NOTE: This blog is longer than what I normally post, but I have a special guest writer who collaborated with me on it. My best friend, Reina Slutske, is a great blogger (read her blog here) and dynamo networker. She and I teamed up to write some great networking tips for both extroverts and introverts! Enjoy!
A TALE OF TWO NETWORKERS: AN EXTROVERT AND INTROVERT SHARE THEIR TIPS
Once upon a time, back in 2003, two girls met each other at a college dinner. They were complete opposites: One a very tall, in-your-face extrovert, and the other a quiet, short yet mighty introvert. In less than a year, they became inseparable best friends, and were ever since no matter what happened in their lives, ranging from divorce and moving to hospital visits and heartbreaks.
In the years since, these two friends became professional women with strong businesses. The introvert is a powerful graphic designer and the extrovert a strong content creator and developer. Although their personalities are not the exact same, they both do have something in common: They both have to network to obtain and retain their client lists, and are both able to work rooms efficiently.
Together, the best friends have come up with some of their best tips for people who are in their shoes. Whether you’re an extrovert who walks into the room with a bang or someone who may need some time to warm up, here are some of our best tips to get you going.
FOR THE EXTROVERT
Tip One: Always carry your business cards
As an extrovert, you can make friends almost anywhere, from grabbing coffee and gabbing with the person next to you to birthday parties and nights on the town. You are a little adventurer, doing plenty of social things with a variety of strangers comfortably, charming them with your gift of gab. Therefore, it’s only natural that you should be carrying your business cards everywhere, as you never know who you’ll meet even while you’re out and about, not just at networking events. Don’t have one? Make one before you grab that next cup of coffee.
Tip Two: Be nice to everyone
My grandmother always said, “Always look your best. You never know when you’re going to meet your next husband.” Although you’re not networking to date, follow her example in making everyone feel welcome and coming off like a star. Be courteous, friendly, polite to all, from the janitor to the CEO, and make them feel welcome. It’s not only because it’s the right thing to do but also because it’s the smart thing. You never know if that CEO is going to get bumped out of his company tomorrow, and that janitor might be on his way up the corporate ladder. Either way, you want to leave the right impression.
Tip Three: Listen!
Yes, you little gabber, you are fabulous and it might be easy for you to work a room and charm people to death with your wonderful, assertive personality. But your goal in networking is trying to connect, and therefore you need to shut your mouth and begin listening to whoever you’re talking to. A great listener is one of the most powerful people in the room, as people love to talk about themselves and feel good when someone is lending an ear. It also builds a strong connection automatically with a very minimal amount of effort. Just listen actively — ask questions, remain curious, be interested in what they’re saying.
Tip Four: Keep an elevator pitch handy
With our boundless energy and outgoing nature, it’s easy to come off as overwhelming, particularly when we’re talking someone’s ear off at a party. We can also dominate the conversation and say things without thinking them through, which doesn’t come off well. That’s why it more important for us than almost everyone to have a scripted elevator pitch, so we can flow through confidently and are able to restrain ourselves when necessary. If you know your pitch, you will be able to say what you need to say properly and know exactly what you need to say to someone with very limited words. After all, less is more in this scenario.
Tip Five: Be patient!
Extroverts often are aggressive, so networking might be a challenge in that it doesn’t often produce instantaneous results. It might be easy to get impatient and go after what you’re looking for, but this may not always be the best approach in the networking format. Often jobs will take time to create, and you just need to put your little patience cap on. Instead, kick back and let the business come to you. This is not to say don’t follow up — you should, just know that sometimes you need to play it cool to get what you’re looking for.
Tip Six: Maintain your friendships
You have a great social network, extrovert, so use it! The friendships we create with others is something we should all work on them regularly. The people who are across the table at brunch or head out dancing with on a Saturday night are a part of your network, just as much as anyone you mingle with at a mixer. Some of my best jobs in my career have come through my dearest friends who have known me through the years and know what I’m capable of. Like a tree, nurture it and tend to it now, and over time it will bear the most delicious fruit you have ever tasted.
FOR THE INTROVERT
Tip One: Time limits are your friends
Going to an event can be overwhelming for introverts. One of the best methods for overcoming this feeling is to give yourself a time limit, usually about an hour — you can withstand the nervousness of talking to strangers for that long. Check in with yourself after that time. If you’re doing well, stay until it’s over. If not, leave with the confidence that you did great with the limited time you had.
Tip Two: Treat it like a party, but watch what you drink and do
When I started networking, I would get nervous and would talk only about work and deflect questions about my life outside of it. As introverts, walking up to new people to say hello feels incredibly scary, particularly in business situations. Therefore, change your point of view. Treat these events like parties with your friend and your friends’ friends. Spend five minutes talking to someone about non-work related topics, as it helps people get to know you on a more human level. If people are interested in what you do, they will ask for your card. However, remember that every person in that room is a potential client or a potential boss, depending on your situation. It’s easy to keep drinking when you’re nervous, and one drink is fine — just remain aware of your limits. You want to make the best impression possible and it’s hard to do that if you’ve overindulged.
Tip Three: Make a game out of it
Throughout my life as an introvert, this is how I got through every event I’ve ever attended, particularly when I started going to parties and events in college. Making it a game is a great way to engage the other senses and allow yourself to loosen up around others. For an event where you’re not familiar with anyone, make sure you talk to a certain number of people before you leave. For an event where you know some of the people, collect a certain amount of business cards from people you don’t know, and in between doing that, talk to those you know and try to get those people to introduce you to someone you don’t (this is where an extrovert often helps). At the end of the event, tally up how many cards you got, and congratulations! You survived!
Tip Four: What to Say? If all else fails, ask questions
It’s so easy for introverts to listen and so hard to talk, so what do you say in a time like this? If you’re walking up to someone, open with hello or a small compliment. As the conversation continues, make sure to ask questions. Here’s a little secret: People love to talk about themselves. Open-ended questions such as, “What made you decide to____” or “Tell me more about _____” are two great ones. The options are limitless, but just make sure to keep questions work appropriate and be willing to answer some in return. Feeling exceptionally shy? Pretend that you know the person a bit already. If you can convince yourself of that, it’s easier to talk to someone new.
Tip Five: Pitch like a pro
When you talk exclusively business when you meet new people, you can come across as an aggressive salesperson, so you want to avoid going straight to business. However, you do need to know how to do a good thirty second pitch. Have you ever watched professional poker players in a game? Those guys and gals know through the round when to call, when to raise the stakes and when to check and hold back. That’s what a great networker needs to do. Read the body language of those around you and respond accordingly. Know when to sell, when to listen and when it’s more appropriate to just have a straightforward chat.
Tip Six: Follow up!
It seems like such a simple thing, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t do that. Even if you don’t talk business, follow up anyway. People want to do business with people they like and trust, and part of that is allowing someone to get to know you a little bit. Also, if you said you would send them information on a topic, then do it. It’s important to keep true to your word in a timely fashion. Write a follow up message the same day or the next day, even on Saturday or Sunday if need be. It may feel scary or draining to go to a networking event and to talk to someone you don’t know, but following up is easy in comparison. It doesn’t have to be long, whether a phone call or email, and a simple thank you will do. It shows people that you are serious about your business and that you value and appreciate the time they spent talking to you.