Personality traits—or behavioral drives—shape how workers perform in certain roles. At face value, an extraverted person may be better suited for work that requires strong social skills. And introverts may be limited to performing quieter, heads-down work.
But are those stereotypes true? Can an introvert succeed as a consultant?
To some, the idea of an “introverted consultant” seems an odd pairing of words: How can a consultant—the slick, solutions-oriented, smartest person in the room—be reserved or quiet?
But not all introverts are reserved or quiet; that’s a false premise. Some just need time alone to recharge.
And while some introverts are reserved and quiet, that doesn’t hold them back. Introverted consultants exist, and they can be just as successful as their gregarious counterparts.
Here’s how they win:
Specialized deep thinking
Consultants are contracted for a reason. They bring niche subject matter expertise and technical insights to problems companies face—problems not likely to be corrected with in-house staff alone.
Deep thinking with a heads-down, analytical mindset is part of the consulting role. It’s not just about onboarding new clients, perfecting your pitch, or nailing the in-person meeting. Clients pay for solutions.
What an introvert brings to the table is less talk, more action. Their currency is the end product they deliver. They’re able to hyper-focus on analyzing data so they can prescribe improvement actions.
Introverts may be viewed as hesitant, shy, or lost in their own thoughts. Maybe that’s true in some cases, but many introverts can be perceived by others as confident and charming! That’s because many introverts have high dominance—and dominance can be interpreted as extraversion.
Take, for example, a husband and wife realtor team who own the most successful brokerage in town. Every month they attend a networking event, and they don’t leave until they’ve spoken with every person in the room. You might look at them and think, Now there’s an extraverted couple! But what drives them to socialize might be their desire to have control and be the best.
High dominance consultants are comfortable with risk; they’re innovative and unafraid of failure. That means they’re well-suited to tackle the deep, imposing challenges businesses encounter—projects that often require unconventional, big-picture thinking. Being introverted doesn’t hold them back in the slightest.
Guiding rather than teaching
Because an introverted consultant may not have the persuasive personality or natural presence to wow clients with their services right out of the gate, they must often take a more customized path to complete projects and retain business.
For instance, much of consulting is implementing new systems or processes, then working with clients to be able to train the rest of their workforce—after the engagement ends. And the way to best facilitate these teachable moments is to do less “dictating” and more guiding.
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Active, effective listening
Another hallmark of a great consultant is the ability to absorb and process client information in a way that moves the partnership or project forward. Introverts channel their time and energy into converting a client’s needs into a structured, systematic solution.
This is accomplished via active listening.
Additionally, prospects pick up on whether they’re being sold to or listened to. Consultants who listen actively can build trust more easily.
The introverted consultant’s challenge
Chasing engagements is a common struggle for consultants. For introverted consultants, all that talking and selling can feel especially exhausting. That’s why it’s so important to add a recurring revenue stream to your firm. That way you can focus on problem-solving and guiding your clients, rather than hunting for new ones.