Like so many of my fellow introverts, my archetypal image of a successful founder was a charismatic extrovert -- that tireless someone who's constantly meeting new people and radiating energy. It's a daunting standard.
It's easy to look at highly extroverted founders and think you can't measure up. But if you take a step back, you'll see that many of the inherent traits of an introvert align perfectly with the skills needed to succeed as an entrepreneur.
As a founder, I've found ways to thrive as an introvert in a world designed for extroverts. Here are some of the challenging areas for introverts and ways to harness your strengths to excel in each of them.
Meeting new people
Introverts are not natural conversationalists. We often avoid sharing too much about ourselves and the process of meeting new people isn't our favorite thing. That's okay. The trick is to shift from a position of discomfort to a place of strength.
You can do this by following your natural tendency to listen. Ask open-ended questions that can't be answered with a simple "yes" or "no." This helps to transfer the pressure of speaking from you to the other person.
The other benefit of listening is that people like to talk, and they like to talk about themselves. Listening is one of the biggest traits of likable people. So playing to this strength will actually make you more likable.
Do you believe that you need to be an incredibly persuasive "smooth-talker" to succeed in sales? Luckily for introverts, the secret to success in sales is listening, not talking.
Veer away from talking at your prospect and learn to ask good sales questions that uncover your contact's desires and needs. They'll tell you what they want if you let them.
The more you listen, the more they feel heard and the more information you have to act in a way that solves their problems. This is how I've closed deals with Fortune 100 companies.
Growing a large network of meaningful relationships is one of the most important factors for long-term career success. Yet, networking can feel like torture for an introvert. Here's how to turn that around.
First, frame your expectations before you go to any event. Remember that you don't need to meet everyone or be the life of the party. I shoot for two or three quality conversations with like-minded people. Once I make those connections, I leave before getting I get burned out.
Second, learn the underrated conversational skills that lead to meaningful relationships. These will help to instill confidence in your abilities, and will make the whole process more comfortable and productive.
The butterflies in my stomach started well before the cameras turned on for my first national TV appearance (3:00 minute mark). I'm far from an actor, but as the face of SkyBell, I had to deliver.
Here's what I learned: practice and preparation are necessary to nail public-speaking opportunities. I practiced saying my key points until they were automatic. I knew that if I got nervous, I could fall back on habit to hit all of my responses -- without having to improvise my way through it.
If you're on a panel, listen to the other panelists and piggyback off of their answers (when relevant). Keep your own answers short and concise. If you're preparing for a TV appearance, watch interviews with famous actors or founders on YouTube. Take note of their style, delivery and confidence. Visualize yourself acting in the same way.
Putting it all together
Know that your strengths as an introvert are perfectly aligned with performing at the highest levels in all aspects of being a founder. As you focus on your strengths and practice these tips, your interactions will become easier and any nervous feelings should subside.
As in all things, practice makes perfect. Keep pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone. You'll be amazed by how far you can go.