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.

So You Want to Network Up?

Earlier this week, I appeared on Copy Chief with Kevin Rogers as a special guest to talk all about referral marketing. If you missed it, you can check out the whole podcast here, but today I would like to specifically elaborate on one segment from the podcast.

tam-48-ivan-misner-copy-chief

Around the 20-minute mark, I tell a story about a man named Mark who invested a lot of time and energy to develop our relationship. By the time he turned around and asked me for a favor, a least a year after we had met and begun our relationship, I was so appreciative of everything he had done for me that I was willing to do whatever favor he asked for.

You need to be interested, not interesting. People don’t want you to sell to them, they want you to be interested in investing in them. If you’re networking up, or trying to network with someone very successful, you need to find a way to stand out. You need to make that powerful person want to help you, by expecting nothing in return.

So how do you do that? It isn’t one of those things that you can just do overnight, or wake up one day and decide you’re going to develop a relationship with someone.

First and foremost, you have to have an idea. A great idea. An idea that you can implement and it will positively impact the person you hope to build a relationship with. Something helpful, something that that person cannot do themselves. This idea should set you apart, and should be unique to both you, and to your future contact.

Once you have developed your idea – and I mean fully developed; you can’t go to someone with a half-baked plan in your head – you need to reach out to the person that your idea benefits. Handwritten notes can make you stand apart. Emails and social media messages can work, but often will not help you stand apart, and depending on the person they may not be managing their own accounts. A well thought out handwritten note may be your best bet.

From there, your strategy relies strongly on your idea and the person you are working to help. To hear me discuss some other related topics, check out the podcast with Kevin Rogers on Copy Chief here.

If You’re Not Networking Up, You’re Not Tapping into Your True Potential

In this short video, referral marketing expert Tom Fleming and I explain what networking ‘up’ is all about and why it’s imperative to the success of your business that you focus on networking up.

Though our natural instinct is often to stay firmly planted in our own comfort zone by associating with people who are either equally as successful or less successful than we are, if we want to achieve higher levels of success, it is crucial that we network up by making an effort to surround ourselves with people who are more successful.

Jack Canfield often says that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with and that concept holds quite a bit of truth; if you surround yourself with and spend the most time with people who are more successful than you, you are in a perfect position to constantly learn from them, meet other successful and accomplished people through their networks, and continually challenge yourself to achieve higher and higher levels of success.

Take a minute to think about a successful person you admire.  What is something they have experience with that you could use their advice on in order to improve your business?  You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by contacting them and asking them to share their knowledge with you so what are you waiting for?  Make it your goal to connect with them in the next seven days and to start putting consistent effort into nurturing your relationship with them.  Next, repeat this process week after week with other successful people you would like to surround yourself with and learn from–I guarantee you will be amazed at the results and pleasantly surprised at their willingness to help.

If you’re already networking up, what are some of the most invaluable things you’ve learned from the successful people you’ve been brave enough to reach out to and build relationships with?  Please share your thoughts in the comment forum below–I’d love to hear about your experiences with this!

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