Let’s face it: being a business owner is difficult. Anyone who has ever tried to own a business, or even help someone else run a business, is bound to agree with those 6 simple words. If you’re lucky, you’ll have a clear plan and a decent head on your shoulders with which to follow that plan and bring your dreams to fruition. If you’re even luckier, you’ll do all that without having to think twice about whether or not you actually can do that. Enter the rest of us, the introverts, who want to own and run a business but whose fear of speaking up and putting ourselves “out there” regularly tries to hinder our success.
With one of the biggest horse-related trade shows in the nation already under way for 2013, I felt it necessary to write this post. As a business owner, I know that Equine Affaire is my “big chance,” so to speak, to gather customers from my target market and raise awareness of my company. My problem is, like so many others, that I am an introvert.
An introvert is defined by the dictionary as, “a shy, reticent, person.” This definition often goes hand-in-hand with those of us who fear judgment and rejection. The combination of these personality traits can cause some serious issues when they are placed in the mind of a business-owner-to-be. These qualities make selling difficult, and without the ability to sell, a business does not have much hope of surviving. You know what you have to do in order to market your company. Act like an extrovert! Be outgoing, bold, and push aside those unwelcome fears of rejection! People only buy products or services from bold, confident salespeople, right?
In fact, I am here to argue why that is, in fact, quite untrue.
I am not a pushy person. I fear negotiation. I have a tendency to get quite depressed after losing a sale. I’m terrible at small talk, and I am constantly, unflinchingly aware of what other people are doing and what they think of me. I know that what I have to say is correct, or important, or necessary, but that unrelenting fear of rejection and judgment makes me bite my tongue. I need that extra reassurance that I am doing the right thing. I can communicate quite confidently in writing because I have no one in front of me to observe. In person, my statements will fluctuate based upon a client’s every minuscule reaction, but in writing, my knowledge is firm and I have no one to adjust anything for. I simply write what I know and experience. Starting this blog was perhaps the best decision I made for myself, because it has allowed me to get my thoughts out into the public forum and the public has, in return, reassured me through their comments, likes, and follows that what I am doing is helpful. Call it an ego-booster, if you will, but it has helped me immensely in my business interactions.
Building confidence in yourself and your business is the first step in helping that business to succeed. For me, I find that confidence through the reactions of others. It may not be the best way to go about things, but if you can make it work for you, why not? There is nothing wrong with building your business around customer satisfaction. Other individuals may stomp and whine and argue that your method is completely wrong and you will never succeed using that model, and no doubt that ugly judgment monster will immediately show up and demand you follow the stomper’s lead. Resist the urge. No one knows your business better than you.
The next step is to get out there and practice selling. I am currently in this stage. I don’t talk to strangers. I don’t open up to people easily. The fact that you’re even reading this article is a miracle in itself (but if you’re following this blog, you can consider yourself a great help since you’re one of the “reactions of others” people I was talking about needing earlier!). I don’t want to seem annoying. I don’t want to be pushy. I want to sell people the services they need at a price they can afford, but still make enough to live comfortably. Extroverts will seek clients out through cold-calls and bluffs, and ultimately may wind up gaining their business a less-than-favorable reputation. You, however, as an introvert, have the opportunity to build a real rapport with a client. I, for one, tend to trust the quiet person who smiles and hands me a business card over the one who throws his arm around my shoulder and leads me off to the car I don’t want to buy. Honesty is always the best policy, in my eyes.
The last step is slightly easier than the first two, and that is to maintain relationships with the clients you’ve managed to take in. If you communicate better through writing, consider a weekly or monthly newsletter or regular social media updates where your customers can see them. If you are a firm believer in face-to-face interaction, but are still uncomfortable making small talk, consider a video blog. There are numerous ways to maintain a relationship with a client, but the most important fact is that you do so with a strategy consistent to the one you cultivated in the first two steps. That is, if you are built around customer satisfaction, be sure to regularly check up on your customers to find out what you can do to increase their satisfaction even more. If you are built around quality products or services, find ways to improve that quality further.
I will be the first to admit that not only did I actually take these steps in a completely different order, but I am not finished yet. I had an idea of what I wanted to do several years in the future, but my business came into existence with 3 days’ notice and no real intention for it to ever continue beyond that first weekend photographing up in Plattsburgh. In short, I was thrown into the “selling” portion right off the bat, which then helped me to build confidence through customer reaction, and now I am working on building and maintaining relationships–in addition to practicing selling for different service areas of my company.
My point is, you never know how things are going to work out. BUT, just because you are an introverted person does NOT mean you cannot help your business to succeed. It has been very difficult for me, and still is, to really get CHC out of the water. But, thanks to a combination of factors and experiences which I have described to you above, I am now confident in my company and myself, and expect things to only get better from here on out. Don’t fight what you were born with. Embrace it! The longer you work towards something, the harder it is to give up. Sometimes, this is just what a business needs.
Interested in learning more? Find me on Twitter @Cinderhawk or leave a comment!