Would you be surprised to learn that introverts make the best networkers?
If you thought that Ivan Misner, founder of the world’s largest networking organization, gave a lot of value in the last episode of The Introvert’s Edge podcast, then this session is going to blow you away.
In this episode, Ivan not only supports my claim that introverts make the best networkers; he backs it up with research.“Networking is more about farming than hunting; it’s about cultivating relationships.” - @IvanMisner Click To Tweet
The data is in: The majority of the qualities that make a highly effective networker are introverted qualities – and the majority of characteristics that make for a poor networker tend to be associated with extroverts. This may seem counterintuitive, but when you think about it, it makes sense. People like to speak to and work with those who ask thoughtful questions, express interest, and listen purposefully, all fortes for us introverts!
When you attend networking events, are you looking to buy something? Neither is anyone else. Ivan explains why your goal should be building sincere relationships, not pushing for a sale. Craft 15-second descriptions of each element of your business, and share them over time at various events. People are more likely to think of you when they (or someone they know) has a specific need they know you can fill.
A USP, or a unified message, helps avoid the automatic eye-glaze that usually follows when you tell people what you do. Once you’ve expressed interest in the person you’re speaking with, and it’s your turn to share what you do, try the Eyebrow Test to see if you’ve got them hooked.“It’s way more important to be interested than interesting.” - @IvanMisner Click To Tweet
Ivan was kind enough to write a glowing endorsement of my book, The Introvert’s Edge, but while we were on camera, I thought I’d ask him to share his thoughts about the book. Here’s what he had to say.
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Matt: Hello everyone and welcome back to another episode of The Introvert’s Edge. Again, I have with me Ivan Misner. Ivan, welcome back to the show.
Ivan: Thank you, it’s great to be on.
Matt: Well I’m really excited about the content you’ve been sharing. And I think we were starting to touch upon some really strong concepts around introversion and around the concepts of how to network as an introvert. And I really want to go into detail with that. But first, you recently did a survey in regards to some of the characteristics that are required to be a successful networker. Or what is seen in high esteem when you’re networking. And I think – I’d love for you to share that detail first, if you wouldn’t mind.
Ivan: Yeah, so let’s start with the characteristics of the top networkers. And what I did was, I did a survey, it was open to the public. I had 3400 responses. It wasn’t just a BNI survey. People from all over the world, from many different organizations took it. And so we took like a – what were the top characteristics of a great networker, and then what were the bottom characteristics of a networker?
And so the top seven characteristics. Here are the top seven characteristics of a great networker. First was a good listener. And so that doesn’t surprise me at all. A good networker has two ears and one mouth, uses them both proportionately. So that was number one. Number two was a positive attitude. Now that could go for introverts or extroverts. But positive attitude was really important.
Sometimes it’s really funny if you’re out networking and you meet somebody. They start complaining about the economy, about business – whatever. Don’t complain to people about business. Half the people you tell don’t care, and the other half are glad you’re worse off than they are. So you’ve got to have a positive attitude.
Collaboration was the third one. And that’s often something considered with building relationships, more introvert than extrovert like. Collaboration was number three. Number four was being sincere and authentic. And oftentimes extroverts are viewed as maybe a little insincere in the way they approach. So most of these are not extrovert related.
Trustworthy, followup, approachable. These were all the top characteristics of a great networker. But the next set is what’s really interesting. And these are the top or the bottom characteristics of a networker. The bottom – the first four are all absolutely extrovert related. First is fearless or confident. Fearless and confident. That’s extrovert all the way.
Next is asking for the sale. And of course, what do we teach in sales? We’ve got to ask for the sale. But when it comes to networking, if you do it too early, it’s not – it doesn’t go over well. Next is a self-promoter. That’s total extrovert. The next is being very direct. Really direct. So four out of the bottom five characteristics are all extrovert related.
Matt: That’s really interesting. Because what people would assume they need to– The characteristics they need to have to be successful in networking, are actually – if they learn those skills, they’ll be less successful.
Ivan: That’s correct. And I think – here’s the reason for it. I did another book with– A survey of 12,000 people. The book was called, “Business Networking and Sex.” Not what you think. It was about the difference between men and women and how they network. And in that book, we discovered from the survey of 12,000 people – the people who were more relational in the way they networked, were more successful than those who were transactional in the way they networked.
By the way, women tend to be more relational. Based on this survey of 12,000 people, they tend to be more relational than men. Men tend to be a little bit more transactional than women. But when we took gender out of it, and we just looked at relational versus transactional – the men and women who were relational did better. And so these survey results kind of make sense then, because it’s – the introvert approach tends to be more relational.
Let me add one thing though. The dead last number was social media savvy, which of course could be introvert or extrovert. But that was last. So people – 34,000 people around the world said social media savvy was just not that important with networking. Now clearly, millennials had to feel different about this. So I pulled millennials, I extracted millennials out of the data. And I looked at just millennials, and what they said were the bottom five characteristics. And I was right. They did not rank it last, they ranked it second to last.
