How social is your social network?

relationshipsIn my video blog two weeks ago, The Six Degree Myth and the 29 Percent Solution, I discussed the inspiration for the book that I co-wrote with Michelle Donovan, The 29% Solution. After watching the vlog, one reader brought up an interesting point, and I would love to discuss it further.

Social media changes the game of networking, but not really how you might think. A common social networking misconception is that the number of people that you are connected with online is directly related to the number of people that you truly have a connection with in your day to day life. When widely known networking theories are applied to social media, results can vary.

This is because studies relating to social media connectivity, in this case referring to a study done by Facebook in 2011 which attempts to recreate Stanley Milgram’s Six Degrees of Separation experiment via Facebook, have one fundamental flaw.

These studies assume, and rely on the possibility, that a connection on Facebook is the same to an actual, real life relationship. I have 5,000 connections on my Facebook page. This doesn’t mean that I have 5,000 people that I know well enough to ask for a favor, or that they would actually do it for me if I asked. Facebook has essentially redefined what a “friend” is so that any contact on a profile is considered a legitimate, personal relationships. According to the Dunbar Study, the true number of contacts that one person can have meaningful relationships with is around 150, and naturally this varies from person to person.

That being said, with social media, and in our day-to-day lives as well, it is not the number of links, but the quality of links that makes a difference in our networking attempts. The purpose of The 29% Solution was to explain what things I thought anyone could do to be part of the percentage of people with close, meaningful connections.

What do you think? How has social media changed how you connect with others? Share with me in the comments section below.

Use Your Networks to Build Your Business

It's not net-sitBusiness owners are always looking for new ways to expand their client base and grow their business. Many, as they work to bring their business to the next level, join networking organizations. These organizations can be great ways to meet new people, expand your pool of referral partners, and hone key skills like public speaking and delivery. The key to being a part of these organizations, however, is really working the networks that you are a part of. Remember, “It’s not called ‘NET-SIT’ or ‘NET-EAT” – it’s called ‘NET-WORK.’”

When looking for organizations to join, also remember that it can be beneficial to even join organizations from three or more of the categories of networking groups. Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket, as one group likely won’t meet all of your networking needs. There are seven key types of networking business organizations. These are:

  1. Casual Contact Networks
  2. Strong Contact Networks
  3. Community Service Clubs
  4. Professional Associations
  5. Social/Business Groups
  6. Women’s and Ethnic Organizations
  7. Online/Social Networking

Join as many or as few as your time allows, but always give your best effort to promoting yourself and your business in each. Which groups you select will directly affect your referral marketing’s success.

To pick the groups that are right for you, first take some time and think about what types of organizations you truly want or need to join. Your participation in the group is what will make you successful, not how many you join, so be sure to join the ones that you have time for and want to take part in. Second, you must find some of these organizations in your area. You can try to join an organization across the world from you, but if you can’t physically commit yourself to the group then you won’t get return on your investment.

Next, be sure to visit as many of these groups as you can and get testimonials from current members. Just as you want referrals for your business, you would want current members to give referrals for their organization. Finally, visit the group one more time before you decide to join. Many groups have nuances that you may not pick up on at your first meeting, so give yourself plenty of time to see the whole group.

There is no quick fix, and growing your business will take effort. Above all else, dedicate the time to your networking strategy that it deserves, and meet other qualified business professionals regularly to develop your referral-based business.

How many networking organizations are you a part of? Have you found a combination of groups that gives you the most bang for your buck? I’d love to hear your thoughts on networking organizations, so please leave your comment in the forum below! Thanks!

What Is Your Intent? Do You Know Your Purpose?

Photo courtesy of Boykung at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Photo courtesy of Boykung at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

All great teachers assert the importance of having intent and purpose in our lives.  According to Benjamin Disraeli, “The secret of success is constancy of purpose.”  Before you go into a networking scenario, make sure you know your purpose.  If your underlying pupose is to exploit the group, you will communicate differently, both verbally and nonverbally, than if you intend to give to the group.  You expect an eventual return, of course, but a good networker goes in with the immediate benefit of others uppermost in mind.

