September 28, 2021 | 6-minute read (1151 words)
Whether your business is in its incipient stage or preparing for an IPO, you will undoubtedly be required to continue to network, give presentations and market your company. That may be simple for some individuals, but it can be difficult for introverts who don’t enjoy the limelight.
Beth Buelow, a professional coach and author of “The Introvert Entrepreneur,” provides expert advice on how introverts can enhance their presenting, sales and networking skills in the Q-and-A below.
How do you know if you’re an introvert?
Buelow: Ask yourself how you acquire energy. Introverts gain energy from isolation and low-stimulation situations; extroverts glean energy from intense social engagements or high-stimulation environments. Introverts enjoy social interactions like hanging out with a few friends, going to a concert or performance, volunteering for a cause they care about or even working with a fantastic team at their job. But such encounters frequently demand all of our energy, and when we're done, we're done! We need to "retreat to recharge" so that we can do it again when the time comes to be sociable. When we are fatigued, our natural tendency is to seek isolation.
On the other hand, an extrovert will get energy from social activities but drain energy if left alone for too long. But this is on a continuum; we all have both types of energy. Introverts still want social interaction, and extroverts require downtime. The essential thing is to recognize your dominant energy as much as possible.
You could be an introvert if you're shy, but that's not always the case. Shyness is a type of social anxiety distinct from introversion. However, most people who describe themselves as shy also describe themselves as introverts. How would a shy extrovert appear? They may have a close circle of friends on whom they rely and see regularly but seem reluctant to broaden their circle or engage in social situations with lots of strangers.
Introverts are also internal processors, meaning they think before they speak and only speak after an idea has completely developed. Extroverts are often verbal processors who identify with the phrase "I don't know what I think until I speak it."
How can introverts refine their sales pitches without getting drained?
Buelow: The first step is to understand that you'll be using a lot of outer energy during your presentation. Make efforts to recover and save your energy before you go. If you can, avoid scheduling anything else that day, or at the very least, keep the daylight. Prepare ahead of time so you aren't up until 2:00 a.m. putting the finishing touches on your presentation. Get a good night's sleep and allow enough time to enter the room feeling calm, cool and collected.
Because introverts tend to live in their thoughts, you must not just think through the pitch in your head. It's crucial to practice aloud. It doesn't matter if you're alone or if your audience consists of a few colleagues or acquaintances. You'll hear phrases that might be made more potent when they're spoken aloud rather than merely read or thought. Allot time for a calm run-through once or twice a day for a few days leading up to the pitch meeting.
Take time to practice your imagery skills in addition to your spoken skills. From waking up, eating breakfast, getting dressed, driving to the meeting, putting up your information, shaking the hands of the investors, making your presentation, addressing questions and departure, go through the entire day. It's a mental dress rehearsal that can fool your brain into thinking, "I've already done this, and it went well," on pitch day.
At last, while there's a lot on the line, don't forget to unwind. Breathe. Remember that you're a human being trying to form relationships with other humans. Allow your enthusiasm for your company to shine through.
Do you have suggestions for entrepreneurs who are reluctant to put themselves out there to grow their business?
Buelow: It's simpler to put yourself out there if you view it as putting your concept and solution out there, in my experience. Isn't it your obligation to share your service or product with others if it solves a problem or makes someone's life simpler or more enjoyable? That's how I look at it. I'm looking for exposure for my idea, not for myself. I'm not the message; I'm the messenger. It's also helpful to think of networking and marketing as relationship-building rather than sales. If you're under the impression that every interaction is a potential sale, let it go. Consider them a series of opportunities to educate people on what you have to offer. You're learning what people need with each interaction. It's also highly rewarding to direct people to another provider if you can't meet their needs.
If I'm reluctant to put myself out there, it's probably because I'm frightened of getting rejected. And that's true; our proposal will be rejected many times, even by the individuals we think will gain the most from it. We're seeking resonance, and if we don't turn there, we won't discover it. We're effectively establishing a pre-emptive "no" from our potential consumers if we don't show up. For them, we're saying "no"!
Being crystal clear about your target consumer is one of the simplest methods to alleviate the burden of visibility. It's one method to cut through the market noise, and it tends to attract people to you, so you don't have to push as much. You'll still have to show up regularly, but it'll take less effort if you know who you're talking to and how to help them.
Finally, keep in mind that you are not required to appear everywhere. Refrain from succumbing to the "bright glittering object" mentality or suggestions from others that you should be on this or that stage or platform or that you must do this or that. Consider where your target audience congregates, how they prefer to interact and how you might appear most consistently and compellingly. Instead of attempting to have a half-baked presence everywhere, focus on showing up entirely in a few areas.
Can introverts change?
Buelow: I don't consider introversion to be a flaw or a disadvantage. It's a characteristic you can choose to acknowledge, embrace and honor. Introverted personalities can be beneficial: We think through initiatives and factor in contingencies because we prefer introspection. We're usually good listeners with a healthy sense of curiosity. We can operate independently and have no desire to be in the spotlight. And when we're in the limelight, we're more likely to be collaborative leaders who prioritize the organization and team over our own ego. We may learn to deal with our introversion by understanding our talents and how they manifest in our job and relationships. Acceptance of our energy allows us to share our preferences with others, allowing them to collaborate rather than compete with us.