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!
This blog post is exactly what I needed to read today, as I have started 2014 having the huge realisation that I am struggling to sell my business, not because I am rubbish, but becuase its not in my nature to ‘put myself out there’ and thats ok. I have been running a Pet Services business for the past two years and have done very well but as it goes, customers keep moving out the area or disappearing through no fault of my own!! So I have started a re-vamp and investing in some advertising such as having my car signage done professionally and a website revamp to make it easier for me to manage ( I did my first site and it was like learning a foreign language so have handed it over to the people who know what they are doing). But on my list of things to do in January 2014 is a leaflet drop to my new neighbours, since I know I am surrounded by pet owners, and going to meet the lady who runs a dog grooming business literally at the end of my road- but the thought of even putting leaflets through peoples doors is causing anxiety to my quiet nature! (I chose to leave a busy office job for the 95% of my time alone with lovely animals type of work!) I finally asked my partner for help (actually sobbed and cried all over her) when it comes to marketing and she has now set me out some goals I have to hit and then she will help me with the bits I am struggling with. I’ve realised I had my feet half in and half out of my own business, protecting myself from the fact that I could fail and that I’d have my introversion to blame, but the thing is… I don’t want to fail!! So I am taking the steps and asking for help in the areas I know I struggle in doing and I am being kind to myself that I am not a rubbish business owner just because I can’t put myself in the limelight. I am also scouring the cyber world for evidence that Introverts do make businesses work and filling my confidence up with knowing I can do it too. It is refreshing to read an article like yours and to hear that I am not alone as you have written exactly how I feel about networking and the like, so, thank you! (I have put my website domain but as I have mentioned it is down currently!)
I completely understand where you are coming from with this, and you make a good point when you mention that you were inadvertently trying to protect yourself from failure. I work part time at a small (6 employees including myself) sign shop during the day, and they recently implemented a policy where each of us has to make 5 calls per day in order to bring in new customers. At first I was very resistant, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it would work to my benefit to practice there. My main issue that I’ve seen is that my coworkers are going to judge my phone sales skills…big surprise there, right?
Something to consider doing in your case, since you’ve mentioned that you are anxious even at the thought of dropping cards on doorsteps, is to put together an “elevator pitch” for your business and start talking about it to anyone and everyone you meet. Get yourself comfortable talking to people ABOUT it, rather than trying to sell it quite yet. From there, try switching to phone calls and be honest with people, telling them who you are, what you do, and why you are calling. Don’t push them for anything, just tell them about the business. If they seem receptive, try asking for an email, and then follow up a few days later with an email thanking them for their time, and maybe including a savings coupon of some kind!
Oddly enough, for me, working at Walmart is what got me over my fear of face-to-face interaction. I hated that job so much that I wound up babbling to anyone I could about CHC and why it was so much more awesome, etc. I found that people believed me, and even handed out some business cards while I was at it.
Thank you so much for your comment–it is good to know that people are reading my blog and that it is helping them!