We are, at most times in our lives, a dynamic mixture of intentions.  We seek to do good for others, and at the same time we seek personal benefits in many different forms.  When we attend networking events, our attention instinctively and constantly jumps from situation to situation, searching for opportunities that favor us.  To fix your intention firmly on benefitting others, it is useful to organize your thoughts before the event by formulating, in writing, a clear statement of your main purpose–a mission statement.  Focusing on your number-one priority helps you push your many other impulses into the background.

With your attention and intentions focused, you will communicate clearly and unambiguously your willingness to help others solve problems and satisfy needs.  You will be more self-confident and open to the messages of others, and they will sense it and be attracted to you.  Your message will foster trust and rapport with your networking partners, enabling you to establish and strengthen mutually beneficial relationships.

For the networker, the most authentic message of all is this: “I would like to be your friend, and for you to be my friend.  I think we will both benefit from it.  And I want to start this friendship by doing something to help you.”  If you communicate this orientation toward others in all possible ways, with integrity, you will easily form valuable, rewarding, long-lasting networking relationships.

What have you personally found to be an effective tactic in relaying your genuine networking intent/purpose?  Please share your feedback in the comment forum below.  Thanks!

3 Tips for Putting the Butterfly Effect of Networking in Motion

IvanRichardBethSome years back, I posted a blog detailing how my introduction to Richard Branson was completely the result of the Butterfly Effect of Networking.  In thinking about that blog post, it occurred to me that an important part of the reason I was able to make such effective and rewarding networking connections was the way that I thought about, and therefore went about networking. Here’s what I mean by that . . .

While it’s important to know the right things to do while networking, it’s equally important to start thinking the right way to make your networking efforts as successful and dynamic as they can be. This involves altering your mind-set. Here is an up-close look at some elements you’ll want to include in your mind-set to ensure networking success:

  1. The law of reciprocity or Givers Gain® approach.

Don’t approach networking thinking ‘I did this for you, now what are you going to do for me?’ Instead, remember the old adage Give and you shall receive? The law of reciprocity takes the focus off of what you stand to gain from the networking relationship, and in doing so, creates bonds based on trust and friendship. Put it to the test. You’ll be amazed by the outcome.

  1. Diversity in networking.

Look for groups that don’t target people just like you. In this way, you’ll broaden the net you seek to cast for referrals.

  1. Farming mentality.

It’s a long, drawn-out process to go from seeding a field to harvesting the crops and there’s no quick return. But, when you spend time and take care in building relationships, your networking will yield extraordinary results.

Approaching networking with a mentality that focuses on the process of cultivating referrals will create the results you desire. Make an effort to spend more time strengthening your friendships with those whom you wish to have as part of your networking circle and you will certainly make more and better connections.

Do you have any tips for developing a networking-friendly mindset which positions you for success?  I’d love to hear from you, so please leave your thoughts, comments, and ideas in the forum below.  Thanks!

Networking Is a Marathon, Not a Sprint

The fact is, networking truly is a marathon of an endeavor–it’s most definitely not a sprint.  I have met so many people who practice what I call ‘hyperactive networking’ and they mistakenly approach networking at the speed of an all-out sprint–they want to be absolutely everywhere and meet absolutely everyone and they go, go, go ALL of the time until they soon inevitably burn out, ‘collapse,’ and give up.

It’s a real shame because if these people would, from the beginning, just slow down and take the time to develop a networking strategy and understand that networking takes time, patience, hard work, dedication, commitment, and endurance, they would be reaping great rewards from their networking efforts instead of exhausting themselves with nothing to show for it in the end.

Networking at its core is about taking the time to build genuine, trusted relationships.  Sure, visibility is important, but without building trust right along with it, visibility won’t get you very far in the long run.  You can run around all day long going to networking events and shaking people’s hands, but if you’re not spending time following up and developing trust with the people you meet, then you haven’t really achieved much of anything that will actually give you results from your networking efforts–do not confuse activity with accomplishment. 

So, what are your tactics for pacing yourself in the marathon of networking?  What actions do you take to strategically build relationships?  I’d love to hear from you so please share your thoughts and ideas in the comment forum below–thanks!

