Personal development · Personality

How can a shy, introverted entrepreneur create clients and leads?

Cindy Riach Founder | Facilitator ► Founders Connect

February 26th, 2016

I facilitate group processes and consult with executives in the matters of authentic relating and creating win-win solutions.

I am 100% behind my work, its process, its effectiveness, and its relevance.

And I am challenged by meeting new people and creating leads and clients.

What are the solutions? A sales-oriented co-founder? Work with a business coach?

Adam Arthur Atom Creative Corp, DevShare and infoATM

February 26th, 2016

Hi Cindy, The answer is: yes, you absolutely can. I'm assuming that your introvertedness isn't to the level of a personality disorder. If it is, then it may present a problem. But if you're just naturally shy, but otherwise normal, don't think for a moment this will be a show-stopper for you. That said, I'm a big believer in honest, non-destructive self-criticism. A business coach might help, but it sounds like what you need is to establish and develop a B2B sales and marketing strategy. A lot of people who haven't done sales before can be a little mystified by it. But the process is fairly straightforward, tedious, but straightforward: a. Using cold data, (lead list purchases, Linked-in scraping, etc) initiate contact with prospective clients that fit your customer profile. b. When you finally find someone who is interested in your product or service, set an appointment to pitch it. Be prepared to submit a proposal. c. Don't "sell" your service -- just present what you do honestly and focus on how your service can benefit the prospective client. It sounds like you are struggling with generating qualified leads. There are quite a few methods of generating quality leads, but it can take a substantial amount of effort and time to find a strategy that works for your particular business. Having done B2B sales, and having to penetrate large 1000+ employee organizations, just finding someone who has the authority to make a buying decision can be difficult. But honestly, the difficult part is the initial discovery process in finding a strategy that works for you. It's going to take a lot of sweat equity and trying different things. I'm actually helping a friend of mine, who is just starting a tax services business, go through this process and I'd be happy to help you via e-mail (for free, not looking to sell a service here) if you think that might be helpful. I've built a number of businesses over the years and, through necessity as opposed to desire, I've gotten somewhat good at B2B sales strategies.

Tom Lemmons Founder - Nimbus, Ltd

February 26th, 2016

I would like to know the answer to this question myself.

Andrew Chapman Publishing Entrepreneur and Author

February 27th, 2016

Cindy, there are some great recommendations here, but there's another approach that's missing. I'm not shy, but I am an INTJ, so I do know how you feel. My batteries drain in socializing and recharge in solitude, so I've had to learn to manage this for my own good - to the point of being able to deliver 300+ speaking engagements and lead a large professional association for several years. Since you are interacting with others (facilitation, consultation) at the core of your business, it makes sense that you probably don't have much energy left for sales and marketing.

First thing is, if you're in a hurry for whatever reason (e.g., money running low), you will need to either (a) force yourself out of your comfort zone or (b) find an extroverted sales partner like you mention. You can't let your introversion or shyness lead your business to stagnation or failure. Steve Wozniak (very shy, probably on the autism scale) had Steve Jobs, and there are many similar business examples. 

However, if you have time on your side, I think the following approach may be ideal.

It's best summed up by Seth Godin: "Become famous to your family." Your "family" is simply the market you seek to serve in its most narrow sense, with the actual decision-makers being the family members. Your goal is to be discovered by them, not necessarily push yourself on them. Thus, it's a passive marketing approach, which is very ideal for introverts. It takes time, however, because you need to build an online presence that attracts your target audience to you. This could be a blog, Facebook or LinkedIn group, YouTube channel, Udemy course, Kindle book, or any combination of these. Through this/these media, generously share your expertise. It's not about selling; it's about "being famous to your family." When your target audience sees that YOU are the go-to person in your area of expertise and they have a need for your expertise, they will naturally reach out to you. Again, this does take time to build; however, all of it can be done from the glorious solitude of your computer!

Another suggestion I didn't see mentioned above is building a cross-referral network. These can be similar experts with whom you can share work overload or good prospects who aren't an ideal fit -- or they can be complementary experts; i.e., consultants or service-providers who serve your same market. An example of this in my field is book editors and book designers. And to the former, a lot of publishing consultants and project managers swap and share prospects for the right fit. As with what I mentioned before, in this digital era, all of these people can be found online.

Lastly, for the overall challenge of living as an introvert in an extrovert's world, check out Susan Cain's book Quiet and her accompanying TED Talk, "The Power of Introverts" (over 13 million views). I guarantee you that you'll feel better about yourself, come to learn that shyness is not the "problem" that society often labels it to be, and recognize that many of the greatest thinkers, inventors, and innovators in history were introverts. You can succeed on your path as well!

