Networking Up

Networking Up! Five Ways to Connect Above Your Weight Class

We’ve all heard the advice: “you become the people you hang out with”.  This means that you need to surround yourself with successful people (however you define success). Plus, you also need to be networking up to raise the bar for yourself over time.

Having run the world’s largest business networking organization for more than three decades, one of the things I’ve learned is that: There’s generally room at the top.  It’s the bottom that’s really crowded.  So how do you start networking above your weight class to move your way up?  Here are five things I recommend that will help you accomplish that goal.

Hang out where successful people are.

We are all at a different place in our career, so start by assessing where you are and then determine where you can go to “network up.”  When I was new in business, that meant joining a local service club like Rotary, Lions, or Kiwanis.  Organizations like the Chamber of Commerce and BNI are also excellent ways to start networking up.  Later, I added boards of non-profit organizations and charities to my list.  Many successful people play in these areas.  What a great way to connect with these people in a professional environment.

Embrace discomfort.

If you’re not uncomfortable connecting with someone, then you’re not aiming high enough. I’ve been there.  I understand this feeling. However, you need to get past that and go talk to them.  Your discomfort may be a sign that this is the exact person you should be talking to.

Work within the context.

If at all possible, find a way to connect what is happening at the moment to something interesting in your discussion or setting.  For example, I met a well-known international thought leader for the first time at a book signing for speakers at a conference.  The problem was that the audience was still at dinner, and no one was at the signing!  So I shared a story with him about a book signing I did where the only person who showed up was my mother.  She acted like she was a fan and made such a big deal at the signing that people started crowding around my table.  It was an incredible embarrassment that turned into a huge success.  He laughed so hard that it helped him remember me well enough to invite me to join a professional organization that meets regularly around the world.

Find out what they’re currently interested in.

This is a critical item.  If you know they are going to be at an event, do some internet research to find out what they are currently working on, then open up your discussion by asking them to tell you about it.  If you haven’t done the research – ask them what they are working on that they are most excited about.

Add value. 

This is the most important item.  If you can find a way to add value – you’ll be remembered.  For example, the last time I had the opportunity to talk to Richard Branson, I asked him about his latest endeavor at the time – The “B Team” or the Business Team.  When I asked him about it, he was pretty excited with the program. I asked him how I could help him with it.  While he was thinking, I asked if it would be of value to him if we did a short video interview so that he could share the program with my audience.  He loved the idea, and we shot the video about the B Team program for my blog.

Finally, remember that if you’re always the most successful person in the room, you’re hanging out in the wrong rooms.  Take these five suggestions and start “networking up” to the right rooms.

"Networking Don'ts"

Networking Don’ts

Over the years I have shared lots of advice on how to grow your business by building relationships. During my last “Ask Ivan” Facebook Live event, I shared many of my recommendation on what to “do”. Now, I want to share four common “Networking Don’ts” mistakes to avoid when you’re networking if you’re looking to grow your business.

Don’t sell or pitch to them!

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve met someone for the first time and they start “selling to me.” I’ve seen the same thing when I’ve been with other business people far more successful than me. Don’t do it! The old adage – “it never hurts to ask, right” is completely wrong when you are networking up with someone for the first time. A lot of people do it – don’t be one of the crowd.

Don’t complain to them.

I know, that sounds obvious, but I’ve been both the victim of it and I’ve seen it. I was standing with an incredibly successful businessman some time ago when he was meeting people in a crowd when someone he just met went on a rant about some problem with the man’s company. He stood out and was quietly escorted out. You want to be remembered, but not for that.

Don’t be a sycophant.

There are plenty of people to flatter them, so don’t “puppy-dog lick them” to death. Successful people are, however, still people, and they appreciate knowing their work makes a difference. I have found that if I share a specific story about how their work or business has really helped someone in some way, they truly appreciate the comment. That way the conversation is not all about me, and at the same time, it acknowledges them for the work they’ve done.

Don’t assume they remember you next time.

If you meet them or connect with them again, never, ever, assume they remember you. Always help them out by giving them context on how you know each other or met. Really successful people tend to meet hundreds, if not thousands, of people. Giving them context helps them jog their memory. If you meet them in person, give them a reminder of where you met. For example, when I am networking up with an email communication, I’ll send a copy of a photo of the two of us from the event where we met. That always jogs their memory.

