Building a vast business network is very important to entrepreneurs, but what about entrepreneurs that are introverts?
Networking can be very overwhelming for introverts, but luckily, there are ways introverts can go about networking.
So many people who know me personally find it hard to believe that I am indeed an introvert — judging with my bold personality and how I quickly get on with people of different ages and cultures.
I would much prefer to stay home by myself than to socialize. In fact, my biggest nightmare is a huge convention setting and believe it; I always have all the excuse not to attend a non-business gathering.
I found that establishing a connection with total strangers and converting them into treasured resources to be overwhelming. I am also a public speaker, and I know how important a strong network is for an entrepreneur, so networking has to be part of the business plan.
So, what do you do when you would rather hide in a corner than make small talk?
With a clear understanding of what networking is all about, anyone – from the life of the party to the shyest wallflower – can develop an excellent business network.
How Can Introverts Network?
Here are some of my best tips introverts can use to develop the valuable business relationships that they need.
1. Become Genuinely Interested In Other People
Did you know that the word ‘I’ is the most used? It is used 3,900 times in every 500 phone conversations.
The first step to getting ahead in networking is to be truly and genuinely interested in other people.
Alfred Adler wrote, ‘it is the individual who is not interested in his fellow men who has the greatest difficulties in life and provides the greatest injury to others. It is from among such individuals that all human failures spring.’
If you merely try to impress people and get people interested in you, you will never have any real, sincere friends. Friends, business networks are not made that way.
You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.
2. Have a Plan For Events.
Introverts should prioritize planning for an event in advance.
If you are like me, the thought of facing countless strangers seems about as pleasing as sticking a fork into your eye, but a little advanced planning can improve things.
When you find an event that you believe may benefit you, start by contacting the organizer some weeks or at least a few days prior. Ask him or her who you need to know based on your objectives and see if the organizer can make introductions to those people for you ahead of time through email or social media.
Once you know those you will like to meet, research on the things that interest them. It may be football, movies or astronomy. Find time to read up on the subject in which you knew the other person is particularly interested; this gives you a good ground to start a conversation, and with this method, you are never going to be boring to anyone.
Then, on the day of the event, while you may enter a room with hundreds of people, you know precisely which people to seek out (and why you are connecting with them). This takes the pressure off a cold introduction, and you can dive more deeply into shared interests.
3. Become a Great Listener
Being an introvert can sometimes be a desirable trait.
Jack Woodford wrote – ‘few human beings are proof against the implied flattery of rapt attention.’
It is most natural for introverts to be great listeners.
To be a good conversationalist, you need to be a good listener, and that is one of the easiest things to do for an introvert. But, a word of caution here; don’t just listen to people when they talk but rather give them your rapt attention.
When you meet new people, allow them to talk, let them express themselves and give them your full attention without interruption even if you are very knowledgeable of the subject matter.
So if you aspire to be a good conversationalist, be an attentive listener. To be interesting, be interested. Ask questions that other persons will enjoy answering. Encourage them to talk about themselves and their accomplishments.
4. Cull Your Current Network.
As the famous saying – ‘charity begins at home.’ So does your network.
If you have family and friends, you already have a network. But, you probably don’t recognize that these people can help with your business issues and connections. If you need assistance solving a specific problem or finding new customers, talk to the people you know who like and trust you, and have relationships, you don’t already know. A simple introduction is all you need to grow your network.
Don’t discount the value of someone else’s network. One of my most valuable connections came via a friend in a different industry, and I would never have guessed in a million years they would be able to help in the industry I was looking for a contact in. The connection happened to be a family friend. If I had not been willing to ask all of my friends and family – and did my own segmenting of who would likely be helpful – I would never have made the connection.
Also, don’t stop with your closest contacts. You probably interact with many people every day, and you know them well enough to ask for help. One person I know has been going to a particular spa for years. On one of her visits, she brought some business brochures and asked if she could place them on the reception counter next to other promotional items that they already had on display. With their permission, she got some calls from people already primed to purchase her services while avoiding the pain of cold-calling.
5. Aim for Quality Over Quantity.
For some people, collecting as many business cards as possible is the definition of networking. Not only is that a nightmare for an introvert, but it rarely yields results.
It is better to find a few people with whom you can develop a deep mutually-beneficial relationship than to have the business cards of thousands of people you will never speak with again. So, even if you are at a conference with thousands of attendees, find ways to do your networking in small chunks.
For example, most people need to eat, so ask a few people sitting near you in a late-morning session to get together for lunch. Instantly, you create a small group of people who share your interests without the embarrassment of trying to ask a single person to go out with you. You may or may not become lifelong friends with your new lunch buddies, but you will know that each business card has real meaning for you.
6. Leverage Social Media.
Social media sites like Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook, have blurred the lines between real relationships and virtual connections. But, these tools eliminate the need for face-to-face or phone contact as a preamble to establishing business contacts.
If you pay regular attention to your social media accounts, you will get to know quite a bit about your new friends, followers, and connections. Then, when you find someone with mutual interests and concerns, consider making your conversations more private to find out if you can help each other in your networking efforts.
I have also found great success by putting out questions when I am seeking help for myself or someone else to my social networks. Almost every time I have sought a business contact with a particular skill or otherwise, my social network has come through.
Wrap It Up
Networking is unarguably an essential element of business success. Even introverts need a network to increase their success. Hopefully, the tips above will make the process a little less painful.