There’s a misconception that all entrepreneurs are extroverts — boisterous or bubbly personalities who are always the life of the party. But they’re not. And even those who are extroverted can be shy.
There is a distinction. Introverts feel rejuvenated after they take time to be alone. They often enjoy quiet activities like reading their favorite book or spending time with a close friend. On the other hand, extroverts like to spend their free time amongst people, but shy ones are less likely to open up to a new acquaintance right away.
Shyness doesn’t have to be debilitating nor does it disqualify you from becoming successful. In fact, shy entrepreneurs have one big advantage over their extroverted counterparts: they almost never overtalk or overshare. Effective listening is the most important skill any entrepreneur could have and it’s a talent that comes very naturally to individuals who are shy.
If you consider yourself a shy entrepreneur, here are some ways you can cultivate your strengths.
1. Show, don’t tell. If you’re naturally shy, you most likely don’t enjoy public speaking, even on a small scale in a boardroom. Don’t risk embarrassment by trying (and most likely failing) to pitch an executive off-the-cuff. Instead, when you pitch a client, show them what you can do for their business. Create a presentation that speaks for itself and doesn’t rely so heavily on your ability to make the perfect pitch.
2. Prepare, prepare, prepare. Write and practice your elevator pitch before you ever need it. You never know who’ll run into on the way to lunch or as you wait in line for coffee. If you get the opportunity to introduce yourself to a potential client or investor, simply deliver your speech as if you’re speaking to a friend. You’ll come off more natural the next time you need to introduce yourself and your company to a group.
3. Hire your employees wisely. You are your own best business card, but it doesn’t hurt to have a strong sales team to back you up. Especially for positions in marketing and sales, hire people whose strengths are your weaknesses. Make sure the people you hire share your vision but embody skills you lack.
4. Use technology to your advantage. If you’re extremely shy, try having a meeting with your your clients via technology. You may be more relaxed and find it easier to communicate through IM, Google Hangout and Skype. You’ll be more comfortable if you plan to follow-up with a face-to-face interaction.
5. Show genuine passion. Real passion, the kind that makes your eyes light up and drives you to keep working, is contagious. Your passion for your business and your customers will set you apart and make others notice you. Skip the small talk about the weather and share your passion with others. Share with your clients and customers how and why you started your business and what you love about it.
6. Push outside your comfort zone. It’s not always about who you know, but who knows you. Even if the thought of attending networking events makes you feel uneasy, attend them anyway. Make a goal to attend one or two every month. Introduce yourself to at least one new person at each event. You may be surprised at the number of doors you’re able to open simply by being at the right place at the right time.