I’m an introvert, and for me, networking used to terrify me. Can you relate? One of the first networking events I attended was pretty large (about 200 people). I walked around, got a free drink, but I barely talked to anyone. Most of my time was spent standing awkwardly near the back wall because I couldn’t bring myself to talk to a complete stranger. I left the event feeling like a failure and like I had wasted my time. But in moving to a new city (Charleston, SC) and wanting to grow my business, I knew I needed to figure out how to make this networking thing work for me.
Eighteen months later, I have found my rhythm. I’m much more confident, and networking doesn’t terrify many anymore. Much of the time, I actually kind of like it.
What changed? I’m going to share everything I’ve learned, and what I believe will help you build the confidence you need to start networking for your business. And by the way, most of these tips are not just for introverts…
The Introvert’s Guide to Networking
1. Change your mindset: building friendships rather than making sales
Don’t go into it trying to make a sale – instead, focus on building relationships. The chances of someone buying from you after meeting you once is very slim – first of all, they may not need what you offer at that very moment, and even if they do, you have not built any trust with them yet.
Selling, for introverts, is intimidating because we feel we cannot be genuine. I believe this is why a lot of us hate networking. In fact, I’ve spoken to extroverts who, though they are good at networking, they hate it for the same reason. But the truth is, people can smell a salesman a mile away – the fact that you want to get to know someone, listen to them, and add value to them is what will make you stand out.
So take that pressure off of yourself to sell. Instead, focus on making strong business friendships. Networking is not a short-term, it is a long-term play. These business relationships will pay off in the long run.
2. Focus on smaller networking groups
Look into local referral groups like BNI. These groups are small and often give everyone at the table a turn to speak. You will have a chance to give a short elevator pitch, rather than having to approach someone in a large group.
3. Prepare an elevator speech
So that you’ll be more confident, prepare an elevator pitch ahead of time. Have a one-liner version for those quick interactions when people ask what you do. And have a 30-60 second version for sharing in these referral groups.
If you need help writing one, be sure and check out our easy Elevator Pitch Template.
4. Ask for the other person’s business card
Get in the habbit of asking people you meet for their business card. Follow up is important, so you want to be sure that you have their contact info. Having their business card can help you to remember names. Also, when you ask for the person’s card, they often will ask for yours.
5. ALWAYS have business cards on hand
I know some people think business cards are becoming obsolete, but I strongly disagree. The other person may very well throw away your card, but if they are someone who needs your services, you need to give them an easy way to get back in contact with you.
If you need a business card designed for your business, please get in contact with us here at One Nine Pro, and we’d be happy to help!
6. Set up 1-on-1’s
Many of us introverts get overwhelmed in the larger group, but we thrive in a one-on-one setting. In truth, even if you’re an extrovert, it’s hard to make meaningful connections in the larger networking events.
This is where you start to make more than business connections – you make friends. In these settings, I challenge you to not lead the conversation by talking about yourself. Be genuinely interested in the other person. Ask them more about what they do, and see how you can add value to them. In most cases, the other person will eventually ask you about what you do, and you’ll get a chance to share.
7. Follow up by email
With each person you meet, send them a follow-up email telling them it was nice to meet them, and that you’d love to sit down and learn more about their business. This is where you schedule the 1-on-1.
You may not be very comfortable speaking, but if you’re like me, you’re great at communicating through writing. Even if you barely got to speak with someone in person, you can send an email to get a chance to speak with them one-on-one.
8. Reconnect with those who you already know
After you’ve gotten out there and built some relationships, you may start to see some of the same faces. It’s just as important to foster relationships you’ve already made – these people might refer business to you in future. If you’re in a larger networking event – find people you already know and join in their conversation. Chances are they will introduce you to the person they are talking with.
9. Start with small, bite-sized goals
If you work up the confidence to go to a large networking event – make it a goal to talk to just 1 new person you haven’t met.
Here’s how you can approach this: there will be other people in the same position as you who are also uncomfortable with networking – look along the wall for someone else who is not talking to anyone and engage with them. Then go through the rest of this process: get their business card, follow up by email, and set up a meeting.
I encourage you to be willing to meet with anyone at least once even if you see no correlation between your businesses. You never know what could come of that relationship.
10. Know your limits
Again, if you know you get overwhelmed by large groups, it’s ok to avoid these because there are enough smaller groups out there, and you want to achieve a few “wins” in order to build your confidence. Don’t schedule more than you can handle. Also be mindful of the time of day of the networking events – if it’s at 2:00 pm and you know you’re going to be feeling that afternoon slump, maybe it’s not the best time for you to network.
I hope you found these networking tips helpful! Do you have any other networking tips that have helped you? Please share by leaving a comment.