Finally, remember that networking can become your most powerful tool, but only if you approach it properly. Networking should be effective for most businesses. If it has not worked for you, then maybe you are following some of the “Don’ts” I listed above.

Diversity

Diversity and Networking

Diversity in your personal network enables you to increase the possibility of including connectors or “linchpins” in your network. Linchpins are people who in some way crossover between two or more clusters or groups of individuals; this allows them to link groups of people together easily. The best way to increase the number of possible connections in your network is to develop a diverse network – not a homogeneous one.

The truth is when it comes to networking – not having a lot in common with someone may mean that they can be a connector for you to a whole world of people that you might not otherwise be able to meet.

Networks are by nature “clumpy”

(that’s the technical term). It is human nature to congregate with people that are very much like us. People tend to cluster together based on education, age, ethnicity, professional status, etc. When we surround ourselves with people who have similar contacts it may be difficult to make connections with new people or companies with whom we desire to do business.

If you wish to build a powerful personal network – branch out. Build a diverse network of professional contacts that include people that don’t look like you. Finds others who do not sound like you, speak like you, or have your background, education, or history. The only thing that they should have in common with you and the other people in your network – is that they should be really good at what they do. Create a personal network like that, and you’ll have a network that can help you succeed at anything.

active

When Networking, Are You Active or Passive?

Networking is a contact sport, it requires people to get out there and actively and strategically build relationships. What exactly does that involve? What defines “active” networking? This is actually a great question. It opens up a discussion about not only what it means to be an “active” networker but also what it means to be a “passive” networker.

Active Networking:

You invite other people to one or more of the networking organizations you belong to, carry several of the business cards of your members with you all the time, and above all, refer your members to others whenever you have an opportunity to do so.
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Active networking also means having a reciprocal relationship with others. We prefer doing business with people who do business with us. Why give your business to someone who’s not willing to return the favor? There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of competent, dependable business professionals in your area who provide any given product or service. They don’t have to buy something from you to reciprocate. They can join one of your networking groups, carry your business cards, or simply refer you to people looking for your product or service.

Passive Networking:

You use other people as a resource occasionally but for some reason cannot actively network with them. It may be because they represent a narrow market where you have no way of assisting. Perhaps they’ve told you they’re not interested in participating in any networking organizations. Are they located too far away to refer to them regularly?
Now that you know the difference between active vs. passive networking, strengthen your networking strategy by pinpointing one person this week with whom to actively and strategically build a stronger relationship. What can you do to begin to form a connection with them? I welcome your questions and comments.
Desperation

Desperation is Not Referable

When people demonstrate certain behaviors as part of their networking efforts, it’s a tell-tale sign of desperation. There are four types of behaviors that desperate networkers exhibit. Please check out these links below that describe each of these four types of behaviors that desperate networkers exhibit:

There are four types of behaviors that desperate networkers exhibit.

Click on these links to find out more about each:

Are You a Desperate Networker?

Remember these behaviors when you go to networking events and whatever you do – don’t demonstrate any of these behaviors yourself.  Remember that networking is more about farming than it is about hunting. Generally, these people are not actually trying to help you — they simply want to sell something to you. Granted, they may want to sell something to you because in their mind it’s only to “help you,” but it’s never really about you. It’s about what they want from you. Desperation seeps from their pores.

Photo Attribution

New Best Friend

The New Best Friend

Desperation is not referable.

When people demonstrate certain behaviors as part of their networking efforts, it’s a tell-tale sign of desperation.  There are four types of behaviors that desperate networkers exhibit. “The New Best Friend” is the final of these four “desperate networker behaviors” that I shared during the past weeks.

