Doing Business the UN-Businesslike Way


We live in a world of cold calls, automatic email subscriptions with every purchase, and formal networking events fraught with the frenzied collection of business cards.  We're told that the "new, exciting" way to do business is really just the way we've always done business, but with higher confidence, savvier tactics, more pizzazz.

Ramit Sethi is a great resource for this type of business success.  In his blog, books, or workshops, advice can be found for scripting the perfect responses, handling negotiations, providing exactly the right amount of information at the right times.  And his success is proof that this style of business can and does work.

But what about those of us who don't want to hardball our clients, or refuse to give pricing information until the last possible minute?  Those of us who see digging up someone's personal information in order to contact a person we've never met as a violation of privacy rather than a sign of initiative?  Those of us with a loathing for the inevitable marketing emails that follow networking events and who don't answer unknown numbers for fear of wasting valuable time on a sales call?

The new but still traditional method of business would indicate that those are flaws to overcome.  I disagree.  I believe there's another way to do business.  Perhaps even plethoras of options to choose from.

I'll use myself as an example.  I'm a customer, just as frequently if not often than I am the provider of customer service.  This podcast of one of Ramit Sethi's workshops professes to never discuss price until after discussing the project with your potential client and having a chance to sell them on your business.  But as a customer, I won't request a quote.  I'll research until I've found a company that meets my criteria.  It's not all based on price - but price is factored into many other things, including professionalism, how easy it is to use their website, and the effectiveness of their communication.

Why would I want to provide a customer service experience to my clients that I, personally, would not find acceptable?

So what's the "other" way?  If you hate the idea of cold calls, networking, and most traditional marketing feels like an invasion of someone else's privacy, there's a good chance you're an introvert.  Networking for People Who Hate Networking is a fantastic resource for people who struggle to conform to the extrovert norms of traditional business practices.  Devora Zack starts off by giving a breakdown of the two extremes of the scale, introvert vs extrovert, and then continues to explain how each group can use their strengths to approach similar situations.

One of my favorite quotes from the book was this:
  • Q) Why do extroverts have voicemail?
  • Q) Why do introverts have voicemail?
  • A) To never miss a call
  • A) To never take a call

In either case, technology is a great resource for each group - but for the introvert in particular, digital communication allows time to think before responding which is crucial for introverts.  Other tips for introverts include things like preparing responses to common questions and talking points so as to not be caught off guard, giving oneself adequate time to rest and recharge in between social engagements, and to think over responses to questions, since an introverts immediate first response is often no unless given time to consider.

Introverts might struggle more with putting themselves out there, and be less prone to do follow up that feels invasive to others, but they have strengths they can play to such as listening and remembering conversational points that can be brought up later.

But it's not as simple as introvert vs extrovert.  There are tons of networking events to attend and, in my experience, the majority are formal, business-like affairs, with a focus on finding potential customers.  But a closer examination reveals hidden gems like Delaware's own Mascara and Mimosas Networking Brunch.  This group, inspired by the Boss Babe Academy throws formality out the window and strives to achieve the opposite of traditional business: a noncompetitive atmosphere.

If there was only one way to do business, how could groups like this exist and even thrive?  Facebook has scores of networking groups.  Some, like traditional networking events, seem to exist just to blast each other with sales information, but others, like Fierce and Fab Women and Solopreneur Life, maintain a small, friendly atmosphere with a focus on helping each other and making friends.  Not connections, friends.

This, I believe, is the secret to the alternate approach.

Many businesses thrive in the hustle and bustle of sales-based marketing and sales-driven networking.  But beneath the surface of big-name companies and corporations, there's a smaller, more intimate business world.  It's an adaptive one, that focuses on intimate connections rather than political ones, helping each other and learning in a noncompetitive environment, and doing business your own way.  It's automatically more inclusive to introverts by way of this intimacy and by the ease with which it accepts many different forms of digital connection.

You can see this in the growing popularity of phrases like "girlboss" and "solopreneur."  The increase of do-it-yourself, and work-from-home.  The multitudes of aspiring entrepreneurs and freelancers and even those who monetize their hobbies.

It might be a smaller world, but it's rapidly growing and there's plenty of room for success here, too.  Plus, it's a lot more fun.

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