fact, I’ve blogged about being a bit shy before.

But, as a freelancer, I frequently find myself in situations where I must sell my services. Selling is just part of doing business.

So, I’ve learned to cope with my natural shyness. Over the years, I’ve developed some techniques to help myself.

If you’re a freelancer who is naturally shy like me, here are some tips to help you become better at sales.

Sales Tips for Shy People

Every freelancer has a weakness. For some freelancers it’s dealing with numbers. For others, it’s putting their thoughts in writing. For me, it’s selling.

However, just because you have a weakness in a particular area doesn’t mean that weakness can’t be overcome and it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be a freelancer.

As someone whose natural tendency is to be a bit shy, selling can make me a bit anxious. However, I’ve learned to (mostly) overcome my shy tendencies by following the principles below. It may be that they can help you as well.

Here are some tips to follow when talking with prospective clients:

  1. Avoid being unnecessarily apologetic. Many of us who are naturally shy tend to be too apologetic. Yet, unless you’ve actually done something where an apology is warranted, there’s really no need to be apologetic. If this is your tendency, try to watch for it and eliminate it from your speech patterns.
  2. Do prepare for sales calls. Natural sales people may be able to sell without much preparation, but if you’re shy you’ll need to make sure that you’re well prepared for each and every sales call. I usually keep some detailed notes beside me while I talk on the phone so that I can glance at them if I get tongue-tied during a call.
  3. Be prompt when you reply to prospects. Promptness counts for a lot. When you reply promptly to a prospect, it usually comes across as being enthusiastic. This doesn’t mean you have to accept rush work. A reply could be to simply let them know that you’ll set up a time to get with them as soon as you become available.
  4. Let them do most of the talking. It will take a lot of the pressure off you and besides, being a good listener is more important in sales than being a good talker. Just make sure that you pay attention to what they are saying and take careful notes. If necessary, repeat a point that you don’t understand back to them.
  5. Be yourself. Whatever you do, don’t try to project an image that doesn’t fit you. Instead, talk to the prospect as naturally as possible. I know that sometimes shy people try to emulate someone else who they believe to be more successful, but usually this strategy just comes off as being contrived and fake. Don’t do it!
  6. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. You may be afraid that asking questions will make you seem less knowledgeable. Actually, the opposite is true. Asking appropriate questions when you need to shows that you are concerned with the project and with getting it right. And who doesn’t want a detail-oriented conscientious freelancer working on their project?
  7. Smile while you are talking. This is a great trick that I read from a blog post somewhere. Having a smile on your face can help get rid of any anxious tones that you may unconsciously be using. Smiling also helps you sound more relaxed and pleasant to the prospect on the other end of the phone line.
  8. Avoid negative self-talk. Before the sales call begins, avoid thinking about the worst things that might happen during the call. Likewise, when the sales call is over, avoid beating yourself up over what you think went wrong with the call. Chances are your clients didn’t even notice your perceived shortcomings.

Your Turn

I’m proud of the progress that I’ve made in this area. I’m definitely much better at handling sales calls now than I was when I started freelancing.

Are you naturally shy? Do you dread selling?

In the comments, share your tips on how you overcame your shyness.

Image by Auntie K


  1. says

    Funnily enough with No 7. You’re always taught to smile on the phone when you work in a call centre, people can tell if you’re “smiling” down the phone. Your voice sounds lighter and more energetic.

    I’m terrible at selling myself.

  2. says

    I’m naturally a shy person. I definitely have to make more of an effort than other people. I do some of the things you mentioned, like smile and ask questions. I’ll definitely have to try the other ones. Thanks!

  3. says

    Laura – Great article and good tips! Even outgoing people like me can be shy at times. I actually follow many of your points. I look at it as a long term relationship. Being honest and genuine reflect on positively on your character and clients know they can trust you when you tell them something. In a competitive environment that can make or break you. A good reputation goes a long way for relationship building.

    Asking questions, shows you are listening to their needs and did your research. I too, have my research notes and points highlighted to reference easily.There is nothing wrong with asking to get back with them with answers. I think a client respects you more than if you just try to wing it and give inaccurate information. Besides, I have seen some people put their foot in their mouth pretty bad by not knowing their audience, like a salesperson treating the receptionist poorly and finding out later that it was the daughter/son of the owner who is helping out during their school break. My Dad always said to treat people the way you want to be treated on your way up the ladder, because you never know if you will meet them on your way back down. And we all usually started at the bottom sometime in our career, so why not be a positive influence that everyone remember for good things and not a negative that everyone hides from.

    Timeliness to a meeting shows the client you respect their time and helps me prepare my thoughts before the start. I usually try to arrive 15-30 minutes early and if something happens and I am late, I call and apologize and ask if it is going to be a problem.

    Most importantly, is that you have a positive attitude and smile because it helps set a good tone and brings energy to the meeting right up front. I believe that there is a positive in every situation, even a negative because you learn what not to do or how to improve. You can overcome just about anything if you are positive and genuine. People will remember you.

  4. says

    Thanks for all the comments.

    I was quite nervous about writing this, but I’m glad that people can relate.

    Richard–do you have some call center experience?

