In my last blog post, I wrote about the satisfaction you can experience when you choose to intentionally pare back an overstuffed or outdated contact database or address book. I received several comments from people who agreed this mindful purging felt empowering and restored a sense of refreshing clarity to their business relationships. Much like cleaning out a drawer, closet or file cabinet.
A day or two after that post, I spoke about The Art & Science of Being a More Intentional Networker at a conference and had an interesting exchange about this topic with a member of my audience. “What if you’re an introvert like me?” she said. “I’m still trying to BUILD a database of contacts. What do I do?”
It was a good question, and I was glad she brought it up.
My answer to her: For introverts and people just beginning to learn the ropes of networking, being intentional and particular about your business relationships is more important than ever. Why? Because you can’t afford to waste your time, energy, or resources on connections that aren’t a good fit for you. As with anyone else, ill-fitting connections will drain you and possibly even hold you back.
Case in point: A few years ago a rather introverted friend confided in me that she didn’t like networking because she always ended up talking to people who were negative, unpleasant, dominated the conversation, or tried to put a heavy sales pitch on her. She was completely turned off. When I asked her to describe for me the types of people she DID want to meet, associate with, and work with she had no answer for me. She had set no intentions whatsoever. Maybe that was the root of the problem.
Here are some quick pointers for anyone who’s introverted or just getting started with their networking. Perhaps these can help you become more focused, at ease, and comfortable as you network and build your database.
1. Set some intentions about the people you’d like to meet and add to your database. If there are specific people you’d like to meet, name them and jot down some ideas on how and where you could meet them and what you’d want to say to them or ask them. Don’t get too scripty. Just sketch out ideas. In addition, create a list of words and phrases that describe the people you want to meet. When I’ve facilitated discussions around this topic many people use words such as caring, positive, pleasant, kind, helpful, honest, and reliable. You might include these, but feel free to add your own words and phrases. You are essentially describing your perfect clients, co-workers, colleagues, and friends. In addition, you are “tuning” your brain to recognize them and even attract them into your world.
2. Consider seeking out people whose energy levels, traits, and skills complement yours. Opposites can attract and foster very productive connections. For example, I’m energetic, creative, and talkative, but enjoy being around and working with people who are calm, fact-driven, and thoughtful. Who complements you?
3. When attending networking events or gatherings, remember more is not better. It’s perfectly okay to seek out just a few solid connections. Or even just one. I attended a large event recently, had numerous brief conversations, but had one that really stood out. I asked for her card and am having coffee with her soon. That single connection may have made the entire event worthwhile.
4. It’s okay to say no and set boundaries. Chapter 5 in my book The Intentional Networker™(tm) is loaded with tips on this topic. There are many ways to graciously exit conversations and decline situations and requests that aren’t comfortable or right for you. The most successful people in the world know how to do this and understand that saying”no” to something that’s not a fit means they can say “yes” to something that is.
5. Remember that a smaller database of solid clients and advocates can be far more valuable than one loaded down with 1,000 random contacts. If you can maintain a list (even a modest one) of people who like you, know you, trust you, see your value, and are willing to share it with others, you’ve got a gold mine. Be proud of that and build on it slowly and steadily, always mindful of quality. Trust me, it will pay off.
Shopping for the Holidays? A copy of The Intentional Networker™(tm) makes an excellent gift for recent grads, job hunters,freelancers, business owners, or anyone who wants to become more purposeful, polished, and productive in their networking efforts. Purchase copies off my website or through major book outlets, such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and others. The electronic version is available now as well.