“I’m an introvert. What do you suggest I should do?”
At a recent training sessios, someone came up to me and said: “Your ideas about business development and building a personal brand are great and practical, and I can see how they’d work. But I do not see them working for me — I’m an introvert. What do you suggest I should do?”
What he didn’t realise is that he is probably an ambivert… I’m one, too. In a Wall Street Journal interview, psychologist Adam Grant estimated that ambiverts make up between half and two-thirds of the population. This is good news because ambivert individuals combine the best of both worlds. And they can win at business.
Ambiverts can achieve higher business development productivity than introverts or extroverts because ambiverts can listen as well as assert themselves. They’re ideal partners, co-workers, business owners, and leaders.
To be sure, “pure” introverts and extroverts do exist, but they’re exceptions. Yet it’s a commonly held belief that “doing business” favours the outgoing personality. And many who don’t see themselves as extroverts are wary of what they see as ‘selling’ or ‘pitching’.
So what if you are a non-extrovert (like many accountants, I suspect) – how do you manage business development effectively? Here are a few pointers to get you started on your business development journey:
1. It’s a simple switch…
Many professionals, especially the introverts among us, think, mistakenly that business development equals sales. But, as an accountant, you did not study to be a salesperson. You are a trusted adviser!
The truth is, you wish you could just have somebody else to do the selling for you, so you can focus on delivering your expertise to your clients. Right? Unfortunately that option is not always available.
So it’s a good idea to think of business development as an opportunity to build relationships – to help – not to sell.
When you do that, you can more easily implement strategies that play to your introvert tendencies. Qualities like listening, forming lasting connections, going deep rather than broad, and hyper-focusing your energy where there is the potential for the highest return.
For me, business development or business building is relationship building. This will help you to switch your mind from trying to “close the sale” to becoming a valuable source of service and advice for your clients and connections.
2. Create the right fit…
Firms and businesses need to create the “right fit” between the business development activity and the person who is responsible for it.
In my experience, if a professional is given responsibility for a business development activity that he or she isn’t comfortable with, the activity will be poorly completed or even ignored. This will definitely hurt the practice’s business development.
Play to people’s and your own strengths. Different styles, different personalities, different business development activities – done by the right professionals within the practice, will attract different kinds of clients. But more importantly — certainly MORE clients.
I help a lot of professional firms achieve results, based on a strategy I explain in my book The Attention Switch.
By spending time with each member of your team individually – talking to them and asking very specific questions in the right order – you can create the right fit for professionals in your firm and the right business development activity.
3. Respect your natural tendencies…
One partner at a large accounting firm once asked me how she could be authentic in her dealings with others, given how uncomfortable she was when it came to business development activities. She worried she’d have to put on a smiley, outgoing façade. Yet I’m convinced it’s possible to be real about the business development for your professional practice or business, while still respecting our natural tendencies. Just be yourself.
4. Leverage your personality…
The key to success in business development as an introvert is to leverage your personality. Business development is often equated with high-energy, sales, pitching, hand-shaking showmanship.
But, specifically for non-extroverts, there are other, sometimes better, ways you can develop your business development activities within your accounting practice.
Make the effort and embrace the fact that not only are you an introvert or an ambivert, but you are a damn good business developer. Even if your methods are ‘different’.
Taking the time to reflect and be thoughtful about how you’d like to develop your business development activities, and your trusted adviser position, is important.