Many executives have discovered that networking is an important business tool, resulting in new customers and continued customer loyalty. To ensure their companies’ success, employees have been taught networking techniques to help maintain strong client relationships. However, managers may have had difficulty in helping their introverted employees become better networkers, since networking is considered a skill more thought to be geared towards extroverted employees. Not true.The idea that networking is for people with outgoing personalities is really false, because introverts have strengths that they can use with strategies that blend well with their personalities.
Laura and Carol work at the same company and have different approaches to interacting with others. Laura has no problem walking into a room full of strangers and having conversations with many people in the course of an evening, while Carol is content to meet just one or two people and to stay put for the whole evening. Because of their different personalities, Laura assumes that she is a great networker because she can interact with several people, and she thinks that Carol is weak in that area because she cannot.
Yet she has to look at Carol’s strengths; one simply networks differently than he other. She has also built relationships where she helps people who also help her. Her clients believe in and trust her.
People need to realize that there are different ways to network; it involves more than just talking to people at a function and collecting cards. At a meeting, while Laura “works the room,” Carol is engrossed in conversation with a new contact, or a colleague. However, when they walk out of the meeting, they both have contacts, referrals, and leads.
The differences in Laura and Carol’s approaches to networking are a result of their different personality traits. Extroverts can get “wound up” and excited after a party or a meeting, and their minds race with new ideas and new possibilities that they cannot wait to put into action. On the other hand, introverts may become exhausted after such events and want to refresh and energize themselves with a solitary walk or “downtime” by themselves so they can assimilate new ideas.
Characteristics of Introverts and Extroverts:
Recharged by being alone
Thoughtful and reflective
May be mistaken as aloof
Speaking means they are ready to act
Need time and space for themselves
Keep thoughts to themselves
Energized by contact with others
Seen as friendly and outgoing
Want to speak anytime
Like to surround themselves with others
Talking is “thinking out loud”
Introverts Can Use Their Best Qualities to Their Advantage in Networking
Many introverts are good networkers because they know how to use their introverted nature to their advantage. For example, Carol is a good listener; she notices details and remembers important facts. Because she lets others do the talking, they think she is a brilliant conservationist. She is also a thoughtful person, always the first to give a compliment, to remember a special event, and, of course, to say thank you. A thoughtful person is a remembered person. Because of these positive traits, people trust Carol and are willing to help her when she needs a favor.
Introverts have to understand their best qualities and learn how to use them to their advantage in networking.
Listening carefully to others is a skill most extroverts need to work on. It comes easier to introverts who naturally absorb and use what they hear. Introverts generally spend more time listening, and less time talking.
One of the best communicators I know is Alice. Every time she meets someone, she mentions something that she remembers about that person from a prior conversation. Not long ago, she and I were meeting about a project when she began the conversation with, “How is your sister Meredith, and her new horse?” I was impressed—not only did she remember my sister’s name but also remembered something that was important to her.
Like Carol, Alice is also one of the best listeners because she remembers details, and uses this skill to network effectively. For example, she remembered a friend of mine who was looking for a new job, and gave me a contact that she thought might be useful for my friend’s job search. Later, when I found out that Alice’s company was going through some though times, I told her about a job opening that I thought would be a perfect for her skills. After I gave her a contact name, she applied for the job, and is now happily employed. I not only received a lovely thank you note, but also a referral for a speaking engagement with her new company. The referral came with detailed information about the person I was to contact as well as useful information on what materials to send.
Alice is someone who epitomizes what I call a good networker—she listens, she takes in all sorts of information, and when the time is right, she will put different people and projects together where she thinks there is a good fit. Like Alice, introverts can take advantage of their listening skills to build sound relationships, which is at the heart of being a good networker.
Caring and Helpful
The strengths of the introvert include depth of concentration, comfort with the world of ideas and thoughts, and a caring and helpful attitude towards others. Introverts may not consider themselves as particularly social people, yet they may have many loyal contacts who would help them out whenever he needed at favor.
Margie is a successful businesswoman because she is one of the best networkers, even though she is a self-proclaimed introvert. Her strength is her helpfulness. One day when an associate needed a certain resource, he called her, and she knew just the right person to call. Within an hour, he had what he needed. Because others know and trust her, they want to refer her and her company, which has resulted in more business. Introverts network well in situations where they can use their skill to help others.
While many introverts cringe at the idea of walking up to a stranger and starting a conversation, their shyness magically disappears when they discuss a topic about which they are passionate. When people can focus on an aspect of their industry or talk about a product that they care about, they will naturally speak with enthusiasm and conviction. An account executive, Richard, said that he became so nervous before meeting with a prospective client, that he even felt nauseated. Yet as soon as he started speaking about his product and its benefits, he felt comfortable and at ease because he was talking about something in which he truly believed. Introverts need a focus and a genuine reason to make a contact.
Make networking work for introverted employees
Remind them to be:
- Prepared and focused
- Good listeners
- Passionate about their work
- Interested in others and what they have to say
- People who others trust
Networking Techniques for the Quiet Networker
Under certain circumstances most people feel shy, reticent, or introverted. Half feel shy all the time, and others 50% of the time. We’ve all felt stuck in the doorway thinking, “Shall I walk into that crowded room or back to my own hotel room?” Yet the one key component of successful networking is visibility.
Networking is about making connections, building relationships, and developing advocates—people who know us and know what we do so that they can become our marketers. Here are some tips on how your employees can put this into action, even when they are feeling introverted:
- Have a goal.
Set goals for opportunities your employees have to expand or nurture their network.
- When attending a networking event, they can set a goal to meet and follow-up with at least two people.
- At a company function, have them set a goal to sit next to someone new. They can think of three questions to the other person about his or her profession, interests, and family.
- Every day, they can send an e-mail to someone they have not contacted recently.
- Once a week, have them call three people just to say “hello.”
- Once a month, they can have lunch with a friend, colleague, or client.
- Take “baby steps.”
Networking goals are easier to attain when they are broken into smaller pieces. For instance, a networking event may intimidate an introvert, so it is best to take it step-by-step. When they meet someone new, they can start with a hello and a smile, then establish eye contact and repeat the person’s name. Next, they should ask an open-ended question and listen to the person’s response. When they see that they have made a connection with someone else through simple conversation, interacting with others will not seem as scary.
- Begin with a compliment.
This is a wonderful way to start a conversation. Quiet people can start conversations by saying something complimentary about others. They could compliment a client on a product innovation, promotion, or positive company developments that they read about in a trade publication. Starting a dialogue in this way is easy, and everyone likes to get a compliment.
- Use a “script.”
If calling to follow up with a new contact makes your employees a bit nervous, developing a short script is helpful for developing confidence. First they can write down key points and rehearse them until they can say them naturally. They can also refer to notes about the people they are calling. After they do this a few times, they may be able to get by with just their notes.
They can even develop a type of “script” for meetings and events. Have them create a list of conversation starters or prepare three “small talk” topics—current events, new movies or books, or industry news. Most introverted people are well prepared and thorough, so your employees can use this characteristic to their advantage in planning for networking encounters.
Networking is about creating long lasting relationships that are mutually beneficial. It is important to remember that everybody can do it, and there is no one “correct way” to network. By encouraging your introverted staff to build upon their strengths, they will become effective networkers, and they can develop and follow a process that fits their personality and comfort level which will lead to success.
Here is something that introverts can post on their bulletin boards as a constant reminder:
P – Create a Plan that fits your Personality
O – Do it in an Organized fashion
S – Stick to your own System
T – Remember it takes Time to build relationships