Networking is a fun and tricky thing
Some weeks all you want to do is go out there and meet everyone
Some weeks are challenging
And some weeks you just don’t have the energy for it
And, sometimes, you wonder if it’s even worth it.
If you’ve not experienced that rollercoaster of emotions you’ve not networked for long, or you’re really, really bad at it
In fact, I’ve only been networking for two years and had no real instruction – but a lot of energy and time on my hands. I learned a lot over the past couple years.
My first day networking (February 1st of 2018) my boss called me and said I had to go networking to build up my contact list. When I asked for advice he said, “I haven’t networked, so, figure it out.”
In any case, I looked at Meetup.com and found 3 events that day. I was so blown away by the contacts and the experience that I started to go to 15-22 events per week.
I honestly didn’t know what I was doing, but I figured that I would figure it out eventually. A month later I was about an hour early to a happy hour and I happened upon the organizer of the event. I decided to chat him up and since we had time do an impromptu one-on-one.
Come to find out, he has been networking for a long while and sold electronics. In fact, he said that 30% of his sales came from networking! This was encouraging to someone new like me, but that’s where the happiness went away.
He did some napkin math in our meeting saying he should be averaging two sales a week based on the connections he has built, but he was frustrated that he was getting a mere one sale a month. He mentioned that he was frustrated because he gives out 10 leads a week and almost never got anything in return.
Then, he turns his attention to me – “How many leads do you give out a week?” Since I was new, I said, “I don’t know… maybe one to three?”
He threw his hands up in exasperation and told me, “See, people like you are the problem. You’re selfish.”
That one meeting, really, really changed my life.
I saw a man frustrated, but in this meeting was something brilliant – for the wrong reasons.
His thought was that, based on fancy math, he should be getting two sales a week from his network; and if anyone doesn’t give him leads is purely selfish.
I wasn’t selfish – I was just ignorant. In turn, I honestly think he was selfish!
That’s when, while never reading the book, and before I even learned of it, I learned to be a Go Giving Networker. Below are my principles of networking, adapted from the book The Go-Giver. You see, even without even having heard of the book I inherently knew that what this electronic salesman was doing wrong, because the premise of The Go-Giver is naturally true!
Below are my laws of being a Go-Giving Networker, adapted from this article over at Marshall Goldsmith after interviewing Bob Burg, co-author of The Go-Giver.
1. Know your stuff and know your value.
People want to meet with me because I’m an expert in my field, right? No. They want to meet with me because they see VALUE in meeting me. Why’s that? Everyone who is around me says I am of value to them. Why? Because I give a lot of value, and the most valuable thing I have is information.
Since meeting that electronics salesman I really started to think – can I give 10 referrals a week? After a little math, I realized I could do much more. Now I give 40-60 referrals a week. Once I started doing it (and more importantly tracking it) it became incredibly easy to give out more referrals than anyone I know in my network. In fact, I have every contact of every person in my phone ready to go. Why? It’s my true currency. When I meet someone for a one-on-one for the first time the true currency in a networking meeting is to actually network. So, I make sure that I have my currency readily available.
Now, before you ask – yes, I do have permission to give these people’s contact information out. How do I get that permission? Because I tell them if they do, I’ll get them a ton of referrals. They know that I’m true to my word because whether or not they give me their information I give them 5-20 names right there on the spot of people they should connect with.
People ask why I give so many out?
2. Your income and networking are based on how many people you serve and how well you serve them.
I only make the best connections. I refuse to connect people together without thought. I know who fits with who AND why AND how AND I’ll tell them how to score the “deal”.
The “deal” can mean a lot of things. I’ll openly admit – 99% of the connections I make aren’t true leads that are meant to close a sale. These connections I make are meant to open new doors of opportunity. I know which people can provide the opportunity because when I have a sit down meeting with anyone, there’s a script I follow to make sure I know who that person serves, what people they need in their network, and who are the best connections for them are.
So, when I meet those people who fit the right criteria, I am able to refer them to the right people.
But why do this? Every successful relationship I create, creates…
People will know of me because how influential I am in their lives and the lives of those around them. And what do I want to do? Surround people I want to influence with people I have influenced. Every time those two people meet, chat, drink, or do business together they’ll think of who?
Me. All it took was a little introduction. Now imagine doing that to 40-60 people a week!
That’s influence – always being top of mind and on topic.
Ask yourself these questions: Are you influencing your network? Or are you stealing from it? Are you farming and sowing your resources?
Let’s be real – I am in a service that no one seeks out or asks for. Very rarely does a business owner think to themselves, “Geez, I really need a business consultant.” However, if I’m able to have a deep network of people wanting to be around me and talk about me they might just say the right things to the right person who wants to meet with me.
After two years of this, some funny things have started happening. One of my favorite things I LOVE is when people say, “I tried to refer you to a friend, but they already know you!” A) That’s an ego boost. B) that means I have measurable influence.
The extra added benefit is that they will fight to try and find me a referral. Particularly if I’ve given them a large benefit in their career by connecting them to the right people. This reward is never immediate, but I’ve already gotten some of my best clients from this philosophy.
In order for this all to work, you must…
4. Be Authentic.
This Go-Giving philosophy is just that – a philosophy. It’s not a sales tactic. Sure, sales will come if you do this right, but it must come from a place of authenticity. People can tell if you’re doing this in a genuine manner vs. a selfish manner.
Let us look at the electronics salesman.
He had one mission: close two sales a week from networking. But he knew that it was only possible if he had a large network, so, he gave 10 leads and referrals a week. This should be a formula for success! However, he became bitter that the results weren’t showing. In fact, he was so bitter that it started to circulate in his network. I’ve heard stories of him getting visibly frustrated at meetings that people are not referring him enough! It wasn’t much longer that he realized that he was no longer welcome at a few meetings and he eventually disappeared from the networking world.
The network he spent so much time into building collapsed in on him because he didn’t approach it and tend to it the right way.
The question you must ask to make sure your network is tended the right way is…
5. Are you open?
Are you receptive enough that people CAN refer you?!? Not are you too busy – but you might. Ask yourself if you are a person that everyone can talk to or is it only certain people should be talking to you? Do you come across as abrasive, too busy, or too desperate?
If you don’t know if you are open I can guarantee you aren’t.
If you’re 100% sure you are open? Ask your friends. Humbly.
I find that too many people are seeking only to gain from networking and failing to look at the name of the thing seriously. In order to network you must be concerned with only one thing: networking. That means to expand your personal boundaries and be introduced to people you never would have met otherwise. It’s important to keep this in mind when you are conducting your business.
I hope your takeaway is not that you must start referring 40-60 people a week and track those weekly, but that you should be more willing to give than take while networking.
Think to yourself how you can be a better Go-Giving Networker.
Written by Michael “Gypsy” Volosen, owner and strategy partner at Volcon Strategy Partners, a performance-based consulting firm for small businesses. If you, or someone you know, needs 3 hours of free business consulting or would just like to network, please feel free to contact him below.