Being Your Own Chief Networking Officer


CNOIf you work in an organization, you might be familiar with the increasingly popular position of chief networking officer (CNO).  The CNO is the person who handles many corporations’ business networking and community-related activities.

The role or position of CNO has changed over the years.  In the past, the CNO could have been the person responsible for such things as running the computer or IT department, or for computer-related functions in general, because networking was thought of as a matter of electronic connection.  CNOs are still tech related, but these days we’re seeing many executives with that title in charge of completely different functions, handling business networking activities such as these:

  • Community Involvement
  • Internal & External Communication
  • Public Relations
  • Corporate Culture
  • Social Capital
  • Human Resources
  • Diversity
  • Client/Customer Relationships
  • Developing a Referral Marketing Campaign
  • Departmental Collaboration
  • Relationship Advertising & Marketing
  • Improving Vendor Relationships
  • Referral Generation Strategies

As you can see, a CNOs responsibilities can be broad and complex.  However, I believe the two key responsibilities to be: 1) relationship-marketing campaigns and 2) referral generation strategies.  These roles should be top of mind if you’re going to network like a pro.  They should be the principal job focus of a CNO.

First, however, let’s address the thought that’s probably just popped into your head: “Hey, I only have a ten-person (four-person/one-person) organization; how can I afford to hire a CNO to do my networking?

As business professionals ourselves, we remember what it was like trying to get a company off the ground.  And, quite frankly, there never seemed to be enough resources to take care of all the things the business needed, let alone hire an executive-level person.

What I suggest is to create a CNO position in your company and then fill it yourself, at least in the beginning.  In other words, don’t hire a CNO; just take on a CNO mindset.  How do you create a CNO mindset?  Start off by adopting a Givers Gain® attitude.  This gets you in the spirit of finding ways to help others while simultaneously overcoming the scarcity mentality that can creep into your thinking.  Lay out a clear set of guidelines and action items that you’d like the CNO to take, and then fill that position yourself for two or three hours a week.

 

Quantity Is Fine, But Quality Is King

Photo Courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Photo Courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

One of the biggest misconceptions I’m aware of in regard to networking is the notion that it’s an “all you can eat” affair.  In other words, people go to an event, work the room in an effort to meet everyone there, and then judge their success by the number of cards they accumulate.  Although I see a certain superficial logic in that, there’s only one fatal flaw with this kind of thinking:  it assumes that the more people you meet at an event, the more successful your networking efforts are–and that’s simply not the case.  Instead, the quality of the connections you form is much more significant than the quantity of connections you make.

Businesspeople unfamiliar with referral networking sometimes lose track of the fact that networking is the means–not the end–of their business-building activities.  They attend three, four, even five events in a week in a desperate grasp for new business.  The predictable result is that they stay so busy meeting new people that they never have time to follow up and cultivate those relationships–and how can they expect to get that new business from someone they’ve only just met?  As one of these unfortunates remarked to me, “I feel like I’m always doing business but rarely getting anything done.”

I certainly agree that meeting new people is an integral part of networking, but it’s important to remember why we’re doing it in the first place: to develop a professional rapport with individuals that will deepen over time into a trusting relationship that will eventually lead to a mutually beneficial and continuous exchange of referrals.

When meeting someone for the first time, focus on the potential relationship you might form.  As hard as it may be to suppress your business reflexes, at this stage you cannot make it your goal to sell your services or promote your company.  You’re there to get to know a new person.  A friend of mine told me something his dad always said: “You don’t have to sell to friends.”  That’s especially good advice when interacting with new contacts.

This certainly doesn’t mean you’ll never get to sell anything to people you meet while networking; it does, however, mean that you’ll need to employ a different approach.  Networking isn’t about closing business or meeting hordes of new people; it’s about developing relationships in which future business can be closed.  Once you understand that, you’ll stand out from the crowd with everyone you meet.

When you’re networking like a pro and treating new contacts as future referral partners, you’ll absolutely blow away any competitors who still feel compelled to meet as many people as they possibly can.  Why?  Because when you call your contacts back, they’ll actually remember who you are and be willing to meet with you again.