Matt: Big difference though.
Ivan: Second to last. So even millennials realize that social media savvy’s not critical. And the other four were the same, by the way. They were the same five.
Matt: Well I think that what’s interesting there is that introverts would naturally assume that they have to have these competencies to be successful. And they’re all trying to be more extroverted in their networking. Yet it’s actually the extroverted qualities that are going to lead to that long-term relationship. And it’s funny. So I had on the show, Jeffrey Eisenberg. And Jeffrey’s a – he’s a classic introvert. His brother is a classic extrovert. And they talk about the conversation around how he has – his brother has lots of – lots and lots of relationships, as you talked about in the first segment. A very wide network, but not very deep.
Matt: Where Jeffrey tends to have a very deep network, but not as many people. So I think that– And I’ve sort of noticed this in my own networking. When I learned how to sell, I tried to be more extroverted. And I’d be very promotional. And as soon as I swapped from being promotional to having a meeting of the minds conversation and offering value and trying to help–
Ivan: I’d say relation–
Matt: Relational, correct. Everything changed. And that was – for me, one of the big turning points in my networking. But the hardest thing – if I’m going to a networking event, and I’m an introvert–
Matt: I know that I’m going to be successful because of the statistics. I know I’m going to be successful when I’m talking to somebody. And I know that that’s going to lead – and I know that a networking event is more about developing that relationship now, than selling them on the day.
Matt: But I’ve still got to start that conversation, and that’s terrifying.
Ivan: Right. So let me give you two or three examples of what to do. First of all, when you walk into a room – look for what I call open twos, open threes and open groups. So a closed two, would be two people standing face to face like this, okay? And it’s very hard to break into that conversation. So if you have the God view, right? You’re looking down, they’re like this. But an open two would be people standing like this. So look for open twos, look for open threes. A closed three would be like a triangle.
Ivan: But an open three would be like a U shape. So look for open groups. It’s really easy to just kind of slide on in. It’s almost easier to slide into a group of people than it is for an introvert to walk up to one person and say, “Hi, my name’s Ivan.” It’s easier to kinda slide in silently to a group of people. So look for the open threes, open fours – open groups.
If you’re running a network – I try to train my BNI members, if you’re running a network always have open stances. When a visitor comes into that group, always have open stances. So that a visitor feels welcome. So easy to kinda strike up a conversation. That’s one.
Two – Whenever possible, go to an event with somebody who’s a member or who knows a lot of people there. And ask them, “Would you be kind enough to introduce me around? I’m uncomfortable–” Just be honest, “I’m uncomfortable meeting people. Would you mind introducing me around?” Now it’s great to get an extrovert to do that. ‘Cause they’ll love to do that. They’re a connector. And so they’ll connect you with many people. And just be honest with them and say, “I’m a little uncomfortable, and I – but I really want to meet people. Maybe you wouldn’t mind making introductions.” And just have them go around and introduce you.
Now of course, introverts probably get this naturally. But remember, when you’re meeting people, it’s way more important to be interested than interesting. So you don’t have to try to be interesting, be interested. And so there’s two or three steps. Three steps to consider when you’re going into a network of people you don’t know.
Matt: That’s really great information. When I’m going up to this group of three though, or group of two. I can imagine what I’d be feeling at that point. And for me – I’d be feeling anxious.
Matt: I’m going up to talk to that group of two or group of three. And I’m going to be thinking, “I need to have something amazing to say, or I need to start laughing at somebody’s joke or–” I need to somehow engage with that group. What would you suggest the easiest way to start to be involved in that dialogue, as opposed to being just a passive observer would be?
Ivan: Well you have to be comfortable with whatever you’re going to say. So if my suggestion doesn’t work for you – that’s fine. But for me, I would keep it very casual. “Hi guys, my name’s Ivan. Tell me about what you do?” And then get them to talk.
Matt: So be interested.
Ivan: Be interested. That’s exactly it.
Matt: I think that’s really important. Because I think that too many people are so focused on saying something interesting – as you said.
Matt: As opposed to just trying to ask about them. I mean they’re all at networking events, right? And they want people to ask them about themselves.
Ivan: Yes they do. And if you’re dealing with somebody who’s good at networking – after they’ve talked about themselves, they’re going to ask you. “So tell me what you do?” And then it’s okay to be interesting. But first be interested. And being interesting, I recommend that you do – a concept that’s been around for a long time, a unique selling proposition. You want to say something that really gets people’s attention.
There’s a company that I’m associated with called Asentiv. Which has a great line, “We help people create referrals for life.” And then watch their eyebrow– Sam Horne, a good friend of mine wrote a book called, “Pop.” Calls this, “The E.Y.E.B.R.O.W. Test.” When you use your unique selling proposition – their full unique selling proposition is, “We help people make more, work less and create referrals for life.”