    Shevonne and Sharon Hurley Hall–I’m glad I’m not the only one. :)

  5. says

    This is just the article I’ve been waiting for! Gosh, being shy is definately the hardest thing to overcome when you’re starting out as a freelancer, and I’m working hard to push myself into being more outgoing. Very slow process, and I have to try really hard not to talk myself out of things when I get scared. Thank you so much for the tips, I’m glad I’m not the only one who feels this way!

  6. says

    This is definitely something I deal with every day. My sister and I run a business together and we are both shy. We sometimes end up flipping a coin to see who has to make the phone calls. But I am getting better, mainly by talking to people who are not necessarily customers. By just doing that, I am still raising my self confidence for when I actually do have to make sales calls. All of your tips are very useful, great post!


  7. says

    What perfect timing, Laura!

    I’m about to have a call with a prospect who intimidates me to pieces. It’s hard enough for me to make these exploratory calls, because I too tend to be shy and introverted. But it’s even more challenging when the prospect is a “big name,” if you know what I mean.

    I’m going to keep these tips in mind and prepare for the call.

  8. says

    One of the biggest mistakes I made when I first started selling was doing most of the talking. I didn’t let THEM talk because I was so nervous that I was supposed to be convincing them. But eventually I realized that usually potential clients want to talk and talk and talk about themselves. They have a few questions and then I can do my thing. But I wait for said questions because otherwise I get nervous and overly chatting.

    These are GREAT tips, especially for those of us who have simply been doing trial and error in this department ;-)

  9. says

    Thanks for posting. I’ve shared this with some of my friends. I remind them on occasion they have no reason to apologize – they are pros and they deserve to be treated like one – by themselves especially!

  10. says

    Thanks, Laura, I can definitely relate! I especially agree with #8 (avoid negative self-talk). It’s so easy to beat yourself up – we are so naturally hard on ourselves. The only way to become more confident is to truly be nice to yourself. The more you analyze what you think went wrong, the more you become overwhelmed by negativity, which doesn’t make for a successful business.

  11. says

    Tereasa Easton & Lily Dagdag–You are so right! This IS a daily struggle.

    Lexi Rodrigo, You–shy? Couldn’t be. Still, I agree that some clients are more intimidating than others. I hope your call went well.

    Hi Malinda–Good to see you here. Thanks for sharing this with your friends. I hope that it helps. :)

    Marian Schembari, Oh yes. The overtalking…usually followed by the negative self-talk when I realize what I’ve done. Big problem and definitely something to work on.

    Rachel Small–Excellent points. I’m all for self-improvement–to a point. But, I truly believe that we can be our own harshest critics.

  12. says

    Really great tips, I find myself rambling and then getting stuck in the middle of that ramble when nervous. I really do detest pitching products, so I’ll keep these suggestions in mind.

  13. says

    This is a great post. I used to make calls to people to sell them something, but now I do mostly everything online. I am thinking of branching out locally, which will take some doing on my part. Being a bit shy, I don’t really like the “in person” marketing – online is better:-)

  14. TLC says

    I just HATE doing sales. Cold calls are even worse! I have no problem meeting with someone so I can do a proposal for them. I just hate that first step. Thanks for the great tips!

  15. says

    On the point about letting the prospect do the talking – this means you get an opportunity to find out what it is they need. Then, you can talk about your experience/show them work examples that’s focused on what they are looking for.

    So whenever someone asks me “Do you want to tell me about yourself or shall I tell you a bit about us first?” I always get them to do the talking first.

  16. says

    I was a professional salesperson for 15 years and am shy. Don’t forget people buy from people not salespeople so be yourself and don’t method act. three specific additional tips to add to the good ones above.
    1. Do not forget to ask for the business
    2. Silence is the best close
    3 Always have a stretch objective and go for it at the end of the meeting. You will get it 9 time out of 10 times!



  17. says

    I think a lot of people are naturally shy, at least when you don’t know people.

    I’ve learned to pull myself out of it through research and meeting new people, but it is very challenging since you don’t always feel comfortable.

    Remember, clients are just people who want to do business with you, they won’t bite. ;)

    I like talking to people and getting to know them, as opposed to selling to someone I completely don’t know. It’s easier to sell if there is some type of connection (even if you just talked to a random person for an hour about what you do for a living).

  18. says

    Laura, you hit every point on target.

    I used to never do sales calls over the phone early in my career.

    However, now they are a constant part of some of my marketing efforts and essential to closing big clients. Case in point – I just closed a client over the phone yesterday for a $7,500 web design project :)

    The trick I use is to slowly establish a rapport with the prospect via email. I send them free white papers, ebooks, and useful articles so that by the time I speak with them over the phone they already display a sense of gratitude towards me.

    Nick Desai

  19. says

    To sell or not to sell? That is not the question… but how much you sell your skills for. I think that if you’re ‘sorry’ about your skills, clients will feel the same way so stand up, rise and shine – for what your mind conceives, your mind can achieve ( borrowed from Napoleon Hill ). I like the item: Just Be Yourself. Clients like some personality behind that well-polished resume, breaks the ice a bit :-)

  20. says

    Richard Masters says it perfectly “people buy from people not salespeople so be yourself ”
    I found it very hard at the start ‘talking money’ with clients, I always felt I was cheating them… as I loved my job so much it almost didn’t seem right to charge! That soon changed when the bills start rolling in.
    Be confident in the fact your doing your client a great service (people would never expect a plumber to come round your house and do work for free) don’t sell yourself short.