The New Best Friend

Follow-up with the people you meet at a networking event is important.  But be a professional – not a stalker.  The New Best Friend is the over-eager seller who after you meet at a networking event – calls you, emails you, social media messages you, and tries to become your New Best Friend in the space of just a few days. Generally, they’re not actually trying to help you – they simply want to sell something to you.  Granted, they may want to sell something to you because in their mind – it’s only to “help you,” but it’s never really about you.  It’s about what they want from you.   Desperation seeps from their pores.  I’ve experienced this many times over my career.  The one that stands out the most in my mind happened a couple years ago.  I met a young man (late 20’s) at a networking event and he went right into “New Best Friend” mode – calling several times, emailing every day, messaging me on Facebook etc.  But when he wrote me and said that he thought of himself like my son (yes, seriously – he said that) and he needed my help in his business venture – I had to pull the plug.  I tried to pull it gently by talking about the importance of establishing credibility before pitching something and that the process of developing credibility takes time.  Curiously, my “new son” abandoned me.

Remember this behavior when you go to networking events, Whatever you do – don’t demonstrate “The New Best Friend” behavior yourself.  Furthermore, remember that networking is more about farming than it is about hunting. Please check out my blog posts during the past weeks as I described each of the four types of behaviors that desperate networkers exhibit.

What other kinds of desperate networker have you seen?

Check out these links to the other three types of “desperate networker behaviors” below:

Premature Solicitor

The Premature Solicitor

Desperation is not referable

 When people demonstrate certain behaviors as part of their networking efforts, it’s a tell-tale sign of desperation.  There are four types of behaviors that desperate networkers exhibit. “The Premature Solicitor” is the third of these four “desperate networker behaviors” that I’ll be sharing each week.

The Premature Solicitor

The person guilty of Premature Solicitation (don’t say that fast three times, it will get you in trouble!).  This is the person who confuses networking with direct selling.  Therefore, they meet you and immediately go into sales mode.  In addition, they want you to do business with them without asking questions about you, your business, your interests, or your needs first. Hence, to this person, everyone is a target and every target is a dollar sign.  Consequently, these people are the reason why many individuals don’t like to go to networking events.  Because they go to meetings and feel slimed by people soliciting them for business, they leave the meeting and run home to get a shower.

Remember this behavior when you go to networking events and whatever you do – don’t demonstrate “The Premature Solicitor” behavior yourself. Therefore, remember that networking is more about farming than it is about hunting. Please check out my blog next week. I will describe the final of the four types of behaviors that desperate networkers exhibit: “The New Best Friend”.

What other kinds of desperate networker have you seen?

Check out these links to the other three types of “desperate networker behaviors” below:

Space Violator

The Space Violator

Desperation is not referable

When people demonstrate certain behaviors as part of their networking efforts, it’s a tell-tale sign of desperation.  There are four types of behaviors that desperate networkers exhibit. “The Space Violator” is the second of these four “desperate networker behaviors” that I’ll be sharing over the next weeks.

The Space Violator

Here’s the guy that thinks the closer he gets when he’s talking to you, the more you’ll be interested in what he’s saying. Nope.  Not true.  In fact, it has the opposite effect (especially if his breath has the aroma of a smelly camel).  So, what’s the right distance to stand from someone without getting into their personal space?  The answer to this question varies based on the cultural standards of the country you are in.  In North America, it’s fairly common to have conversations at roughly “arm’s length” for people that you meet at a networking event.  From my experience, that distance is definitely less in some countries around the world.  What’s also interesting is the issue of gender and personal space or “proxemics.”  According to a “Journal of Psychology” study, “male-male pairs tend to interact at greater personal distances, whereas female-female pairs tend to interact closer.”

Remember this behavior when you go to networking events and whatever you do – don’t demonstrate “The Space Violator” behavior yourself.  Remember that networking is more about farming than it is about hunting. Please check out my blog next week as I describe the next of the four types of behaviors that desperate networkers exhibit: “The Premature Solicitor”.

What other kinds of desperate networker have you seen?

Check out these links to the other three types of “desperate networker behaviors” below:

The Card Dealer

The Card Dealer

Desperation is not referable.

When people demonstrate certain behaviors as part of their networking efforts, it’s a tell-tale sign of desperation.  There are four types of behaviors that desperate networkers exhibit. “The Card Dealer” is the first of these four “desperate networker behaviors” that I’ll be sharing each week over the next month.

