The Introvert’s Guide to Networking

Sales 101 says that you have to do networking. So whether you’re shy and introverted like me or you’re the biggest people person in the world, here are eight simple tips that you can implement to take your networking to the next level.

Most of us look at networking as going out there and giving out cards and meeting as many people as possible. Networking is not only about meeting more people but also about developing deeper relationships with them. That way, when they have a need or when something comes up, they think of you. So if you’re introverted or shy or your networking just isn’t working for you, here are eight tips that worked for me, and they will work for you too. Okay, let’s go.

Tip #1: You have to get excited.

You’re heading to the event. How do you feel? Are you stressed? Are you anxious? If you’re not excited, if you’re not looking forward to it, if you don’t see the challenge, the game, or the fun that’s about to happen, you’re going to carry all of that energy into the room with you, and no one’s going to want to talk to you.

You’re only going to freak yourself out. You got to get yourself into a place where you convince yourself that this is about to be fun, that you’re excited to be here (whether you want to be here or not), and that you’re about to meet new people and make new friends. Because that’s what it is actually about. Psych yourself out. Do whatever you need to do to make sure that when you walk through the doors, you’ve convinced yourself that you’re about to have some fun.

Tip #2: Always have a goal for the event.

If your goal is as simple as showing up and staying for the whole event (because typically you bounce early), that’s a fine goal. If your goal is to meet three people and have three conversations where you not only learn about them but also share a little bit about yourself, that’s a great goal. You have to have a goal clearly set in your mind, and challenge yourself to actually hit that goal.

Tip #3: Talk to people who aren’t talking to people.

Guess what, you’re not talking to anyone, and they’re not talking to anyone. You go over there, and you make the first move. They will be so appreciative that someone saved them from their loneliness, and you don’t have to be a crazy extrovert to do this. I literally look for someone who’s not engaging in a conversation. I just sidle up next to them, and I go, “Hey, I’m Mark. I’m not talking to anyone, either.” It’s not the savviest, most engaging way to start a conversation. I’m telling you, it breaks the ice. It works every single time. And then once you have that conversation, you’re going to feel better, and you’re going to get the ball rolling. It will be easier for you to engage in conversations with other people too.

Tip #4: Attend events where you can meet the same people over and over again.

This is really big for me, actually. If you attend a lot of networking events and you expect that, on the first or second time you meet someone, they’re going to care about you or remember anything about you, you are sorely mistaken. So what you have to do is you have to find a community where you go to the event over and over and over again (say, every few weeks or every month), and it’s the same people rather than go to 100 different events and meet 100 different groups of people. You’ll form deeper relationships. You’ll have a better opportunity to connect with them because you got to meet the group or the community many times before. They’ll even remember you or introduce you to other people. Alternatively, when the need comes up, they’ll even think of you, and you’ll actually have a lot more fun attending the events because you feel more comfortable and you’re starting to build a community around you.

Tip #5: Bring people with you.

There’s no rule against bringing people with you, so think about this. You can invite clients or past clients or even prospects to the networking event with you. You have the chance after the event to connect and talk, and not only that—if you get there and you have no idea how this event is going to go and whom you’re going to speak to, you can spend the entire event talking to them. What’s wrong with that? If you are not good at networking or if you are nervous, you can always take advantage of bringing people with you, stacking the deck in your favor.

Tip #6: Target the people you want to talk to.

If you have the opportunity in advance to know who are going to be attending a particular event, you can create a target list of people that you want to get in front of and you want to connect with. Not only should these people be of high value for you to speak to, but they should also be people you know you can drive a ton of value for.

When you are attending an event and you are on the lookout for the types of people that you know you want to have a connection with, it makes networking so much more valuable, and then when you come out of it, you’ve made deeper and richer connections with people who actually matter to you. So do a little recon in advance, and then think about either the organizers or people who are really well connected who are going to be there. Ask them whom they think you should connect with.

Tip #7: Never underestimate the person you’re speaking to.

I have literally walked into events and met with people where I don’t know their background. I don’t know who they know. You can play it a few ways. You can be interested and give them attention and care what they have to say and spend time with them, and then later you’re like, “Oh geez, I didn’t realize that you were the senior executive of this company” or “I didn’t know that your husband was that person [whatever it might be].” We judge people so much.

When you’re networking, you never know who the person really is, who they really know, or where they will be in their future. Ask them for coffee. Ask them for follow-up: You can say, “I would really love to find out more about this.” What you cannot do is you can’t come into a conversation by judging that they’re not good enough for you. You cannot use them as a backup while waiting for someone better to come along. That takes us to the next point.

Tip #8: Follow up with everyone all the time.

If you made that connection with someone, and you genuinely liked them, ask them for lunch, ask them for coffee, or send them an email. You have to stay in front of people whatever event you are in. Stay connected with people and follow up.

Tip #9: Cross-pollinate.

What the heck does that mean, right? Well, if you are active in one community or networking group and you know people from another community or networking group, bring those people together. I’m going to take some people from group 2 and invite them to group 1. I’m connected to all these different groups. I’m going to start inviting people and being the actual connector earlier in the tips. I was talking about finding that person who’s an influencer and connector and asking them for connections. You can be that person, too, because then you have the opportunity to help all these people out. Be the connector. Connect the people from each group and each ecosystem. Bring them together. Invite them out and form those deeper relationships.

If people say that networking doesn’t work because they’re not doing it right, take these tips, implement them right away, play the game, have fun, and go out there and crush your sales goals.