While extroverts may get more than their fair share of the conversation at that business meeting or networking event, the introverts among them can still make a strong impression. Being quiet doesn't disqualify you from building customer trust, making a sale or being productive -- in fact, it can be a big advantage.
These seven entrepreneurs -- many of whom identify as introverted themselves -- share advice on how to thrive as an introverted leader.
Build trust through valuable contributions.
Although an extrovert usually dominates the conversation, the listeners often walk away remembering what the introvert contributed. Brennan White, CEO of intelligent platform Cortex, knows it's quality, not quantity, when it comes to making an impression.
"Introverts can be the most memorable by only speaking when they have something truly interesting, funny or valuable to say," he says. "In the short term, a talkative person will win the networking game. But in the long run, people work with people they can trust and who add value to every meeting."
Listen more than you speak.
"One of the biggest mistakes people make in life is speaking more than they listen," says Darrah Brustein, founder of networking event organization Network Under 40. She has learned to listen and ask questions to grow relationships.
"The older I get, the more I'm developing from an extrovert into an ambivert," she says. "I've learned that the desire to ask and listen more is actually a huge advantage when building successful business relationships with your staff, investors, customers and suppliers."
Funnel your strengths.
Reuben Yonatan, founder and CEO of cloud communicator advisor GetVoIP, understands that introverts derive strength from their surroundings. That's why he has identified the settings where he thrives to best leverage his own.
"Introversion is often incorrectly associated with shyness when, in reality, it speaks more to the setting one attains gratification in. Fellow introverts should funnel their strengths into minimally stimulating ventures," says Yonatan. "For example, since introverts tend to have excellent writing skills, I've personally used mine to augment our social media presence."
Focus on supporting customers over selling.
Extroverts may seem more likely to win the sale because of their confident demeanors. But Kalin Kassabov, founder and CEO of messaging platform ProTexting, has found that being an introvert is an advantage when selling to customers who are tired of aggressive pitches.
"As someone who tends to be an introvert, I've found that the best approach is to not try to be a salesman. Rather, I think of myself as an educator or consultant who listens to the customer's needs and makes appropriate suggestions," he says. "Many people today are tired of aggressive hard-sell tactics, so this can be an advantage."
Mind your own business.
Tim Chaves, founder and CEO of free accounting software ZipBooks, has harnessed introverted tendencies to be less social at work -- and get more work done.
"Learn from the introverts around you and mind your own business," he says. "The temptation to chit-chat can be overwhelming -- especially if you work near people you like -- but for every second you're socializing, something's not getting done."
Conquer nerves by preparing ahead.
"As a 'recovering introvert,' I used to find it much easier to focus on developing an idea or concept than I did speaking with a prospect," says Jeff Jahn, founder of website development company DynamiX. Preparing has helped raise his own confidence while impressing the client.
"I would uncover a company we wanted to work with, then set aside time to create compelling ideas that were sure to wow them," he says. "Knowing I was coming to the table with real concepts raised my confidence, and clients loved how prepared we were."
Establish thought leadership online.
Like many introverts, Peter Boyd, president of web marketing company PaperStreet Web Design, prefers writing to speaking. By regularly contributing content online, introverts can establish credibility without having to leave their desks.
"I will go to networking events and speak when I need to, but I would rather write," says Boyd. "Set up time for weekly writing. Publish on your website, in trade magazines, journals and other online sources. Instead of networking, use your writing skills to become an authority online."