The Card Dealer

This is probably the most common form of desperation that I’ve seen over the years.  The Card Dealer is a person that darts around the room passing out cards like they’re at a poker table.  They don’t spend time really getting to know anyone (unless they think they can get something from them).  To the Card Dealer, networking is mostly a numbers game.  The more people they can pass their cards to – the better they’re doing (or so they think).  Card Dealers tend to have a network that is a mile wide but an inch deep because they don’t spend time building relationships. It never works in the long-run and they just look inexperienced, frazzled, and yes – desperate.

The image above is from a great video called “BNI – The People in The Room” about “The Card Dealer” type of networker.  It was done by Charlie Lawson – check it out. https://youtu.be/EDONaoEcuNM

Remember this behavior when you go to networking events and whatever you do – don’t demonstrate “The Card Dealer” behavior yourself.  Remember that networking is more about farming than it is about hunting. Please check out my blog next week as I describe the next of the four types of behaviors that desperate networkers exhibit: “The Space Violator”.

What other kinds of desperate networker have you seen?

Check out these links to the other three types of “desperate networker behaviors” on my blog over the next few weeks:

Graduates

Six Steps to Find a Job Through Networking For New Graduates

It’s graduation season so, I thought I would share some ideas on how new graduates (or even seasoned professionals) can find a new job if they are looking for employment.

Over 80% of all jobs are found through networking according to a recent study published on LinkedIn.   Here are six steps to help someone who is looking for work (along with two bonus ideas when they get a great connection).

  1. First, get your mindset right. Desperation is not referable. Since you’ll be depending on your network to speak highly of you to their hiring manager and contacts, practice confidently touting your skills.
  2. Image-check your social media. Potential employers will – and you won’t want to make your network look bad if they stick their neck out and recommend you.  I was once considering hiring someone and I checked out his Facebook page.  OMG!  He threw out the “F” bomb time after time on his posts.  In addition, he posted widely inappropriate comments and tirades about people.  He was not the kind of influence I wanted in my office.
  3. Start with current relationships. Reach out to friends, family and business contacts in person, on LinkedIn and via social media to tell them exactly what kind of position you’re looking for. Ask if they can check for any upcoming openings and keep you in mind.
  4. Inventory your other connections. Don’t forget to check in with neighbors, professional organizations, past customers, and community organizations for more contacts.  When it comes to referrals for employment, don’t underestimate the strength of weak ties.
  5. Determine where you stand with these contacts. Whether they are active, passive, or dormant will determine the strategy. I can outline how to approach each.  Active; pick up the phone and ask for assistance.  There’s a relationship.  They will most likely love to help. Passive; set an appointment to reconnect (preferably in person).  Find out about them and let them know you’re looking for something.  Dormant; reconnect by social media or email.  Just talk.  Don’t ask for anything – yet.  Stay in touch, build the relationship before you ask.
  6. Visit organizations in the industry you want. Network right there, on the ground. Check in with the front desk, drop your resume off in-person and ask to meet with the HR director. Better yet, find out if someone in your network can connect you to a current employee in that company. Contact them through the referral.  Meet them for coffee and come prepared.

Once you get a referral, do these two things:

  1. Research your prospective employer. Never go in without being prepared on the history of the company, their latest press releases, their corporate culture and values – whatever you can find.  Checking out their website is only the start.  Google the organization to get more information.   If possible, find out who might be interviewing you and learn more about them.  I landed one of the biggest jobs of my career (before starting BNI and long before Google) because I researched the company and knew so much about the organization and the professional background of the person interviewing me that it blew him away and he hired me.
  2. Offer to do a “working interview.” This is a great way for any company to take your experience and work ethic for a “test drive.” It will give you an opportunity to show them what you’re made of. If all goes well, ask them to consider you for the position.  I’ve been recommending this to job-seekers for many years.  In fact, one week before I wrote this article, I suggested this idea to my eldest daughter.  She tried it out with a company she wanted to work for and they took her up on a “working interview.”  She did such a great job, they hired her the next day!

Your network is the lifeblood of your career.  Don’t let it die of professional loneliness.  Learn how to network your way into a job.

Share this with anyone you know who is looking for employment.

