If you want to grow your business, land new projects, meet new clients or promote your services, you must never stop networking. You must never stop putting yourself out there, whether online or offline. But, what if approaching people whom you don’t know terrifies you? What if the prospect of talking face to face with a potential customer is so bad that it makes you sick?
Unfortunately, even if you’re the world’s biggest introvert, you still need to work up the courage to connect with people and to build a strong support community. You need people to give you useful feedback and advice, as well as strong mentorship and valuable sponsorship. Here are some ways that you can effectively network, whether or not you are an introvert.
Go for Personality Types You’re Actually Comfortable With
Before you agree to a meeting, it will be helpful first to get to know the other person over the phone or even through email. This way, there’ll be no surprises when you do meet face to face. You can even decide if this is someone with whom you think you can work or someone who will cause you unnecessary stress.
Take Baby Steps
You don’t need to attend a big networking event right away. Start small, and don’t overwhelm yourself. For introverts, it’s best to focus on quality, not quantity. A meeting a week with a big client certainly sounds more doable than five meetings a week with smaller clients. Meet with a client that you know you will have a long-standing relationship with and will provide repeat business. Take only what you can handle, and you’ll get the hang of it in no time.
Think positive, and always hope for the best. Don’t expect everything to go perfectly. When you have to pitch to a client, watch out for your body language. Don’t be too uptight. Relax, and try not to be stiff or too serious.
Remain professional, but don’t feel too anxious to leave. Don’t sound like you’re in a hurry to go or even bored and uninterested. Make eye contact. Not only is it a sign that you’re listening and paying attention, but it’s also a sign of respect.
Plan Your Meetings in Advance
You definitely don’t want to beat around the bush nor linger there waiting for the meeting to start. Prepare a few conversation starters that sound natural for you and that will also make your client feel comfortable. Think of what they might ask you and prepare your answers in advance. This will save you time, and you can be on your way home sooner than expected.
Make Use of Technology
There are online tools that you can use that don’t require face-to-face interaction. The great thing about social media is that you can put your work out there and people will just get in touch with you using the mode of communication that you prefer. LinkedIn, for example, is a good platform for you to present your portfolio and share your credentials. Clients can interview through Skype, which lessens the pressure on your part.