How to grow a business if you’re an introvert

You might think that an introvert is a person who is shy, but that’s not always true. I’m an introvert and I actually enjoy doing presentations and networking.

Yes, I’m a bit weird.

Lately I’ve been surprised by the people who’ve told me they are introverts. Some appear to have total confidence when delivering presentations, but will admit they can only do it if they are well prepared and talking about a subject they know well. Often us introverts have learned techniques to enable us to thrive in places where you’d expect to find only extroverts.

According to The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®) assessment, introverts are motivated internally, getting their energy from within themselves rather than from being in a crowd. We are thinkers, brainstormers and problem solvers.  We often prefer one-to-one conversation over group meetings. And we also tend to need  quiet time to think and reflect.

These traits can make it difficult for us to meet people, make connections and network. All of these are important when building a business because relationships are essential for getting customers, making sales, getting to know with people who can connect you with new customers, plus finding the best experts and suppliers.

So here are a few things you can do to meet more people if you’re an introvert:

  • Set yourself a goal

Set a goal to meet one new person each day. It may be online, via a social networking site, or it can be when you’re out and about. Keep business cards with you, get into a conversation and learn more about the person you’re speaking to. This one-to-0ne approach is less daunting than tackling a group of people all at once. The more people you know, the more opportunities you’re exposed to. Every new connection adds up.

  • Build connections

As you begin meeting people, start asking those you connect with who they know. You can turn five connections into twenty-five if each person you meet introduces you to five new people. Decide the kind of people you need to meet so you’re ready with a question like “Do you know anyone who needs a proofreader?”

  • Set time aside to recharge and refresh

This is particularly important if you’re taking time to get out and meet new people.  It’s easy to become overwhelmed and burned out when you neglect the downtime you need as an introvert.

Let’s face it, if you’ve got small children you’re probably pretty tired even before you start work.

  • Get outside your comfort zone (just a bit)

I like to challenge myself to do things that make me a little nervous. It gives me a real sense of achievement when I succeed and boosts my motivation for tackling the next challenge. But there’s no need to go so far outside your comfort zone that you give yourself a panic attack! (Yes, I actually did this once. It wasn’t pretty.)

  • Network both online and offline

I’ve found social media incredibly useful for breaking the ice before I meet someone in person. If there’s someone I particularly want to talk to at an event, I exchange a few tweets on Twitter with them first. That means I don’t have to introduce myself to them as a complete stranger when we meet, instead I’m ‘Helen from Twitter’. If it’s an event where we are all wearing name badges, they will often recognise me before I even speak. Having a good clear picture of yourself on your Twitter profile is very helpful here, too.

Follow up afterwards too, so you keep building that relationship for the next time you meet.

  • Don’t believe what they say

The entrepreneurs we read about and see on TV  are usually highly extrovert characters that don’t suffer fools gladly. As a thoughtful introvert it’s easy to feel that you’re not cut out for a life in business. You may also still be affected by things people said about you in the past, for example my teachers regularly told me that I wasn’t very confident. Actually, I was quite confident in my own abilities and opinions, I just didn’t feel comfortable as the centre of attention in a noisy classroom. But being told I lacked confidence eventually did knock my confidence.

It takes all kinds of people to make the world go around. You have every bit as much talent as the extroverts out there and absolutely can succeed in business if you want to.

Introverts have a spectacular ability to brainstorm, problem solve, innovate and build a business. Yet the ability to meet new people and build relationships can be a challenge. Appeal to your ability to connect with people one-to-one and start meeting more people in a way that feels right for you. There’s no need to force yourself into a public speaking situation or into a large-scale networking group. Work to your strengths, challenge yourself a little and don’t forget to take some time out to recuperate.

Have you taken a Myers Briggs Assessment? I’m an INTJ, how about you? Leave me a comment and tell me…

13 Replies to “How to grow a business if you’re an introvert”

  1. Last time I did one of those tests I was INTP – a thinker and brainstormer. That actually sums me up quite well! I have been told I am odd in the fact that one to one meetings scare me more than standing infront of a crowd and talking about something I’m passionate about. Networking – well I don’t unless I am dragged out lol
    Some great tips here – particularly the recharge tip and just step out of your comfirt zone too.

    1. Thanks Jan! I completely understand feeling happier about talking to a crowd than one-to-one because I’m the same. It took me a three-year coach training course and various attempts at one-to-one coaching and consulting to make me realise that I’m much happier working with groups than I am one-to-one! I think it’s because it’s more fun to share information with lots of people and get them all interacting, I can control the subject and stay on track and also because groups are less intimate than one-to-one. Networking is fine because (to my strange brain anyway…) it’s like doing a presentation but speaking to people one after another, rather than all at the same time.

  2. I am a ISFJ 🙂 A big 75% feelings which but now working out if that is a good thing!!! Though very true as I was subscribed to your newsletter with 2 emails so when I unsubscribed from one of them to save be getting duplicates I did have to explain in the why you left box why I unsubscribed!!! Yep that was me!

    Think the first time I commented on this blog though read it regularly so there one for the ‘I’ 🙂

    1. I know what you mean about working out if your Myers Briggs results are a good thing or not! When I found out mine I had a huge “Oh my God, that’s me!” feeling followed by “Oh my God I’ve wasted so much of my time on stuff I’m no good at!” so now I’m trying to build up my strengths and stop flogging away at my weak points. 🙂

      No worries about the newsletter, I’m just happy to have a happy reader. 🙂

  3. I’m an ENFJ and some of my favourite entrepreneurs and speakers are introverts and valued friends too. An introvert can be a great communicator, confident and sociable too – they just know they need alone time to recharge and do their best thinking.

    Your strengths are the things that strengthen you, and when you know and operate from that place of strength is when life and work is at its most energising and rewarding.

  4. Thanks Grace, I agree that the most rewarding place to be is where you operate from your strengths. The older I get, the clearer my strengths become to me and the harder it is to do things I’m not so good at. And that’s actually a good thing.

  5. I don’t think I’ve done one of these tests before (or maybe I did back in the mists of pre-children time when I worked in an office with other people there, but I don’t remember!!), but I’m probably more of an introvert than an extrovert, although forcing myself to do networking over the last two years has brought me out of myself a bit more! I don’t think I’d want to be one of those brash, over-confident, in your face types anyway. I do prefer to chat one to one or in small groups, so this was a lovely article to read, thanks Helen.

  6. I am an ESTJ according to the results of a test I have just taken – scarily this is so accurate based on the job I did before giving up work last September.

    Not sure how it matches to life now – my plans for the future seem to be so unrelated to this profile. Hey ho lets see how we go!

    1. Jo, you may find you ‘lose yourself’ a little after leaving work and having a baby. I certainly wondered if I was a different person for a few years after my kids arrived. But once things settle down I’m sure you’ll find you’re the same person underneath. With different priorities, but basically the same ‘you’ as you were before.

  7. I just found my old report and i’m an ISTP. I really loved reading your post and it certainly ringed true for me in a number of ways. That said I have always disliked giving presentations and I do have a tendency to avoid networking as I feel intimated by large groups. I much prefer meeting one to one and I definately find that social media helps introverts enormously! Thanks for all the tips too.

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