Being an introvert in a sales-driven industry can be intimidating, but armed with the right tools, even the most soft-spoken and reserved person can make an impact.
The good news is, as an introvert, you’re probably in the minority. It’s likely that you’ll be surrounded by others who enjoy talking, but don’t let yourself get lost in the crowd! Before attending an event, consider the types of people you’ll meet and come up with a stock of questions. If you know you’ll be meeting people in an industry you don’t understand well, ask a friend in that industry to share some key points with you, or do some research online so you’ll feel comfortable contributing to the conversation and asking questions.
Most people love nothing more than talking about themselves. By treating each encounter like an interview, you’ll get them talking. Be sure to avoid close-ended questions. Instead of, “What do you do for a living?” try “How do you spend most of your time?” This opens a door for passionate discussion of hobbies and interests.
If you pay attention, you’ll notice that people usually give hints as to where they’d like the conversation to go. Use their clues as a guide. If they mention they spent time at the lake last weekend, ask which lake, how often they go, and what activities they like to do at the lake. If they speak about moving their family to an area with better schools, ask about their children and what they like to study or what exactly appeals to them about the schools they’d like to be closer to.
Shine the Spotlight on Others
When talking to two or more people, use the opportunity to highlight the talents of those around you. Tell Speaker A something you’ve just learned about Speaker B. Or ask one to share a story they’ve told you with the others. Better yet, find common ground between your two acquaintances and get them talking.
Rate the Likelihood of Connecting
Dorie Clark of Harvard Business Review writes, “Every networking event should be subjected to a cost-benefit analysis: if you weren’t here, what would you be doing, instead?” If the risk of making a connection seems low, is there something else you could be doing with your time to help grow your business in another way. Be careful and be honest with yourself – it’s easy to make excuses when networking events aren’t your forte!
Schedule Your Own Events
If you’re uncomfortable in large crowds and noisy events, but feel at ease at smaller gatherings, create an environment that works for you! Create a dinner party “interest group” or a monthly “marketing breakfast” with colleagues and make networking work for you.