Networking for introverts: 5 ways to succeed

Networking for introverts can be hard – here’s how to make it productive and even enjoyable!

By Shane Lukas, Managing Director AVN

Networking. Don’t you just love it? Have you ever actually gained a new client directly from a networking event?


The truth is that most of us find networking challenging and unproductive. And for the introverts among us (which includes many accountants), it’s even harder.

But networking has the potential to be incredibly valuable. It can increase visibility for you and your business. It can showcase your skills and position you as an expert – or even a thought leader – in the area you want to be known for. And of course, it can bring new business opportunities that you would have missed otherwise.

With the right strategies, even the most introverted accountant can navigate these gatherings effectively.

The wrong approach to networking

Many people approach networking with a goal of winning new business. But, while that may be the ultimate aim, it’s not likely to happen in the first conversation you have with a stranger. Think how you’d feel if someone you’ve just met tried to convince you to buy their product. Even if you’re offering a free meeting, a hard sell just puts people off.

Another stumbling block is how to get into the right kind of conversation, that leads naturally into a meaningful discussion. When everyone asks the same ‘what do you do?’ question all too often we get stuck in trivial chat that leads nowhere.

And how often have you followed up afterwards when you’ve met someone at a networking event? Any rapport you built up is easily lost if not maintained.

5 ways introverts can succeed at networking

In fact, introverts can be very successful at networking. The key is to use your strengths, rather than pretending to be the extrovert you aren’t.

  1. Listen actively when you’re in a conversation. If you find it difficult to talk about yourself, that’s great! Many people love talking about themselves so all you have to do is ask the right questions (see below for more tips on this). Ask open ended questions and be genuinely interested in their experiences, both personal and professional.
  2. Prepare your elevator pitch beforehand so you know that to say when you’re asked. Rather than just saying ‘I’m an accountant’, which tends get a blank reaction, focus on how you help your clients. Another way to engage your listener and start a great conversation is to talk about your ‘why’ – the emotional drive behind what you do.
  3. Be helpful. If you meet two people who seem like they have common interests, introduce them to each other. In fact, if you approach the whole idea of networking as a way to help others it puts a completely different slant on it. And being known as someone who’s really helpful is an effective way to develop genuine relationships (that lead to genuine opportunities).
  4. Stop thinking that your goal is to come back with X number of meetings or business cards. Networking isn’t about selling. Focus instead on having great conversations and building up genuine relationships – you never know where they could lead.
  5. Be the one to follow up; don’t leave the ball in their court. Whether it’s connecting on LinkedIn or arranging a call, follow up with a personal message and a reminder of what you talked about. Keep cultivating the relationship.

How to start a meaningful conversation

Instead of asking the standard ‘what do you do’ question, use this method to get to know people on a deeper level.

So, start off by saying ‘Tell me a bit about you as an individual’ and then use the FORD mnemonic (these are just some suggested questions):

F – family. Tell me about your family – spouse, children, grandchildren pets. Show a genuine interest.

O – occupation. What kind of customers do you have? Do you specialise in a particular area?

R – recreation. What do you like to do to relax? Any hobbies?

D – dreams. Do you mind if I ask you a couple of deeper questions? Would that be OK? I’d really like to understand you a little bit better. Where would you like to take your business in five years? If you could wave a magic wand, what would you love to be doing in five years’ time?

When you understand something of their hopes and dreams, you’ll start to connect on a more personal level. And, while I don’t suggest you leap in to sell your services there and then, it does create an opportunity for further discussion.

Put all of this in place and who knows, you might even enjoy networking!


For more tips on networking for introverts, take a look at this webinar in The Accountants KnowHow Club – The introvert’s guide to effective networking.

If you aren’t yet a member of the Club, you can test it out for £1 – more details here.