Let me begin by stating a simple truth: you are not alone. Although, I’m sure sometimes you feel like you are.
Even among other people crazy enough to have started their own businesses, you still don’t really feel like you fit in. Your passion is unquestioned, the product you’ve created is undeniably awesome.
There’s just one problem: you are a networking-event-shunning, personal-space-needing, card-carrying introvert. And in a world where relationship building is the difference between failure and success, your introverted tendencies sometimes feel like an insurmountable barrier to building a successful business.
Thankfully, nothing is further from the truth.
Before you make yourself miserable trying to emulate your extroverted peers, check out these:
Thirty-four proven strategies to help you build your network, create strategic partnerships, and sell your first product, all while keeping your introverted soul intact!
- Create partnerships. Introverts excel at building deep and meaningful relationships. Use this skill to build strong partnerships with individuals or organizations who can support your work by doing things like partnering with you on product launches or sending customers your way.
- Listen to your customers. Incorporate feedback mechanisms into your sales strategy and use your excellent listening skills to get in touch with what customers really want.
- Seek out one on one interactions. Instead of putting all of your energy into attending crowded networking events, seek out opportunities to speak with small groups or follow up with a contact by suggesting some one on one time like grabbing coffee or lunch.
- Identify a market you come from and are comfortable with. Most businesses are launched by entrepreneurs who want to solve a problem that they face in their own life. If this is true of your business, identify all of the things you have in common with your customers and soon you will start to see them as friends and not strangers.
- Start a blog. Introverts love to ponder. We spend about forty percent of our time in the “real world” and about sixty percent in our own head. Use your love of reflection to your advantage and share some thoughts on your industry via the blogosphere.
- Choose structured meetings where they play networking games. When networking, choose workshops and other conferences where you can interact with others in a structured, facilitated way via icebreakers and activities.
- Volunteer to help out at networking events. Volunteering at networking events gives you a reason to be social. Pick events that are relevant to your business niche and prepare to connect with a bunch of awesome folks just by working the registration table.
- Think about your communication style and shape interactions around that. If you like to talk on the phone, consider putting together an interactive webinar for customers interested in your product. If you’re better at writing than speaking, lean on written communications like your newsletter, website copy, or welcome emails to communicate the value of your product or service.
- Turn the conversation around to focus on the other person when networking. The easiest way to make a stranger a friend is to get them talking about themselves. Not only is this a no-pressure conversation starter, but you get the added bonus of covert marketing research if your new friend also happens to be your target customer!
- Take time to recharge. Build some “me time” into your daily schedule.
- Set goals around connecting with people. Many extroverts will laugh at this bullet point because they are constantly connecting with others. Introverts need a little more planning and prodding. Setting goals is a great way to keep yourself accountable for building and maintaining relationships.
- Create loyalty programs and testimonials. If the thought of “sales and marketing” makes you a little queasy, find ways to encourage other people to sell your product for you. Make sure you’re capturing testimonials of satisfied customers and that you’ve got systems in place (ex. customer loyalty programs) that capture all of the word-of-mouth you’re awesome product is generating!
- Hire an intern and delegate appropriate marketing and sales tasks.
- Create a strong personal brand. Incorporate your personal values into your business. This allows you to…
- Coordinate your personal and professional life. Both your personal and professional life will require your attention and emotional energy, so it’s important that you don’t schedule a product launch, birthday party, and networking event the same week as your family reunion.
- Join relevant groups. Whether online (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn) or off, joining groups relevant to your industry allows you to talk about things that you are passionate about – something introverts love to do!
- Be social in small, intimate ways. Do something special for a client on their birthday. Comment on a change in profile pictures of someone you interact with often on Twitter. Making a big deal out of the little things will set you apart from your competition.
- Pay it forward. When you’re connecting with potential customer, make it about them and not you. Shifting the focus away from yourself will help you focus on the result of the interaction (helping make someone’s life better) and not the interaction itself.
- Overlook the many to speak to the one. Don’t think of your customers as one big homogeneous group. Think about your one perfect customer. Give her a name. Write a narrative about what her day is like and what she cares about. When it comes to relationships, introverts are great at cultivating on quality over quantity and this will help you when coming up with a profile of your ideal customer.
- Find an extroverted “wingman” (i.e. go with a friend) when networking, who will challenge you to step outside your comfort zone by introducing you around the room.
- Avoid avoidance by creating a structured itinerary every time you need to interact with a group. This could mean having your elevator pitch memorized, setting certain goals for yourself in advance, or anything else that brings a bit of structure into a socially taxing event.
- Make your own hours. One of the best parts of being an entrepreneur is being able to work when and where is best for you. For introverts this means working when and where you won’t be disturbed.
- Write a thank you note after each encounter. Expressing gratitude allows you to build more meaningful relationships with each individual customer.
- Take time to work in silence at planned times during the day.
- Take frequent breaks to work on projects that recharge you. If you have a huge product launch coming up and know that it will require a lot of social interaction, make sure to build in time for projects that allow you research, reflection, and alone time.
- Be vulnerable. Practice vulnerability.
- Reflect on past success. Introverts are known to be a self-reflective bunch. Put your contemplative tendencies to good use by reflecting on your past successes anytime you are about to tackle a new challenge.
- Market from the inside out. Convince (or remind) yourself that you have a valuable product, and you’ll feel confident when pitching to others.
- Ask questions. Capitalize on your love of research, and be ever curious while in a conversation with a potential partner, customer, or supporter.
- Practice your elevator pitch (memorize it if you have to!) so that you are able to break through your unease and explain the value of your product whenever an opportune moment presents itself.
- Find a coach or mentor to help keep you accountable. Introverts thrive in one on one situations so building a relationship with a coach or mentor is a great way to create a support and accountability system as you build your business.
- Schedule meditation or exercise on days that require a lot of interaction.
- Ask for referrals or incentivize current customers to send referrals your way, therefore taking some of the sales burden off your shoulders.
- Embrace your introverted nature! Sure you have a different set of skills and experiences than some of your extroverted peers but by using those things to your advantage, you’ll be able to start building your business and loving every (introverted) minute of it!
About the author: L.C. Coleman is a blogger, coach, and entrepreneur whose lifelong dream is to be the first introverted superhero (Intro-girl?). She is the founding editor of the blog Colored Girl Confidential, a blog that provides career and lifestyle advice for early career women.