  21. says

    Hi I’m Angela Gibson and I am writing a new blog for Avon Representatives. I have presented your article link and tips to my readers in a post because I think your tips are of unique quality and apply to the Avon Representative sales process. I myself am too apologetic and have negative self talk. But even worse I do follow up in a timely manner most of the time and this has much to do with why I am apologetic. I am currently working on the problem and found you #3 tip a great asset.

  22. says

    I think these tips are great even if you aren’t shy. I’m not very shy, but I always follow these tips when I am speaking with my clients :)

  23. says

    Great job on your post Laura. I’ve been in ‘sales’ for many years…I actually love it and now I help others with their sales hangups- and I’m naturally shy. All of your points are right on – it’s mostly attitude and mindset. Here’s one of my tips to share…selling is basically (especially for freelancers) “a conversation about your passion & moving towards a fit with a potential client”. – Cheers, S

  24. says

    I can really relate to this article, especially number eight. I have problems with this, I even replay the conversation over and over each time making myself feel a little worse.

    Having said this, I am definitely noticing a subtle improvement in my confidence levels, just little things that would have been far more difficult before, like calling a client back when a problem arises. It can only get better as times moves on.

    Great article, and it’s nice to know that there’s a few of us out there.

    Good luck

  25. says

    Great tips.. I guess building a bit of rapport before the sales presentation by finding some common ground, could make you feel as if you are talking to someone you know and not a stranger and easy the tension.

  26. says

    Good tips…I would caution the shy person though to not spend to much time “Getting ready – to Get ready” as suggested in # 2. Being prepared can be done with practice and maybe a few minutes of roll play with a co-worker or mentor.

    I have seen new people in our office waist as much as 30 min + of potential call time figiting around there desk or going to do research on the next batch of numbers to call. Be prepared with a basic script or notes ready “as Suggested” and jump in! after talking to five decision makers if ou have not set the appointment then get with your co-worker or mentor again and work out how to improve the call. IN most calling situations you should be able to turn 1 out of 10 calls into an appointment.

    Also – Make sure of the real reason you’re calling them..If your calling to set an appointment then just set the appointment. Don’t get caught up selling over the phone!

    Jeff Beeman

  27. says

    Thank you for the very useful article. Every time I think about going out there and sell my product, I think about the worst possible result that I can get out of my attempt and usually the outcome is so much better than I had prepared myself for. One more very important tip is people their feedback on your presentation. Even they didn’t buy your product or service, ask them what you could have done better and take their feedback into consideration next time around.

  28. says

    I get anxious during sales calls once in awhile. I think it depends on the demeanor of the person I’m talking to and how badly I feel like I need to make the sale.

  29. says

    I too am very very shy. Any calls are horrendous for me, so much so that I’ve been trying to do all communocations by emails or texts. I wasn’t get any results and realized I have to chuck it up and talk to people,lol. Still apprehensive in contacting and try to lead with a brochure or product which breaks the ice. Everyday is a new challenge and chance.

  30. says

    @Richard Masters Totally agree with you

    Interesting article concerning shy people; I have always been shy since im young, even if I try to do my best, it’s difficult each day to meet people and start relationship with a new person..I will try your advices and come back! Thanks again, Pati

  31. Gloria says

    Well, for myself, I actually need an article for the sales person that has Social Anxiety Disorder or Avoidance Personality Disorder. Trying to come out of it is really hard. I appreciate the articles on being shy but they don’t really hit the mark because having these types of disorders is being shy x 100. One funny thing I did was to take the advice of having a mirror on your monitor or in front of you while on the phone and smile. Well, I felt like such an idiot I never did it again. That didn’t work for me at all.

    One of the feelings I get while on the phone is that the person can sense that I’m not confident and that they will know more than me, or being feeling embarassed and not knowing what to do on a rebuttal. What I find helps is to be very knowledgeable about the product. I once worked for a company that trained you on their health products for 2 weeks and then tnrew you on the phone to give information, answer questions and try to retain the customer. It was extremely hard in the beginning and I began to hate that “beep” in my ear when a call came in. However, during my down times I would read and study as much as I could. I even ordered pamplets, anything I could do to increase my knowledge. This calmed me down a great deal and built up my confidence. That would be my advice.

  32. Carla says

    Hello Laura,
    Nice post.
    I am a freelancer, I am trying to sell shoes. I had contacted some prospects. The first time I talk to them, it is not that difficult, but trying to reach them for the second time, it is painful for me. What can I do? I spend hours looking at the phone, before I can actually call.
    It is getting worst, I started with more energy, but now it is just so difficult to make the phones calls. What is wrong with me?
    Thank you!

  33. says

    Hello, I am happy to come here, and I think the content is very interesting and useful. It’s helpful for our daily life. The pictures are also very necessary. Thank you for your sharing!!!


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