By Stephanie May
Hello, my name is Stephanie, and I am an introvert! I would like to start off by saying, not all introverts are the same, but we do share many of the same traits. I am very shy by nature, and in some settings, I find it difficult to connect with new people, or walk up to someone I have never met and introduce myself. My past and current jobs have been either sales based, or client focused. I have had to find ways to overcome this obstacle so I can maintain existing business relationship, meet prospective new clients or customers, and build my personal network.
People wrongly assume that introverts don’t like people. This is not true. We thrive off of meaningful, deep conversations where we feel connected to another person. We do not care for small talk, and because of this, typically do not enjoy walking into a large group setting, or event where we don’t know anyone. We like spending time with ourselves. In fact, I think it is the number one requirement for being an introvert. If there was an application, it would read “Must be able to spend prolonged periods of time alone and with your own thoughts”. This is how we recharge and refuel. While extroverts often thrive off the energy of being around others, introverts receive the same feeling from being alone and processing their experiences, or reflecting on an encounter with another person.
So, how does one flourish in a career that demands high levels of social interactions and networking to be successful?
Play to your strengths
Introverts are good listeners. Think about your goal for attending the event, and ask questions relevant to your goal. I like to think of a couple of questions ahead of time, and prepare a few follow up scenario’s. It may sound like a lot of work, but typically I can come up with a few things on my drive to the event. I like to start out with a basic, or surface question, something easy to answer. Then, let the follow up questions lead into deeper conversation. Talking about the weather typically won’t help you achieve your goal in finding out more about a prospective client.
Surface question: “Where are you from?”
Follow up questions:
- If you are familiar with that area, tell them something you love about it, or talk about a connection to that area that may lead to a further discussion.
- If you are unfamiliar, ask them where exactly it is and ask a question about the area. What is a popular nearby attraction, or what is that area known for?
- How long have they lived in the area? If they are a farmer, you can ask about how many generations have been farming there. This question will then typically be a good introduction into more specific conversation about their operation.
Find ways to become involved
Volunteer at an event. This is an excellent way to get to know people, while giving yourself a purpose at an event and a reason to interact. Offer to sit at the registration table at an industry meeting. You will meet everyone by name when they come in and find out what company they are representing. This way, during break, you can specifically seek out the people you would like to talk to, and gain a better handle on who is in the room.
Maintain the relationship
Always follow up. After all your hard work initiating the conversation, you don’t want to lose that person in your network. Once you are back in the office and have had some much-needed quiet time to recharge, make sure you stay in touch with the people you just met. A follow up “nice to meet you” email should be very simple, and often not even require a reply. Try not to have a big ask of a person on the first email, you just want something simple to help them remember you.
- Say hello and that it was a pleasure meeting them, and you hope your paths cross again
- Send them a link to an article or resource that is relevant to a discussion you had
- Send them a link to your company newsletter, or ask if they have a newsletter you can subscribe to in order to stay up to date on their business
Keep in touch long term. In order to keep the relationship, you want to ensure a minimum contact of 1-2 times a year.
- Schedule networking follow ups with people in your calendar as a reminder
- Always keep in mind people that are in your network, and send them information relevant to their business
- Send congratulations on an achievement (personal or professional), or birthday wishes
- If you are travelling to their town, ask for a restaurant recommendation or an activity to do while visiting. You don’t always have to offer to see them while you are there
This week, I challenge my fellow introverts to make a new connection! Use AWN Facebook group to reach out to someone you have never spoken to, comment on a post, or reply to someone’s tweet! Happy networking!