Build Your Networking Skills: A How-to for Introverts

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Over a decade ago, I began writing about introverts and networking. They’ve become perennial topics—and essential ones at that. Still, when introverts hear the word “networking,” many want to run for cover. Matthew Pollard’s new book, The Introvert’s Edge to Networking: Work the Room, Leverage Social Media, Develop Powerful Connections, provides easy-to-read and hands-on tips and conveys the advantages introverts actually have in this ever-evolving world. He’s here to share a glimpse of that.

NA: What got you to write this book? How does it build on your prior one, The Introvert’s Edge: How the Quiet and Shy Can Outsell Anyone, which we discussed in our prior interview.

MP: I’ve been ecstatic to hear from introverts across the world that my first book helped them overcome their barriers to selling. They’re now closing more leads, and often for a lot more money. While this is exciting, I’m often asked, “How do I get in front of more people and obtain more leads?” This question got me to write the next logical book.

Most introverts struggle to articulate the value they offer in a networking room, even when someone is politely listening. This makes virtual networking challenging for them too. The goal of this book is to show readers how to articulate the value of what they do in a way that stimulates interest and doesn’t feel salesy. The book also shows how to bring that all online, so they never have to go into another networking room again—unless they really want to!

NA: You begin your new book by asserting that introverts make better networkers. What makes you say that?

MP: Just like with sales, when introverts learn a system that allows them to leverage their natural strengths of empathy, understanding, active listening, and preparation, they can run circles around their extroverted counterparts, who typically rely on the gift of gab. Extroverts are great at fostering the early stages of a relationship through their gregariousness and charm, but introverts naturally cultivate much deeper connections. And with the right system, introverts can not only learn how to effectively initiate a dialogue; they know exactly what to say and how to find the right people to share it with.

NA: What do you mean when you encourage introverts to speak to the “right people”? Who are they, and how do you find them?

MP: One of the biggest mistakes people make is going to networking events with the goal of getting hired or making a sale. While you certainly want to be aware of opportunities, there are two other types of people you should focus on. I call them momentum partners and champions, and they’re the ones who can help you achieve success.

When they believe in you, they will promote your work, help you get on podcasts or in publications, introduce you to power players, and give you credibility through their support and endorsements. When you have these people in your corner, the sales and job offers come without much effort at all.

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In our digitally connected world, there are many ways to find the momentum partners and champions that will be at an event. For example, if it’s a Meetup.com program, look at the attendance list and check out their LinkedIn profiles ahead of time. If it’s an ongoing event with an active Facebook page, look at the photos posted to the page and see who attended the previous month. From there, connect with a friendly message beforehand, then seek them out when you get to the virtual networking room.

NA: What’s the difference between momentum partners and champions?

MP: Momentum partners are a small group of connections who willingly open up their Rolodex for you and for whom you do the same.

Champions are an elite group. They’re the high achievers and influencers who really make the world go ’round—the people who can seriously give your career or small business a huge boost. They might be connected with those impossible-to-access individuals. They might have won prestigious awards. Their work might have afforded them a great deal of respect or name recognition. Whatever the case, champions can lend serious credibility to your mission, as well as open doors for you that are normally locked.

NA: You mention that there’s a step that everyone forgets. What is it?

MP: Follow up. So often, people leave networking events with a pile of business cards that end up in a desk drawer, never to be looked at again. Introverts, especially, are uncomfortable with follow up, so they tend not to do it. With the strategic networking process I teach in The Introvert’s Edge to Networking, readers discover not only who to speak to and what to say but also how to end a conversation in a way that follow up is planned and expected.

NA: What other takeaways do you hope readers of your book will gain?

MP: My greatest hope is that introverts will realize that they’re not second-class citizens and that they don’t have to act like extroverts to succeed at networking. There’s a step-by-step process they can follow that will allow them to remain their authentic selves while leading them to powerful connections, both in the room and virtually.

NA: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

MP: It’s time that all introverts banded together to confront the stigma around introversion and the belief that extroverts are better suited to sales, networking, public speaking, and leadership. That’s just not true. With the right system, one that leverages the natural strengths of an introvert, we can leave our extroverted counterparts in the dust.

NA: Thank you for sharing your techniques with my readers. We’re on the same page about the power of introverts’ strengths in the networking arena and the importance of following up. Wishing you continued success with helping more and more introverts find the secrets to building one relationship at a time, without the pushiness one often associates with networking.

Copyright © 2021 Nancy Ancowitz

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