It’s hard to deny the power of effective networking for entrepreneurs. Getting face time with the right people—from potential customers to investors to suppliers—can greatly contribute to the success of any business.
But contrary to popular belief, not all entrepreneurs are social butterflies. For many, the idea of working a room can provoke feelings of dread and unease. In Networking for People Who Hate Networking, author Devora Zack shares three tips to help those who hate glad-handing make the right business connections.
1. Take your time
It’s rare to find introverts cheerfully initiating conversation with strangers at business functions. While introverts may not excel at small talk, they tend to be good listeners and planners. This tendency of thinking before talking—instead of talking through a thought process—can be very effective in sparking a connection with a new acquaintance, Zack says. You don’t have to swap anecdotes at a rapid-fire pace to make a lasting impression. When asked a question, don’t feel badly about pausing for a moment. By taking some time to think through your answer, you’ll be able to respond with clarity and precision.
2. Self-promotion isn’t the only way to make an impression
It’s often said that the best way to make a splash at a business event is to “sell” yourself by freely sharing details about your skills and accomplishments. While some extroverts exhibit self-promotion in abundance, most introverts are better served by taking a different approach, according to Zack. If you’re an introvert, your natural predisposition to watch and gather data means you’re able to really listen to what your chatty new contacts have to say. Zack advises that you use this sharp focus and attention to detail to ask thoughtful, open-ended questions that demonstrate your interest in the person you’re speaking with. “Reflect on a time you met someone and walked away with a positive impression,” she writes. “Most likely, she demonstrated an interest in you.”
3. Replace quantity with quality
Extroverts thrive on social interaction; by contrast, introverts draw energy from downtime. At a conference or on a business trip, an extrovert will fill every spare moment with networking; the same approach would leave an introvert exhausted and frustrated. Zack’s recommendation is for introverts to adopt a “less is more” approach by spending a concentrated amount of time with a few select people. Because introverts tend to crave depth over superficiality—and because they look to build solid, compact networks of reliable contacts—it’s far more effective to have a meaningful conversation with one individual than it is to collect 20 business cards.