A common assumption is that a “people person” is the best type of networker. But this isn’t necessarily true. Actually, the only people who can’t profit from networking or referral marketing are those who don’t like people at all. But these are people who are not likely to be entrepreneurs or involved in sales of some kind in the first place. Most of them will be in careers that allow them to work alone in a back room where they don’t have to come in contact with people. They’re not going to be out there drumming up business.
Most people who have started their own businesses and who depend directly on others buying their products or services have at least a certain comfort level in dealing with people. They may not be outgoing or gregarious, but they can form meaningful relationships and communicate their ideas. A lot of people are like that, and for them, referral marketing is the best way to build their business, because referral marketing is marketing through relationships.
Often, introverts literally eliminate themselves from networking and relationship-building because they aren’t good at initializing conversations in the first place. This is unfortunate…because they are better at the part that is more important to the relationship process!
Networking is truly a two-part process. First, you have to meet someone new, and be prepared to share information about yourself which will be of interest to the person you have just met, whether for the person him or herself, or for someone in the network of the person you have just met. The extrovert may be better at the first part of the process—meeting someone new. But, the introvert is better at the second part—listening to the person he or she just met.
Yes, it’s true! The type of networking I recommend can actually be easier for the introvert than for the extrovert. If this doesn’t make sense to you, think about it this way: Networking is about building relationships. Extroverts love talking about themselves. Introverts are better at asking questions.
It’s important to point out here that even introverts (or should we say especially introverts) have relationships. There is a vital different in the ways the extrovert and introvert build relationships: The extrovert wants to talk about himself, while the introvert wants other people to talk. However, the latter is perfect when it comes to building relationships. A good networker has two ears and one mouth…and uses each proportionally. A good networker asks questions and gets to know the other person. And once you know the other person, it is so much easier to formulate a solution (that you can provide) to solve a problem, or ease a concern.
So if you’re introverted, stop using that as an excuse not to network. Introverts who understand this concept are more naturally adept than extroverts at the art of networking, because they are comfortable listening to other people. In turn, this helps them make true long-term connections with others.
Over many years of teaching people the art of networking, I’ve learned that there are many techniques that can be used to make the process easier—especially for those who are a bit introverted. For example, if you feel uncomfortable walking up to total strangers at a chamber business mixer, you can volunteer to be an ambassador for that group. In this role, you are in effect a host for the chamber, which makes it easier and more natural for you to greet people and say, “Welcome to our event. My name is [Ivan Misner]. I’m an ambassador for the chamber. . . .” Before you know it, the ice is broken, and you’re engaged in conversation!
Many opportunities to learn the art of network abound, and often in places you may not have considered. Do you do volunteer work for a cause about which you feel passionate, or for your church? These are great opportunities for meeting new people—many of whom could be future clients! Your services will always be needed for organizing committees, recruiting other volunteers (on the phone or in person), or soliciting donations for your group’s worthy cause.
Other people have become great networkers by joining a parent-teacher association—where there are certainly many opportunities to speak on behalf of the children—or perhaps coaching in a children’s sports league, working on a fundraiser, or even coordinating or speaking at a political event for a local or national aspiring candidate. (Once you have presented the platform of a political candidate to a group of voters that you have the power to sway to your guy or gal with your words, you can certainly present yourself in an equally-engaging style!)
Networking is a skill set that can be learned—no matter your level of gregariousness. If you remain ill-at-ease in environments where you have to mix and mingle or meet new people, we recommend that you take advantage of some of the many training seminars and workshops that teach you how to network effectively. You’ll find that when you learn ways to handle these situations, you’ll become more relaxed and confident in a networking setting.
Called the father of modern networking by CNN, Dr. Ivan Misner is a New York Times bestselling author. He is the Founder and Chairman of BNI (www.bni.com), the world’s largest business networking organization. His latest book, Truth or Delusion can be viewed at www.TruthorDelusion.com. Dr. Misner is also the Sr. Partner for the Referral Institute, an international referral training company (www.referralinstitute.com). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org