how to succeed in business as an introvert
He took me aside during a break and said, “You’re being too quiet. I want to hear you speak up more.” I wanted to punch him in his dumb face. Note to self: how to succeed in business as an introvert does not include punching dumb people in the face, unfortunately.
We were at a work conference; the kind that’s filled with interactive powerpoint presentations and icebreaking “games” and team-building exercises and other vomit-inducing activities.
After he said that to me, I went to the bathroom and cried in frustration. Because by nature, I’m a listener. I need to absorb new information and process it internally before I can formulate an opinion or add useful dialogue. And mandatory conferences that force me into contrived social situations are not the most efficient way for me to learn, build relationships, or contribute to conversations.
If you’re feeling me on this one, I’m betting you’re an introvert. And it can be fucking discouraging to be an introverted business owner because of the preconceived notions our society puts on us about what it means to be an entrepreneur.
Here are some of the reasons I’ve seen floating around about why it’s hard to know how to succeed in business as an introvert:
1. We don’t want to be available to clients 24/7
(because we need time to recharge)
2. We hate talking on the phone
(because TALKING ON THE PHONE IS INHERENTLY TERRIBLE THIS IS AN OBJECTIVE TRUTH OF LIFE)
3. We suck at networking
(because we hate small talk)
4. We’re bad at marketing
(because interacting with other humans is draining)
5. We aren’t confident in our abilities to close the sale
(because we have a hard time verbally communicating the brilliant ideas in our head)
At first glance, it does seem like these perceived weaknesses are going to bring us down when it comes to having a “successful” business. (I put successful in quotes because there is no single definition of success – as entrepreneurs we get to define it ourselves! Cool, right??)
When you think of what it means to be an entrepreneur, you’re probably flooded with society’s stereotypes. Someone who is charismatic, a smooth talker, a people person, born to hustle, has a consistent flow of ideas, and is in a go-go-go mindset LITERALLY ALL THE TIME.
First of all, society is usually wrong about everything, so feel free to toss any societal norm out to the curb from now ’til forever. Secondly, let’s go through each of those stereotypes so I can show you why we’re still invited to the entrepreneurship party – and by the end of this post you’ll realize you get to decide how to succeed in business as an introvert!
CHARISMA: Um, charisma doesn’t have to mean being the center of attention at a party. It can mean making people feel heard and important in a one-on-one conversation. It can mean being genuinely excited about what you’re working on. It can mean being an expert in your industry and openly sharing your knowledge to help people (with whatever medium you choose).
SMOOTH TALKER: A smooth talker I am not. Ideas always sound great in my head, but when I try to say them out loud I just get sweaty and weird. But guess what? We have the internet! There are a million and two ways to share ideas. It’s why I blog instead of going Live on Facebook; it’s why I tell clients to email me instead of call me. I have valuable information to share, but talking is not the best way for me to share it. Writing is. What’s the best and most fun way for YOU to share your ideas?
A PEOPLE PERSON: Introverts don’t hate other people, and we aren’t shy. We’re just very selective about the people we use our social energy on, because we only have so much social energy in our reserves. But if your business is about people – AKA you serve clients or customers with your service or product – then there’s a pretty good chance you’re a people person. Otherwise you’d be in an industry where you don’t have to interact with people at all.
BORN TO HUSTLE: “Good hustle!” is something we yell at high school sports games. But you know how long high school sports games last? About few hours. Any longer and we’d be witnessing total burnount. Owning a business isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon – take your time. It’s better to make steady progress instead of chase after quick results.
A CONSISTENT FLOW OF IDEAS: Pretty sure you have this gift just as much as any extrovert, because that’s how businesses work. As entrepreneurs we always need to be adapting and evolving because the world is always changing. If you don’t have a consistent flow of ideas, it’s not because you suck at entrepreneurship – it’s just an issue of your brand and messaging not lining up with who you are as a person.
A GO-GO-GO MINDSET ALL THE TIME: Well this one is just dumb. Even high-energy extroverts need to rest once in a while, in whatever way that means to them. Unless they are robots or using cocaine, and you can’t compete with that anyway!
You see where I’m going with this? Just because you don’t work in the stereotypical American Entrepreneur way doesn’t mean you’re not really, really good at this shit. You don’t need to be an extrovert to be successful in your business, you just need to set boundaries and figure out what works for you.
So maybe you don’t go to a networking event (EWW), but instead you decide to be really active, helpful, and engaging in an online business group.
Maybe you don’t want to go to an in-person workshop (EWW), so instead you buy a new business book and spend the afternoon poring over it while you sip your coffee.
Maybe you don’t want to take inquiries by phone (EWW), so instead you make it really obvious on your website that clients can contact you by instant message or email.
Maybe you don’t want to fill your client sessions with small talk (EWW), so instead you come prepared with some deeper, open-ended questions that ignite real conversations.