Logan Kleier

February 26th, 2016

If you have a great idea that you believe in, focus on how that idea will help other people. 

I'm not shy, but I'm not a long time sales person. So, I helped myself by realizing that sales and business development was only a means to an end. I learned to do whatever it took to get people to know about what my company was doing because I truly believed that my company was making their lives better. 

Once I saw things in that light, I started reaching out to my network and asking them for intros to people who have more developed BD/sales skills than me. I was surprised to see just how helpful my network was in introducing those people to me. 

Cindy Riach Founder | Facilitator ► Founders Connect

February 28th, 2016

@Andrew - I really enjoyed what you're saying. I've been building content/materials, but my gift is making in the moment distinctions person-to-person... I am no Tony Robbins in terms of messaging. One way that I've thought of building a bridge with taking on strategic alliances and talks on stage (I'm 100% okay with this) is reaching out to people who already have communities of people that are my target audience. I'm not sure if this is one way to "become famous to my family" but it's the closest I can think of.

Glenn Donovan Vice President of Sales (fractional)

February 28th, 2016

@Cindy Roach - The more you write, the more convinced I am that shyness is not your challenge. In startup-land today, entrepreneurs are told to just "go sell" and get advice from blogs and maybe investors or other entrepreneurs. That is the hard way to go as you will be making many avoidable mistakes that you can't afford to make on opportunities you need to win in the early days of your company.

I'd have to learn more about what you do to make specific recommendations but if you are like most entrepreneurs I meet today, you likely have no sales experience. And by that I mean carrying and making a quota. You likely are not methodical in how you approach your prospects. Examples:

Intro Call - What do you do in an intro call? What should it look like?
Initial Presentation - What should a deep dive on your value proposition look like?
Discovery - How do you go about learning what you need to learn to make a compelling proposal?
Proposal - Do you realize, for example, that your proposal will be reviewed by a bunch of people you'll never speak with?
Ideal Prospect Profile - Do you know what a good customer for you looks like? Hint: You should figure out who that is and in the first call decide whether they are worth your time. 

There is so much more. I bet that this area of the business is what stresses you out the most too. It's not uncommon for an entrepreneur to feel overwhelmed by sales, feeling like they should just be able to magically turn themselves into a selling machine. If that was so, why would companies spend so much time and money on training sales people? I'm not saying hire a sales person, I'm saying get support from someone who knows how to sell to help you develop the right approach. It will greatly reduce the stress of all this for you and help you get better results. 

Gopi Mattel General Partner. Lifeboat Ventures

February 26th, 2016

I sympathize. I see some of the startups where the founder has a distinct disadvantage due to the shyness. Some of them seem to do better with non-face-to-face or non-verbal communication. Such as email and text. I would encourage that.
If there is a budget, a virtual assistant could be your proxy and handle some of the early communication at least until you get to a sense of comfort with the other person.
A co-founder who is more out-going will be important. Unfortunately even investors judge based on 'passion', which a lot of times translates to ability to talk up a storm in new situations. 

Rob G

February 26th, 2016

Cindy,  are your ideal prospects small, medium or large companies? 

Cindy Riach Founder | Facilitator ► Founders Connect

February 26th, 2016

@Adam - I'm not diagnosed with a personality disorder, but I do feel like I live in a world where my shyness is a disadvantage! I would love to understand your sales and marketing strategy and will reach out out to you.

@Tom & @Anthony - Thanks for the support. :)

@Logan - I understand what it means to reach out to my network... and I am still unbearably shy about that! I think there are some limiting beliefs that I'm carrying about myself that are getting in the way.

Steve Gatter Providing Masterminds to B2B Solopreneurs & Start-Ups | Niche Marketing & LinkedIn Specialist

February 27th, 2016

I think the key is confidence in your idea and knowing who exactly should you approach. Many people are unsure of their idea and unsure of the niche market it should be shared with. This uncertainty causes trepidation.

[1] Know that your idea solves a problem. Being able to articulate the problem you can solve builds confidence.
[2] Know, or learn, who have the problem. 
[3] Believe in your solution and its ability to solve the problem.
[4] If you can truly solve someone's problem, they will carry the conversation.
[5] And Linkedin is the near perfect tool to find the exact people who are most likely to have the problem you can solve. It is the tool for introverts. With it, your best prospects can be found, connected with and initial meetings set.