Then watch their eyebrows. If their eyebrows go up, just got their attention. They’re like, “Oh, how do you do that?” If their eyebrows go down, you’ve just confused them. “Oh, how do you do that?” Same words, “Oh how do you do that?” But if the eyebrows go down, you lost them. If the eyebrows go up, you got them. So use a unique selling proposition. Practice, use different techniques or different phrases. And when you find one that generally gets – passes The E.Y.E.B.R.O.W. Test. Gets their attention and they ask for more information, that’s a great phrase to use.
Matt: I think that that’s one of the key factors for a lot of people. Because I know my mother used to introduce herself as a business coach. And a lot of times, that put her on a defensive position.
Matt: And what I noticed with the sales proposition that you just suggested – it didn’t talk about the functional element of what they do. It talked about the outcome that they helped provide.
Matt: And I think – I’ve spent a lot of time working with people and helping them understand how to get themselves from explaining, “I’m a videographer, to “I’m a narrative strategist.” Or I’m a ghostwriter to an authority architect. Because the goal is to excite and inspire people to want to know more.
Matt: Not put you in that defensive position. Do you have any advice for how people–? In BNI, they talk about – the infomercial, the little 15-second, “What I do.” Do you have any suggestions for how people should go about trying to create that?
Ivan: So if it’s a one-time thing where you’re meeting someone. You’re not meeting them regularly. You do – you absolutely have to focus on the outcomes, as opposed to, “I’m a business coach.” You want to focus on something catchy that– “I help people generate 50% more business.” Or whatever – whatever the data is that you’ve got. That kind of is an attention getter.
Now on the other hand, if you’re going to a meeting on a weekly basis or a regular basis like BNI, it’s a little different. There it’s all about educating people. You’re not trying to make a sale, you’re trying to train a sales force. So you go every week in groups like BNI, and you want people to refer you. That’s what it’s all about. So how do you get them to do that? You have to teach them what you do.
And so each and every week is about breaking your business down to their least or lowest common denominator. One little sliver of what you do. And spend your time – usually you only have a minute or so. Spend your time talking about that one little sliver. So that over the course of a year, you’ve given a lot of content for someone about what you do. So that they – when they are out there in the field, they go, “You know what? I know somebody who does that.” So we– On a weekly basis, specific is terrific when you’re doing a presentation to group. When you’re just talking to one person, then it’s about outcomes.
Matt: That’s brilliant. I think that’s great advice. Well Ivan, you’ve given us so much today, and I really appreciate you being so open with talking about your introversion and talking about the systems. And I guess the unique way that you found out about being an introvert. I think that offers a lot of value to people. Because a lot of people get defined by their introversion. And I feel that it should be an empowering thing. I think you made it very clear that extroverts and introverts both have their disadvantages.
Matt: Both have their strengths.
Matt: And I’d like to say a lot of extroverts would consider that they have a specific edge. A thing that makes them uniquely able to do business and be successful in it. I think introverts have that as well. And one of the things that I give all people pre-warning with is – I’m going to ask you what you consider your introvert’s edge. And I’d love it if you would share – of all the things that you’ve accomplished, what do you think’s been your real introvert’s edge that’s really got you to where you are today?
Ivan: So I really believe that networking’s more about farming than it is about hunting. It’s about cultivating relationships. For me – hands down, it’s about collaboration. That I have learned to collaborate with people, rather than tell people what to do. And through that collaboration, I have worked with many people to create communities all around the world, almost a quarter of a million members worldwide. All collaborating, all to build business for each other. That is – without a doubt, my introvert’s edge.
Matt: That’s unbelievable. And thank you for sharing that. Well I know I’ve got a huge amount of value out of this interview. And – again, for all the help that BNI’s been to my family growing up, I really appreciate everything that you’ve done.
Ivan: I appreciate you saying that a lot.
Matt: Well for people that just – still want to find out a little bit more about BNI and maybe help you get to that quarter of a million members – where can people find out a little bit more about BNI, and maybe find a chapter near them? How do people kinda step in, as opposed to jump into BNI, and get their first experience?
Ivan: Sure. So first thing I do is – go to ivanmisner.com. If you like the content that we’ve been talking about here, I’ve got 10 years’ worth of blog content – hundreds and hundreds of blogs that I’ve done over the years – both video and written blogs. And then go to bni.com if you’re interested in visiting a chapter. See what it’s all about. Take a taste, take a look.
Matt: And I’d definitely suggest that everybody does that. As I said – especially if you’re introverted – BNI’s a great place to go out and try some of the skills that you’re learning throughout this podcast, and through potentially checking out “The Introvert’s Edge,” my book. And just really start to do that. Stop hiding in your office and expecting online to do all the heavy lifting. Just go out and start to meet people. And you might find that you actually have a bit of fun along the way of doing that as well.
So if you’re enjoying this episode, please make sure that you subscribe. And also – if you could provide a review to this podcast, I’d really, really appreciate it. But I look forward to seeing you on the next episode of The Introvert’s Edge. Cheers.