Keith Ferrazzi: Build Trust by Breaking Bread

As most of you who read this blog are avid networkers, it’s highly likely you are already familiar with Keith Ferrazzi.  If you aren’t, however, I can tell you that if the dictionary had a photo to accompany the definition of “master networker,” the photo would be of Keith.  He is absolutely the epitome of a master networker, and he has the most diverse group of contacts of anyone I’ve ever known.

Keith’s first book, Never Eat Alone, is a bestseller and the entire premise of the book is that networking over a meal is an absolutely amazing way to build rapport and trusted relationships with people.  After I read it, I found myself constantly referring to it in conversation and recommending it to people because it really is true–something magical and companionable happens when people break bread together.

I wanted to share this video with you today because, in it, Keith talks about his own key strategies for hosting networking dinner parties, and I think the “dinner party tactic” is one that not a lot of networkers have dabbled with.  I would love to see networkers around the world, both novice and seasoned, experience the amazing, relationship-building power that hosting a purposeful dinner party can have.

Keith believes that the strongest links have been forged at the table.  Because of this, he has mastered the art of throwing a networking dinner party and, in his networking content, he consistently emphasizes the power that throwing a dinner party can have in creating memories and strengthening relationships.  He is quick to mention, however, that if we continue to have dinner parties with the same people, our circle will never grow.  His solution is to identify and invite “anchor tenants” to your party.  These are people who are related to your core group but who know different people, have experienced different things, and thus have much to share.  They tend to be the people who have had a positive influence on your friends’ lives.  It’s akin to inviting the CEO to the manager’s table, as Ferrazzi says.  Soon other executives will want to be there too.

I had the opportunity to experience one of Keith’s networking parties firsthand and the anchor guest that night was the legendary author Gore Vidal.  Providing the entertainment was America’s oldest collegiate a capella group, the Whiffenpoofs of Yale.  Clearly, not all of us will be able to get Gore Vidal and the Whiffenpoofs at our networking party, but I’m guessing that Keith didn’t have them at his first party either.  However, the strategy is sound and I encourage you to try out the concept as a way of building your visibility in the community.  Keith has paid close attention to how a meal can most appropriately be leveraged for a business networking opportunity; the primary focus should always be on developing the relationship–learning about each other, helping one another with problems, and giving ourselves.

I invite you to visit KeithFerrazzi.com to learn more about Keith, and I highly encourage you to check out his content on networking–it’s absolutely fantastic!

If You’re Only Talking Shop, You’re Selling Yourself Short

Photo courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Photo courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

People often think that networking is all about talking business and exchanging cards, but that’s a definite misconception.

In a networking group, you should talk about more than just business. A referral relationship is more than just, “I do business, you do business, let’s do business.” A much better approach is to find common ground on a personal level, then relate your business to it.

The longer I’ve been involved in networking, the more I’ve seen the power of personal interests in making connections. Networking is about building personal relationships. If you remove the personal from the equation, you limit the amount of business that can happen.

In one networking group I worked with, I introduced an exercise called the GAINS Exchange, in which people share personal and professional information about themselves. Two of the participants in this group had known each other for more than a year but had never done business. During the exercise, they discovered they both coached their sons’ soccer teams. They quickly became close friends and were soon helping each other conduct soccer practices. After a few months, they began referring business to each other–two guys who had barely spoken to each other the first year because they seemed to have so little in common.

By finding a common interest and starting with that, we can make connections that have a very good chance of turning into business. Try this strategy out for a while and then come back and leave a comment to let me know what your experiences have been–I’d love to hear about them!

Who’s the Best Networker You Know?

 Today, I’d like to ask you a very straightforward question: “Who’s the best networker you know, and why?”

In this video, I talk about the best networker I personally know and, interestingly enough, she comes from the world of academia–not the world of business. She is the president of an esteemed university and she is, without a doubt, an incredible networker!  So, what makes her the most standout networker I know?  I’m glad you asked . . . 😉

There are some very specific qualities she possesses which set her networking capabilities and effectiveness far above most people:

  • She knows how to establish common ground with absolutely anyone
  • Once she establishes common ground, she asks authentic, relevant questions
  • She’s extremely focused and always gives her undivided attention to individuals with whom she’s conversing
  • She genuinely cares about and listens to the information others offer and the answers they provide
  • She makes a point to remember what people say and to bring up things they said the next time she sees them

After watching the video, think about who you consider to be the best networker you personally know. Once you decide who that person is, please share with us in the comment forum below what it is about them that makes them such a great networker. I’m really looking forward to hearing your thoughts, so thanks in advance for participating!

