[pullquote]Do you think extroverts are walking on easy street when it comes to networking, sales and marketing? In this special guest blog post, author, consultant and extrovert Maria Ross wants to set the record straight and share some tips that apply whether you’re an innie or an outtie. ~Beth[/pullquote]
“My name is Maria. And I’m an extrovert.”
I’m a certified extrovert in every way. Perhaps getting kicked out of class for talking (several times) from the tender young age of five should have been a clue. Having taken Myers-Briggs a few times in my life, my profile has not really changed since high school (ENFJ), which makes sense given my love for acting and public speaking. When I embarked on solo entrepreneurship, the hardest part for me was spending hours in my home office….ALONE. Terrifying. Thank God I can talk to my dog.
But here’s the deal: extroverts don’t have some magical power when it comes to dealing with people, sales or uncomfortable situations. In fact, I would bet that I crave my solitary “recharge” time just as much as many of you introverts. Truth be told, I get exhausted when I have to be “on” all the time. Some weekends, I like to curl up on the couch with a good book, unplug the phone and avoid interacting with anyone.
I know many introverts out there face fears and challenges to which I might not directly relate. But I get it: the need to quiet the mind and recharge your batteries in solitude and peace; the need to take time to think about and react to something before being asked for your opinion on the spot; the anxiety about unfamiliar places and people. Here’s the dirty little secret of extroverts like me: we need and feel those things, too. So I’d like to debunk some “E(xtrovert)-Myths and share some tricks I use that might help you as well.
Myth #1: We are totally comfortable and at ease in large crowds by ourselves
I recently had to gear up to attend a day-long conference on my own. I normally hate doing this. Like anyone, I like to have a wingman: this way, if things go south, I have someone to hang with, someone to talk to, and someone to use an excuse to leave early. Even extroverts need to feel comfortable. Sure, I knew people going to the conference, but would I find them right away? What if I had no one to sit with at lunchtime? There’s nothing like a networking event or large group conference to make you feel like you’re 13 and back in junior high again, eh?
But since launching my business, I’m getting better at going to large events alone. It takes practice to get comfortable with anything. So just fake it until you make it: I did. The truth is, extroverts are just as scared, uncomfortable and uneasy about entering a crowded room alone – perhaps even more so than introverts!
I always remind myself that it is not about me. People are not concerned with who I am and why I’m alone. They are there to meet their goals and follow their own agenda.
TRICK: Get out of my own head
I take the imagined “personal judgment” out of the equation and remember people have their own lives and needs and are not really thinking about me all that much. I put on clothes that make me feel fabulous and confident, walk tall, and turn to greet anyone who crosses my path. And if you do the same, you will find that stretching out your hand to meet them is exactly what they needed to feel more comfortable themselves!
Myth #2: We want to rack up contacts and can connect with anyone and everyone
When I started my own business over three years ago, I had just moved to Seattle and had no networking community. Back in San Francisco, I felt like I knew everyone and had professional contacts galore. But here? Nada. So I had to go on the “networking circuit.” I took a breath and marched into almost every networking group under the sun. Some fit. Some didn’t. But across all of them, I defined success not as “meeting everyone in the room” but as “making one good quality connection.” If I do that, I’m golden.
This method has proven successful many times. At one luncheon, I did not really dig the vibe of the organization, but I met a great woman on the elevator ride up to the room. And we have stayed in touch ever since, promoting each others work and books. One person made it all worth it.
At another luncheon, I focused just on the people at my table – no one else. I got a few cards, exchanged some pleasantries. But I ended up connecting with the guy sitting next to me and a few months later, he became a client. Perfect. That luncheon was a success.
TRICK: Redefine a successful event
Focus on a small group at your next networking event. Have deeper conversations with only two or three people. If you are at a meal, even better: just focus on those at your table or even just those seated next to you. No need to win some business card collection contest!
Myth #3: We have endless amounts of energy and can do it all
Being a woman who juggles being a social butterfly with being a pensive writer and reader, I can assure you this is not the case.
I have yet to meet a fellow extrovert who likes being “on” 24/7. Many of them, like me, need some space, quiet and solitude. Sometimes, I just need to “check out” for a day or a week or even 20 minutes. My lunchtimes, for example, are precious to me. I went through a phase of trying to do it all in my business and would often not take the time to stop and eat lunch, as if that one hour was really going to put a dent in my To-Do list. And if I did manage to head upstairs to replenish, I’d come racing down if the phone rang just to make sure I didn’t miss anything. No more. When I break for lunch, I break for lunch. I don’t answer the phones and I try not to schedule meetings for that time. That mental break is a gift I give myself every day.
TRICK: Learn to say no
Even extroverts can’t do it all, and need to say no to activities they may really want to do. But I’ve learned that if I don’t make that space and that time, then the quality of all of my efforts suffers. I’d rather focus on quality and ensure I have enough “Creative Endurance” for the long haul. I went through some pretty severe health issues that forced me to look at my schedule. Now I only commit to three coffee dates a week, max. And I only attend one or two networking events in a given week (and two is pushing it). I plot out my days pretty carefully. Extroverts have the curse of saying yes to everything – and our work and relationships can suffer because of it. So be okay with saying no if it helps you be your best self.
Myth #4: Extroverts love and excel at sales
Having worked in software for many years and interacted with sales “warriors” that sell millions of dollars a year, I can tell you with full confidence that the art of selling depends little on whether you are an extrovert or not. There are gregarious, social – and sometimes pushy – people who fail miserably at sales….and then there are thoughtful, introverted, good listeners who blow their numbers away.
I hate “sales.” I worked one summer at a telemarketing firm in college and thought I might poke my eyes out. I just lack that “thrill of the hunt” gene. Once, as Marketing Director, I attended an important prospect meeting with our VP of Sales. When we left, I gave my opinion that it looked like the prospect was ready to go and totally on board with our solution. He, however, having true sales prowess, gave a completely different interpretation of the event. Sure enough, he was right. I was like, “Were we even in the same meeting?” But he saw and heard things I did not and was able to read between the lines.
TRICK: Don’t have “sales” meetings; have “conversations.”
That’s the thing with sales: it’s not about talking. The most successful sales reps I’ve seen do more listening than anything else. They act as partners, consultants – not “sellers.” If you just try to lambast people with features and functions, you will never sell well. But you can be successful at sales by really listening to your customer’s needs and recommending how your solution solves their problems. It’s not about “being pushy” or “being extroverted.” I don’t do “sales calls” but I do have conversations and offer solutions. If you approach sales more as a one-on-one conversation, it can be less scary. And that’s true no matter your personality type.
See? There are no magical potions or superhero skills that enable extroverts to get out there and mingle. We have to use our own tricks and internal pep talks to get moving, too. Hopefully, by debunking these myths, we can all embrace our collective need for solitude and intimate connections and still find ways to share our gifts with the world.