"Selling" one's organization is typically seen as falling in the domain of the extrovert. Many introverted people may experience discomfort at the thought of promoting their organization. However, selling one's organization and its values is an important part of networking and helping others who benefit from your organization's services. An attendee of Lab Manager's virtual Business Management Digital Summit asked for tips on encouraging introverted staff members to sell the organization. Two experienced lab leaders share their insights below.
Q: How can a lab manager help introverts feel comfortable selling their organization and their values?
Paula McDaniel: A misconception about introverts is that they are quiet and reserved. Instead, an introvert’s key differentiating feature is how they process data. An extrovert is comfortable processing data on the fly and talking through a scenario to get to an endpoint or decision. In contrast, an introvert needs time to think through the various scenarios before coming to a decision.
Regardless of the situation, from a customer-focused selling event to an internal group meeting, there are mechanisms you can use to help your introverts be most effective at engaging. Planning ahead is one key to having fruitful interactions. Formal protocol including establishing clear meeting goals, detailed agendas, specific individual contribution/action assignments will help all attendees prepare for the meeting. Provide these details well in advance and consider having an internal pre-meeting to make sure the goals and assignments are clear.
Another trick is to partner your introvert with a facilitator or extrovert. It is common for unplanned topics or questions to percolate to the surface during conversation. Partner your expert with someone more comfortable in a fluid meeting environment to facilitate the introvert’s interactions. It is also okay to indicate in the meeting that some topics will require follow-up. Using good meeting protocol, gather action items, assign them to an individual and set a target date for completion to help take them off-line. In essence, move these to a more comfortable data processing environment for all introverts on the team.
For anyone in your organization who is charged with “selling,” it is important to prepare them with talking points, background, and organizational goals. This will help your introverts and extroverts alike by ensuring everyone on the team is rowing in the same direction.
All employees have some responsibility for “selling” their organization. While “selling” an organization can be more challenging for introverts, all people can benefit by taking a more studied approach. Whether selling your group internally to other stakeholders in the company or selling your company to prospective customers, getting comfortable with the process begins with authenticity. Start by taking an honest look at your organization. What are you good at that others would find valuable? Does your lab have particular skills that help set your company apart from its competitors? Do you or others in the lab have experience that leads you to solve problems more quickly or more thoroughly? Do you have processes in place that give you extraordinary confidence in the quality of the lab’s results? You must honestly believe it what you are “selling,” so focus on those aspects of the organization that you truly believe are valuable and differentiating.
Once you have that list of attributes in hand, the next step is to understand your audience. What problems or difficulties keep them up at night? No one is going to “buy” what they don’t need, so take some time to understand what they do need. If your audience is an internal department outside of the lab, understand their goals and barriers. Ask the questions to better know what they are trying to accomplish. If your audience is external to your company, take the time to understand their business goals and challenges. Finally, match the attributes of your organization that you are proud of with the challenges your audience is facing. How can your organization help them achieve their goals? In most cases, there will be a way you can help them. Helping someone solve one of their problems is a lot easier to tackle than “selling”!
Paula McDaniel, PhD, spent 23 years in corporate analytical and product development groups at Air Products after receiving her PhD in Physical Chemistry (University of Illinois, 1988). In 2011, she transitioned to Intertek, a global testing/certification business, as business development manager/director for the Chemical & Materials location in Allentown, PA. At Intertek Allentown, she positioned the site’s analytical testing offerings and supported client needs in the medical device, health and beauty products, chemicals industries, and more.
Sherri L. Bassner obtained her PhD in inorganic chemistry from The Pennsylvania State University in 1988. She began working for Air Products and Chemicals, Inc., in the fall of that year. Most of her 22 years with Air Products were spent in business unit R&D positions, first as an individual contributor and then in technology management positions. Her areas of expertise focused on solvent and water-based coatings and adhesives. Her experience with Air Products included almost 4 years in Mexico where she built applied technology organizations in both Mexico and Brazil to provide local support to business in the region and managed the Mexican business. After four years managing Air Products’ Global Analytical Sciences organization, Sherri moved to Intertek USA in July 2010, where she assumed business management responsibility for the Intertek Chemicals and Materials lab in Allentown, PA. Her last role at Intertek was as vice president for chemical services, building a platform across global business lines to provide comprehensive testing, development support, investigations, and regulatory consulting for customers across industries. Sherri is currently enjoying retirement, participating in part-time consulting and leadership coaching. She blogs on personal and professional development as well as other topics at www.sherribassner.com.