Suppose you have a great product or service to sell, or for that matter a great story to tell, and you just happen to be shy. Despite what they may claim, almost no prospect can see past a presentation to the benefits of a product or service. Great products or services really don’t sell themselves. and great stories don’t tell themselves. Behind each of them is invariably the force of personality — that of a business owner, a sales person, or at the very least a customer service person.
But what can you do if you happen to be shy and lack the natural ability to reach out to others? Are you condemned to lose out on potentials sales or valuable business connections? Should you avoid going to networking meetings at all costs?
The good news is even shy people can get things accomplished and make valuable contacts at networking meetings; and they don’t have to move mountains in the process. Networking meetings provide a great place to start for anyone who’s looking to build a business or become known in his or her community. You’re not pounding the pavement or dogging the phone in cold calls. Everybody comes to networking meetings for the same reason: to make relationships and to build their businesses.
If you’re not a glad-hander, a natural sales person, or an extrovert, there are still things you can do to work a room. Organizations like Business Networking International (BNI), Le Tip, your local Chamber of Commerce, and Rotary offer mixers and business-card exchanges that are effective venues for those needing to promote a product or service. But you don’t have to be a Tony Robbins or a Billy Graham with the ability to hypnotize a huge crowd. By following a simple routine quietly at networking meetings, and trying these five simple tips, you can make some valuable connections and even land some business:
Express Your Interest With Non-Intrusive Questions
Forget the “what-do-you-do?” approach. That question makes people want to scream — or yawn. And keep that four-colored, razzle-dazzle business card in your pocket or handbag until the very end of the conversation. People will accept them politely and dump them in the trash when they get home. Instead, try asking “what brought you here tonight?” Or flatter someone; we all love flattery: “I was looking for a tie (or scarf) just like that. Do you mind telling me where you bought it?” And listen intently to the answers. People will automatically begin showing interest in you when you do this.
The Quality of Your Contacts Is More Important Than Quantity
Size up the meeting room (bar, lobby…) when you arrive. If you feel overwhelmed by the sheer numbers attending the meeting, take note of your time. If you know you want to stay, say, an hour and a half, make it your goal to have an enjoyable conversation with five people for no more than 20 minutes for each contact. If you can, you be the one to end the conversation. Try these lines: “I know you just arrived. Listen, you must be famished. Can I walk you over to the buffet line? I’ve already tried the food. It’s fantastic.”
Let Go of the Idea That You Absolutely Have to Stick to Business
Treat people like people in your conversations — not revenue-generating machines. Make it your goal to build relationships. Have faith and confidence that business will follow from a solid new friendship, and guess what — you’ll be right.
It’s Better to Listen Than to Talk
There’s an old adage that says “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” It’s true — and what’s more it works. People will love it when you ask them about themselves. This is an especially comfortable technique for shy people.
If a Person Isn’t an Obvious Prospect for Your Business, Make a Point of Introducing That Person to Someone Else at the Meeting Who Just Might Be a Prospect
Keep doing this, and the effort will pay off. Even if you’re shy, you can still develop a reputation as a matchmaker — someone others can call and ask “who do you know…?”
If you put these techniques to work, you’ll find yourself developing new relationships and building your business. If you put them to work often enough and you’re shy, guess what? Over time, you’ll become less shy.