A Little Good Advice Can Go a Long Way

AdviceHorn

Photo Courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It’s no secret that we all want to do business with people whom we know and trust.  So, how do you build rapport and create trust with new contacts at networking events?  By offering value-added advice–solid, helpful information provided out of a genuine concern for another person.

Let’s say you’re a real estate agent talking with someone at a networking event who, although not ready to buy a home today, is heading in that direction.  You could say something like this:

Well, I know you’re not interested in buying a home right now.  But, when you’re ready to start looking, I highly recommend checking out the north part of town.  A lot of my clients are seeing their homes appreciate in the 10 to 20 percent range, and from what I understand, the city is thinking about building another middle school in that area.

See how it’s possible to offer some value-added advice without being too salesy?  A statement like this acknowledges that your prospect is not currently in the market (first sentence) but still demonstrates your expertise, so he will remember you when he’s ready to move.

This model works for consultants, CPAs, accountants, financial planners, coaches–just about anyone in a service-based industry in which knowledge is the main product. If you’re concerned about giving away your intellectual capital for free, look at it this way: few people are going to sign up to do business with you if they’re not sure you can do the job.  In the absence of a tangible product, you have nothing but your technical expertise to demonstrate that you have the goods.  And when you think about it, that makes sense.  Whenever you’re ready to buy an automobile, it doesn’t matter how much research you’ve done on a particular model, you’re probably not going to write your check until you’ve taken the car for a test drive.

The same is true for your prospects.  Give them a little test drive to show how it would feel to do business with you. If you’re a marketing consultant, give them a couple of ideas on how they can increase the exposure of their business.  Don’t go overboard; maybe offer a technique you read in a magazine or tried with one of your clients.  Just give them something they can try on to see if it works.

Not only will this open up a good conversation with new contacts while you’re out networking, if you play your cards right, whom do you think they’ll go to when they’re in need of your kind of service?  When it comes to building rapport and creating trust, nothing does it better than offering value-added advice.

Who Cares about Your Business?

Do you know who really cares about your business and wants to help you?  Realistically, there are only a few basic ways of motivating people to care about and help build your business.  Basically, it comes down to relationships and rewards.  

Photo courtesy of graur codrin at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Photo courtesy of graur codrin at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Some folks, usually friends or family, will simply want to help because they like you and want you to do well.  These people will be motivated by the relationship itself.

But in most other cases, the long term motivation to build your business is not based primarily on whether or not the other person likes you.  Business partnerships, including referral relationships, almost always include some form of mutual reward; typically in the form of social or financial gain.  Both you and your networking partner have something to gain, and you are both eager to help each other achieve it.

Some people are motivated by the potential for business referrals you can send, while others are motivated by the prestige and opportunities created by having a relationship with you.  Regardless of the underlying motivation behind them, relationships can take time to prove profitable in a substantial way, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t worth cultivating.  Ultimately, strong relationships will steer back opportunities because of the nature of networking itself and of the endless variety of products and services to which it can lead.

I firmly believe that most relationships will probably prove rewarding in the long term, even in cases where you don’t receive referrals in return.  There are a few super successful people to whom we send referrals who’ve never reciprocated with a referral back.  We’re motivated to continue helping them in any way we can simply because they will work with people we refer to them.  That makes us look good, because it’s very difficult for the average person to start a working relationship with these very successful, very busy people.

If we refer someone, it opens a door that might never have otherwise opened.  The new person that we are referring to our very busy friends or associates is the one who now goes out of his way to reciprocate.  That’s our motivation; helping our networking partners achieve their goals.  And, of course, in one form or another, it winds up coming back in some way.

What are some experiences you’ve had in which you’ve benefitted in some way or another as a result of truly caring about others’ businesses and helping them to grow and achieve their goals?  I’d love to hear your story/stories so please share your experiences in the comment forum below.  Thanks!

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