Are you someone who needs hours alone every day? Who loves quiet conversations about feelings or ideas, and can give a dynamite presentation to a big audience, but seems awkward in groups and defective at small talk?
Are you someone who has to be dragged to parties and then needs the rest of the day to recover? Who growls or scowls or grunts or winces when accosted with happy talk by people who are just trying to be nice?
Do people regard you as “too serious,” or ask “are you okay?” Do people regard you as aloof, arrogant, rude? Redouble their efforts to draw you out?
If you answered yes to these questions, chances are you’re a bona fide introvert.
Science has learned a good deal in recent years about the habits and requirements of introverts. It has even learned, by means of brain scans and lemon juice tests, that introverts process information differently from other people (honest, I am not making this up).
Introverts may be more common than you think. But they are also among the most misunderstood and aggrieved groups in America, possibly the world, probably the universe!
I know. My name is Gary, and I am an introvert.
Oh, for years I denied it. After all, I am not morose or misanthropic. I have good social skills. Usually. I am far from shy. I love long conversations that explore intimate thoughts or passionate interests. But at last I have self-identified and come out to my friends and colleagues.
In fact, as a business owner, it was necessary I come out. For better or worse, connecting and networking makes the world go round.
Most of us have experienced the power of networks. There’s the job found through a friend’s sister’s boyfriend. Or the lifelong partner met through a neighbor’s cousin. Or joint venture launched after a 3 martini lunch.
It applies to all of business though.
Networking Is an Investment, Not a Nuisance
Imagine if you could always find what you needed in just 1 or 2 phone calls. If you are well networked, you probably can. By putting in the time to build your network, you save time when you need to get things done. [I’ve seen Greg Swann do this exceptionally well through his Bloodhound Blog, which makes for another good reason to start blogging.]
Well networked people don’t have to waste time firing off random emails to people they don’t know, buying leads or industry lists, or sifting through hundreds of pages of the phone book.
However, it seems that the vast majority of networking advice is aimed at extroverts. “Go to networking mixers and meet new people,” the authorities say. “Make cold calls.” “Speak in front of groups.” “Call people up and chat with them about what’s new.” “Dance in your pajamas.”
Excuse me while I barf in a bag. Isn’t there a better way? [Okay, I was the one who said “Dance in your pajamas”. But it’s still good advice.]
At First, You’ll Stumble Like a Toddler
Someone’s estimated that introverts make up 49 percent of the population. People win elections, set laws, declare victory with percentages lower than that. But guess what? You still have to play by someone else’s rules. And who sets the rules? The Majority. The Extroverts.
That means you still have to get out of bed, put on your shoes [or heels–women only!] and go to places where people gather. Frightening, yeah, I know.
Sometimes you have to start by picking events at random. You spend an hour in a very uncomfortable setting, but you learn what to go to and what to skip. Eventually you find a few people or events that you like.
It may help to recognize that being an introvert is not a disorder, nor is it unusual. Introversion is simply a personality type. And it may be that your shy and timid but STILL a good connector.
We all know people like this. We’ve read about them in The Tipping Point. They are the ones who always know someone who does exactly what you need. And they know it before you even know it. They offer referrals without asking, they arrange lunches, and they love doing it. They are the connectors and they, according to the blog by an introvert for introverts, all have four things in common.
They are self-described introverts. Each one would rather be doing something besides talking to strangers. Somehow they manage to get out and meet people, get to know them, and maintain the relationships.
They are great listeners. Although they are skilled conservationists, it’s mainly because they are such good listeners. Because they understand you and your business, they know just what you need and who you should meet.
They have a plan. They know how many people they need to contact, and they know how often they need to do it. They set aside planning time, create a system, and they put it into their calendar. They don’t leave anything to chance.
They are highly successful. Even though they focus on others, they have all done very well in business, they are highly-respected, and they’re happy. Helping others has its rewards.
As you can see, you can still be shy, you can still cling to your view that ideas are more important than people, you can still rely on your one tumbler of Wild Turkey and Tums BEFORE a cocktail party and still be successful in real estate.
But granted, you still have to play the game, and you still have to play by the rules.
Alternative Networking Tips and Habits for Introverts
Now, many of us have both introverted and extroverted qualities. So you can find alternatives to extroverted networking that can be helpful even if you are not a true introvert.
Over the last 15 years, I’ve made a lot of progress. Here’s what I’ve learned about networking as an introvert.
1. Don’t spend too much time on it.
If you wear yourself out, you won’t ever want to do it. Accept your limitations and just do 1 or 2 events a month. It takes a long time to build these relationships.
2. Invite people to lunch.
Or invite them to coffee or for a beer after work. If you meet a fellow introvert, he is unlikely to do the inviting, so you have to do it. Go figure.
3. Go regularly to things you like.
Years ago my business partner Scott Wood started attending a local Chamber of Commerce. He didn’t know a soul. It was very awkward for him. But he was learning a lot. It took about 3 months before anyone even recognized him and said “hi.” You just have to keep showing up, month after month.
4. Analyze your results.
Introverts are intuitive and analytical. Use that skill. What is working? What isn’t? Where do you get the most bang for your buck?
5. Find the key players in the network.
Don’t find a marketing person, find someone who knows lots of marketing people and then invite that person to lunch. Of course, this takes a long time because it is hard to find the right person.
6. Attend events with a friend.
When planning to attend a networking meeting or social event where you hope to mingle with prospective clients, invite a friend or colleague to go with you. And agree that you will help each other to meet new people.
7. Seek out structure.
I abhor mixers but enjoy meeting people in more structured environments like workshops. You may find that it’s easier to talk about yourself when there is a specific time allotted for just that purpose.
8. Avoid the crowds.
Mingling at events is not an environment where I do my best. Instead of trying to meet people in group settings, do your networking one-on-one. Arrange to meet with people for coffee or lunch to get to know them better.
9. Prepare what to say.
Whether you are attending an event or placing a follow-up call, most introverts find it helpful to plan out in advance what they want to talk about. I know I do. This type of preparation gives you time to reflect on what you wish to express and explore the best way to say it.
10. Write instead of call.
It’s true that it’s usually more effective to contact prospective clients by phone than by email or letter. But if calling makes you uncomfortable enough that you tend to simply avoid it, go ahead and write instead. Besides, its easier to call someone when you’ve got your foot in the door via an email or letter. “Hi, I was wondering if you got my email?”
11. Promote by publishing.
The focused, reflective nature of many introverts makes them excellent writers. Writing and publishing articles, a blog, reports and studies, or even a book can attract many prospective clients and boost your credibility.
When clients come to you already acquainted with your work instead of you approaching them as a stranger, marketing conversations become more relaxed and intimate–just what most introverts like.
According to C J Hayden, there’s one area of marketing at which introverts often shine. While extroverts typically enjoy meeting new people and find it relatively effortless to fill their marketing pipeline, they don’t always do well at following up with the people they meet. Introverts, on the other hand, frequently excel at building strong relationships over time.
If you focus your marketing on staying in touch with people and getting to know them better instead of continually trying to seek out new contacts, you may find that your introverted style of marketing works better than what the extroverts are doing after all.
What do you think? Are you an introvert and do you have any tips I haven’t mentioned and would like to share? Go ahead and leave a comment.
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