Tuesday, October 20, 2009

13 Business Success Strategies for Introverts

13 Business Success Strategies for Introverts

Many business owners and entrepreneurs are outgoing folks who find it easy to socialize, meet new people, and start conversations with strangers. For them, networking ― a most necessary component to creating and sustaining business relationships ― is easy, or at least not a dreaded chore. Excited to bring new friends and acquaintances into their circles, they are energized by people-meeting opportunities. Those running home-based businesses or one-woman shops often eagerly anticipate their various meetings, luncheons, and mixers.

But what about the introvert business owner? The person for whom meeting new people can be severely challenging, if not downright painful? Is networking any less important to their business success? Definitely not. Even when you own your own company, doing business requires meeting a lot of people. Sometimes, just following up with new prospects, contacts or clients can push an introvert beyond their comfort zone - never mind actually getting out there to make pitches, give presentations, or attend trade shows and exhibitions.

I had a friend who was a brilliant financial advisor. One-on-one with people, he was confident, self-assured, and very, very good at his work. The problem was that he had a very tough time getting out to meet new people. He'd put event after event on his calendar ... but seldom go. Or, he'd go once to a new group and never go back, always with some excuse about how the group was a poor fit, he didn't like their message or method, he felt uncomfortable, etc. Honestly, I don't think any group would have felt comfortable for him because he was just naturally an introvert.

Not all introverts, however, are paralyzed by the thought of interacting with new people. I love the title of Mark Dykeman's blog, The Mighty Introvert. In one post, Dykeman writes, "Introverts tend to enjoy having solitary time for thought and reflection. We are not as dependent on other people as extroverts are. Introverts are often quite happy to spend time alone." Though introverts can function well in groups, they tend to find personal interaction exhausting. "After awhile we feel drained and frail like Superman does after being exposed to Kryptonite, his great weakness," Dykeman continues.

So what is a highly introverted individual supposed to do when dread overwhelms their every effort to get out there, prospect, and meet new people? Here are a few tips that might help introverts in networking scenarios:

1. Strive for balance. Realize that spending time with people is equally important as spending time alone. If you're extremely introverted, you may consciously or unconsciously overlook the benefits of socializing with others - things like learning new information, developing relationships, personal growth, and just plain fun.

2. Practice socializing. Like most other skill sets, introverts can learn to develop or improve their social skills. Many introverts tend to avoid social activities like networking events because they are uncomfortable or worry they might not know how to behave in a given situation. This is the time to put that cliché to work: feel the fear and do it anyway, knowing that the more you practice, the easier it will become.

3. Fake it till you make it - another cliché with a real purpose.You might be surprised to find that some of the folks who seem like the biggest extroverts at your networking events are actually incredibly introverted. They have simply learned to exercise their social muscles for an hour or two at a stretch. Such an event may deplete them afterwards, but they know the value of meeting new people and are willing to endure discomfort to do so.

4. Avoid labeling extroverts. If you tend to experience extroverted people as superficial, aggressive, or annoying, no one could blame you for preferring not to spend time with them or adopt their outrageous ways. However, if you can find a way to broaden your vision of an outgoing person, you may be more likely to want to interact with them. And who knows - as unlikely as it may seem, you could actually learn a thing or two from an extrovert!

5. Recognize the limits of online socializing. Meeting and connecting with people through social networking is much less intimidating than face-to-face socializing, but in spite of what the gurus may tell you, it can never take the place of real human contact. Certainly you should continue to build your social networks via twitter, facebook, and the like, but make sure you don't put all your energy and attention there, to the complete exclusion of live events.

6. Look for opportunities everywhere. The more chances you have to interact with people, the less importance each single meeting or event will have. This will actually relieve stress, rather than compound it.

7. Play up your strengths by putting others first. Worry less about what you should say, instead listening carefully to your conversation partners. When the time comes for you to speak, you will be able to weave their interests into your conversation.

8. Realize that self-promotion is not bragging. Introverts sometimes hesitate to speak up because they're worried that they lack particular expertise or knowledge. However, planning (and, if need be, rehearsing) for your meetings ahead of time will give you the confidence to discuss your strengths and abilities as the proven facts that they are.

9. Refuse to let yourself be cowed. Don't assume that others have more right to speak up than you do just because they seem more confident than you feel. You don't have to respond quickly; your quiet thoughtfulness may give you invaluable insight. If someone asks you an uncomfortable question or appears to demand an immediate answer, speak to the things you do know and ask questions that encourage others to share their knowledge and opinions.

10. Create a success mindset. Rather than fearfully imagining a networking breakfast as a place where you might be interrogated or judged, imagine it as having coffee with a circle of supportive friends and colleagues. Sooner than later, that will become your experience.

11. Use the written word to shine. Being an introvert can be an advantage when it comes to drafting e-mails, reports, and other written materials geared toward your niche audience. Identify the core of your clients' needs; then use your writing strengths to promote yourself by matching your strongest capabilities to them.

12. Remember that the telephone is your friend. In general, introverts prefer lots of time to plan their thoughts, as opposed to speaking off the tops of their heads. Before the time comes to make those important phone calls, create an outline of your key points, including all foreseeable responses to potentially challenging issues or questions.

13. Implement one small change at a time. Many people remain shy because they have built their perceived deficit into such a giant obstacle that they come to believe overcoming it is impossible. Making small changes to expand your comfort zone will help create the momentum to take bigger steps, over time. Rather than setting a goal to become the Queen of Networking, set a goal to meet one new person at the next event you attend.

And if you happen to be an extrovert who reads this, please remember that not everyone has as easy a time as you do when it comes to meeting new folks. You can make it easier by reaching out to the quiet folks and introducing them around ... just make sure you don't overwhelm them with your lively, outgoing nature!

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  1. Hi Laura. I just found this post during a Google Blog Search. Thanks for your kind comments about The Mighty Introvert. To be honest, I haven't written new content there in over a year. Most of my online writing occurs at http://broadcasting-brain.co these days. Nonetheless, I appreciate your post, because The Mighty Introvert was definitely an important project for me.

  2. Nice post! That is such a wonderful idea! That can be an option in starting a small business.

    Home-Based Business