You don't have to be an extrovert to be a successful financial advisor — or a good networker. But for some introverts, networking can feel like an unpleasant exercise in selling themselves. Many would rather avoid the process altogether than have to engage in small talk and not-so-subtle attempts to gain favour.
"Introverts don't necessarily like to have superficial conversations, or conversations with people they don't know," says Bruce Sandy, principal at Pathfinder Coaching and Consulting in Vancouver. "Whereas extroverts are much more outgoing and want to connect with people."
Introverts, however, can be just as successful at networking as extroverts, who seem so at ease with talking themselves up to strangers. In fact, the quiet confidence that many introverts possess may just work in their favour.
Here are tips on how to make networking work for you even if you're not the outgoing type:
> Be curious
The burden of carrying the conversation doesn't have to fall squarely on you. If you'd rather not open the conversation with a pitch about yourself, then approach networking as if you were meeting with a client who is there to share his or her concerns, Sandy says.
Use your listen skills to your advantage, he adds, and ask open-ended questions.
> Do some research
You can take some of the pressure off yourself by preparing some questions beforehand. Read up on the people you expect to meet at the event, so that you're more aware of the issues they're interested in and can initiate a discussion about what you have learned about them, Sandy says.
To further your understanding of how to play to your strengths as an introvert, Sandy recommends picking up the book Quiet by Susan Cain. The author extols the virtues of introversion and describes ways in which introverts, by virtue of listening, can succeed in drawing people into their orbit.
> Read social cues
Introverts tend to have a better handle on reading their environment than extroverts, Sandy says. That's because they don't feel as inclined to hog or hijack the conversation to be heard.
Instead, if you're a reluctant networker, you're probably less consumed with trying to drive a point home and more conscious of how well a conversation is going. You're more likely to notice if the other person's eyes have started to wander or if the conversation has stalled.
And, for those who feel anxious about getting stuck in a conversation, Sandy says, you can exit gracefully by initiating an introduction, or by reiterating your interest in connecting beyond the event.
> Set realistic expectations
It can take several exchanges for a connection to stick and to lead to a fruitful relationship, Sandy says. That's why a simple follow-up after the event is needed.
If you made a connection with someone, don't wait for the other person to contact you — or waste time getting in touch with people you shared no affinity with. "Think about the people you had the strongest connection with," Sandy says.
One way to tell that you've struck a connection worth pursuing is if there was a sense of reciprocity, he says. The conversation should not be a one-sided affair; it should be a balanced exchange of ideas.
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