9.27.2013

How Introverts Network

http://cdn.memegenerator.net/instances/400x/37471719.jpgBecoming a principal at my firm has meant taking on more business development responsibilities.  Being an introvert, I'm not a natural schmoozer.  But sales isn't just for the schmoozers.  Extroverts may gravitate to outward-facing roles, but introverts can do networking too. 

Of course, being an INTJ in Myers-Briggs parlance, how I do it may look a little peculiar.  I blame/credit two Dean Witter stockbrokers I interned under when I was 20.  These guys were really skilled socially - natural extroverts and born salespeople - but taught me a bunch of techniques that I've found fit with my shier personality type:

(1) There's no substitute for going out and just meeting folks.  We're wired to remember faces and conversations, and a good joke at a cocktail party may be more useful than a 100-page briefing paper in getting someone to think of you when they're looking for help.  I learned a lot from my two Dean Witter bosses about always hustling to meet people whenever and however they could.

(2) Do your homework.  Being prepared not only helps you come across as more proficient, but it also eases the social anxiety of going into places cold.  This strategy resonated with this introvert, who lives inside his own head more than most.

(3) Keep a log.  My two Dean Witter bosses were paid to know their clients inside and out, so they kept detailed accounts of every single contact they had and every single piece of information they gleaned.  Wife's favorite flower?  Son's birthday?  Upcoming promotion?  Recent honor?  All data points to help strengthen their ties with the people they were trying to serve.  Since our firm implemented a contact management program, I've been practicing this with gusto.  I have no short-term or long-term memory, so these logs represent my storage of all of my interactions with people, thus allaying any anxiety about having to keep it all in my head. 

(4) Be helpful.  My bosses were in business to make money, no question.  But they knew that the way they did that was to have clients, and the way to have clients was to be helpful.  I think they honestly did enjoy serving people, too.  When schmoozing is solely about extracting business from others, it can feel really draining.  But when it's about being helpful to others...well, it's still draining for this introvert, but it can also be invigorating and stimulating.  And to think I learned that from two people in financial services.

(5) There's always home.  Working crowds, being on, flitting from event to event...the extrovert finishes such a day and is invigorated and ready for even more, whereas the introvert is ready for some alone time to recharge.  It's not that I don't enjoy social interactions - far from it.  It's just that a lot of it can leave me tapped out.  I'm reminded that eventually I will get to go home, where I can curl up in bed and stick my nose in a book.

Apologies if this all seems stalkerish or cultish.  Business development poses challenges for natural introverts.  Hopefully, I and others who network like this aren't seen as any less authentic, effective, or value-adding than any other back-slapping, story-telling extrovert. 
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