Have you ever had a job where you had to always be “on”? The role was so far out of your comfort zone you felt you needed a security blanket to hold on to just to get through each day?
That was me for about 8 years of my career. I was a textbook introvert in the world of professional services consulting. Every day felt like I was swimming in the depths of the ocean, fighting to keep my head above water.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t blame anyone but me. I put myself in that position seeking experience and growth.
Though growth sometimes came at a cost, it wasn’t always a constant struggle. Daily interactions with clients, attending meetings and presenting project deliverables weren’t my forte, but I did discover opportunities to use my introverted tendencies as a strength.
A quiet strength
Much of this discovery came after reading Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking which helped me understand my traits and capabilities as an introvert. I walked away with new insights, feeling empowered to be more effective in a role in which I had previously felt I didn’t belong.
Often overlooked due to our habit of withholding rather than vocalising our thoughts, introverts have a quiet strength that deserves greater appreciation in the workplace context.
For some of us, we can maintain a poker face, no matter how ludicrous the last sentence that escaped the client’s mouth appeared to be. For others, it’s the well-developed opinions we share when we push through the fear of our idea becoming the target of the next flaming arrow.
Whatever your skills may be, it’s time to stop underestimating your ability to succeed in a client or customer-facing role and start recognising the value you bring to the role!
The power of introverts
This one isn’t just for my introverted comrades.
This also for my extroverted people on the other end of the spectrum seeking to understand your mysterious and somewhat elusive colleagues.
This is for anyone who’s willing to uncover the strengths of every individual within their team to better serve your clients.
Here are a few ways introverts can be powerfully effective when interacting with clients:
1. Building genuine relationships
You have this brilliant ability to build deep and genuine connections with people. Don’t leave that to your personal life, bring it into your work life too! I know you’re not much for small talk but once you get over that hurdle, it will be well worth it.
When you focus on building the relationship rather than “winning” work, this should also help those client meetings seem less daunting. It may almost feel like catching up with a friend (emphasis on the word “almost”) – who doesn’t look forward to that?
2. Preparation before meetings and presentations
Let’s face it, as an introvert, “winging it” is almost never an option. That’s ok. Use your preference for thorough preparation to your advantage when it comes to client meetings and presentations.
Come with well-formed ideas and responses to anticipated questions to lift your confidence and improve your ability to be a valued contributor to the conversation.
3. Reading the room
In any face-to-face interaction, non-verbal cues play a vital role. This is your moment, my introverted friend! Use your finely honed skills of observation to pick up on the non-verbal cues being communicated by your client and help your team adapt and respond accordingly.
You could even volunteer to perform this role within the team each time you attend client meetings. This shows you’re being proactive without you having to say a word!
If you’re riding solo, try to listen more than you speak and you’ll be better positioned to observe body language and change your course of action in response.
4. Making the client feel heard
When you listen, you really listen and not just wait for your opportunity to respond. Your unmatched listening skills give you the sought-after ability to capture and understand your client’s needs.
As a result, you’re able to offer the perfect solution tailored to their needs, rather than simply selling a pre-packaged solution that doesn’t quite hit the mark. Your client will love you for it!
Being an introvert in a role that requires high amounts of client interaction shouldn’t be seen as a weakness. Don’t give in to the pressure to pretend you’re someone that you’re not. Instead, identify your strengths and use them in ways that will have your client wanting more!
For more tips on how to thrive in the workplace as an introvert, read How to conquer online networking as an introvert.
Do you identify with any of the strengths I’ve listed above? Maybe you have other strengths that you’re determined to leverage more in the future. Please share them by leaving a comment!
Oyelola is a freelance writer based in Sydney, Australia. She works closely with entrepreneurs and businesses in financial services, consulting and education, writing quality-rich content to engage their readers and motivate action. When not writing for clients, Oyelola provides insights on writing, wealth and work on her Phrased with Purpose blog and shares her faith journey on her personal blog, He Speaks, I Write.