 

quality

Quantity is Good but Quality is King

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.

A few years ago, I had a long conversation with a good friend who was considered a networking expert in Europe.  He did a lot of work with online networking or social networking.  During this conversation, we got into a fundamental disagreement on the subject.  He believed that networking was first and foremost a numbers game.  He said that “the more people you were connected to the stronger your network.”  At first, I went along with this comment agreeing that the number of people in your network was in fact, very important.  I then said, “the only thing more important than the quantity of people was the quality of people in your network.”  Suddenly, our paths diverged.  He said the “quality of people in your network are really not that important, instead it is all a numbers game.” 

To this day, I steadfastly disagree.  Networking is not a numbers game.  It’s more like a people puzzle.  It’s about building relationships with the close people in your network.  That means that it’s about finding ways to interconnect the relationships you have to build a powerful personal network.  In order to do that – you actually have to have a fair number of quality relationships in that sea of contacts.

If your network is a mile wide and an inch deep, it will never be successful.

Instead, your network needs to be both wide and – in places, deep.  That is, you need to have a wide set of contacts but some of those need to be connections that go deep.  Therefore, the quality of your network is just as important, if not more important than the quantity of your network.  This doesn’t mean that quantity isn’t important.  It is important.  The thing is that a small network of quality people limits your success.  However, a large network with multiple quality relationships makes for a much more powerful, personal network.

It is a little like your left hand and your right hand.  Both are really important. But one is generally stronger, more powerful, and generally used more than the other. You can’t accomplish what you want as easily without both.  However, one is the stronger hand.  This is similar to the quantity vs. quality argument in networking.

I believe that it is NOT, what you know, or who you know – it’s how well you know each other that counts.

Strong relationships take simple “contacts” and turn them into powerful “connections.”  It doesn’t really matter if I have an amazing database of people with many phone numbers.  What really matters is if I can pick up the phone and ask some of them for a favor and they take my call then are willing to do that favor.

By the way, since that argument a few years ago, my friend is no longer in the networking business.  Quantity is good but quality truly is King.

Summertime Networking

Summertime Networking

The temperature is rising and so are your networking opportunities!

Every once in a while I hear a BNI member say that their chapter slows down during the summer months. I also know of many chapters that flourish in the summer with new members and referral growth! So why are some up and some down? It is a matter of gearing towards the season.

In the Northern Hemisphere, winter coats sell better in December than July and bathing suits sell better in June than January! So have you changed your networking season?

What summertime networking activities are you attending? These may not seem like a networking mixer events, however, you should still always be prepared.

… BBQ?

… Pool Party?

… Picnic?

… Golf… Boating… Tennis… Gardening?

Pool Party Networking:

Remember that a good networker has two ears and one mouth and uses them proportionately! Listen to what everyone is really saying.

– Are they complaining about business?  Invite them to visit your BNI chapter!

– Are they excited about a wedding?  Share about those in your chapter that are a good referral for them!

– Do they have a frozen drink in their hand complaining about staying cool at home? Talk about your HVAC member!

– Do they need work on their home or need a new home? It’s Referral time!

– Are they talking about the stock market? Mention your BNI financial planner!

Ball Game Networking:

A great networking strategy is to get tickets to a ball game and invite a BNI member and a potential referral. Whether your team wins or loses great connections can be made from the stands!

Above is a photo of me with the ceremonial ball from when I did the first pitch for an AA Baseball team in LA.  It was BNI night and we had a blast with members and staff from Southern California.

The FOUR hour one to one:

If you are a golfer, you know what I mean! Find a fellow BNI Member who also plays golf. Set up a round and you each bring a client to introduce to each other. What a great way to solidify a top referral source! Do you not play golf? Is there an activity like bowling that you do that you and a fellow member can invite clients too?

Any place you go with family, friends or strangers is a networking opportunity!

… Bring your business cards!

… Remember your fellow members’ cards too!

The GOAL?

… One referral per event you attend!

… Who have you met at these summertime events that you can invite to your chapter as a visitor?

Here’s to a GREAT summer in the Northern Hemisphere filled with lots of referrals! Those BNI Members south of the Equator can wait to use these tips in December.

 

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