NETWORKING >> Each section contains key Action Items located within the downloadable Action Guide >> Click to Download Action Guide.
THE KEY TO NETWORKING
When you tell entrepreneurs that relationships are the key to developing a
personal and professional network, they often smile and acknowledge the
concept without fully appreciating it. Let me put this notion into perspective.
Imagine you’re standing in a large room full of people, and I ask everyone
to pull out their key rings. Visualize everyone holding up the keys to their
house, their office and their car as I ask everyone to show them to the room.
Now here’s my question: Would you hand over your car keys to a perfect
stranger? What about those to your office or home? Of course not!
Now instead of a key to a car or a home, imagine you have a key that
opens the door to an important relationship with a colleague that another
person would like to connect with. Figuratively speaking, you hold the key
to this relationship, but you don’t know the person who’s asking for it.
Would you give it to them? Of course not! Why? Because when you give
a referral, you give away a piece of your reputation. If it’s a good referral,
it helps your reputation; if it’s a bad referral, it hurts. Intuitively, you’ll
only hand over the keys to someone you know and trust.
What I love about this metaphor is how it works on two levels. First,
you’re not going to hand over the keys to a relationship until you know a
person well. But more important, others don’t even know what keys you
actually have until you trust them enough to tell them.
It’s not just you; nobody is willing to hand over the keys to important
relationships until they know and trust the person asking. Unfortunately,
when networking, some people expect perfect strangers to hand over the
keys right away.
Take a look at your referral partners. Would it surprise you if they had
keys to referrals they’re keeping in their pockets until they trust you with
them? It shouldn’t. So how do we begin this process of exchanging keys?
It all comes down to establishing credibility with your referral partners.
I’ve seen many people who think networking is about meeting people
and asking for business right then and there. That’s it. They meet
someone and focus on telling them what they need or what kind of
business they want. It’s like saying, “Hello, my name is Ivan. Let’s do
Effective networking is about building relationships with others who can
refer you once they’ve come to trust you, have confidence in you and
feel loyal to you. This truly is the key to networking success. And this
process takes time. This isn’t a get-rich-quick scheme. It’s a way to
build your business through referrals.
If there were a single networking concept I had to identify that most
entrepreneurs just don’t get, it would be building relationships over time.
They listen, acknowledge its importance, then ask about the best way to
close a deal when meeting someone for the first time. The short answer
is, you don’t. OK, everyone has that one fluke story about meeting
someone for the first time and ending up doing business, but that’s not
the norm. The norm in successful networking is building a relationship
to generate long-term referrals.
I think you’ll be astonished at how powerful this concept is when put into action. Think of it this way: When you get to the place where you can, without hesitation, hand over your physical set of keys to someone, you’ll be in the best place possible to begin asking them for keys to their relationships.
So networking is more like farming than hunting?
It really is all about farming. It’s about cultivating those relationships
with other people. And this is where big corporations really don’t get it.
They’re still teaching their sales people to cold call, as opposed to
teaching them how to network effectively. For the first time in my life, I
ran across a major corporation, an international bank, where one of the
senior managers, instead of listening to his sales people cold call, he’d
listen to their sixty-second presentation. He wanted to make sure that
every week when they were at networking events that they were really
doing an effective presentation. When big corporations all over the world
start doing that, that’s when we’re going to see a major change in the
way business is done everywhere. For now its mostly small businesses
and entrepreneurs who know that it’s really about this relationship
process. It takes time. It’s not about looking to bag the big one each
week. It’s about cultivating those relationships, which is really the perfect
Is there any way to speed-up this process?
There are some ways to speed up the process. One of them is to do the
one-to-ones, where you are meeting people one to one and sharing information. You do the G.A.I.N.S. Exchange with them—talk about their goals, achievements, interests, networks and successes—But while you can
expedite it a little, there’s really no way to push it too fast.
There’s a great article in my book Masters of Networking contributed by
Emery Cowen. Emery talks about a time when he was a young man in
Atlanta. He was driving along on the road and he saw peaches for sale.
He pulled over and bought a big bushel of peaches. He took them home,
went to his parents’ house and got their old recipe for peach wine. So he
mixed up these peaches, put in all the ingredients to make it into peach
wine, and he covered the batch. Then he took it down into the basement
where it was nice and cool. It was supposed to set for a fairly long time -
weeks I think. After two or three days, he went down and tasted it. It
hadn’t progressed much. So a couple of days later he went down and
tasted it again. It still hadn’t progressed. He thought, “Well this is just
going too slow. I need to speed the process up.” So he brought everything back up and he ran it through the blender and put in more ingredients. He figured this would really kick it up and speed the process of fermentation. He took it back down, waited a couple of days, went down to test it again, and absolutely, it definitely sped the process of fermentation. He now had the best batch of peach vinegar he had ever tasted!
I think that’s a great example of how, if you try to push the process too
fast, you actually have the opposite impact. You actually hurt the relationship. You destroy the process rather than move it along. It’s really about building that trust and that relationship. Think about how long has it taken for you to develop the best friends that you have in life. Did that happen in a week, a month, two months, six months, a year? I’m probably getting closer. If you try to push that, it doesn’t work. And it’s the same thing with networking. If you push it, it doesn’t work.
But certainly having someone give a word-of-mouth recommendation to one of their friends or business partners has to put you further along the confidence curve than a cold introduction to a new prospect.
It absolutely does. And that’s the power of the third-party testimonial. All
of the sudden you get popped in fairly high on the time-confidence curve.
How does that happen? It happens not because they trust you, but they
trust the person who is referring you. So that person is already high on
the time-confidence curve with the prospect. And if they’re high on the
curve, and they are recommending you, then you become high on the
curve. You’re probably not as high as they are, but you’re a lot higher
than you would have been if you’d have made contact with them cold.
That’s why third-party testimonials definitely expedite the process. If
you’re meeting someone for the first time, then you’re going to have to
build that relationship. Third-party testimonials can help. And also doing
those one-to-ones and the G.A.I.N.S. Exchange can help expedite things
a little bit. But don’t turn the relationship into vinegar.
Some businesses require more trust and familiarity than others, right? For example a florist versus a financial advisor, or a massage therapist versus a marriage therapist.
Yes, that’s very true. Whereas the florist may be at the beginning of the spectrum, the financial advisor who is investing someone’s retirement income is at the high end of the spectrum. It’s going to take the longest to build confidence with that person. Again, that’s why the third-party testimonial is important. If someone refers you, they trust you; and if they trust you, then you’re going to come in higher on the time confidence curve at the very beginning of the process. That is, in fact, the power of this key analogy. Someone feels comfortable enough to refer you to that financial planner, to the prospect, and the prospect also has your keys. So you’re really talking about both parties having your keys to the relationship. They both trust you. So if there’s a level of trust that exists, you’re coming in higher on the time-confidence curve from the very beginning.
There’s something that I touched upon earlier that I don’t think I really
emphasized, and that is that different people have these keys that are
connections to people that you want to meet. They’re not going to hand
you that key until they trust you. We understand that. But the other really
amazing thing is we don’t even know what keys they have, and they’re
not going to tell us what keys they have, until that trust is established.
You have to learn how to ask for those keys.
Let’s say you’ve established a relationship, they really trust you, they’re
willing to give the keys to a connection, and you know them well enough
that you know what kinds of connections they have. The next step is for
you to learn how to effectively ask for those keys – specifically those
keys. So that they can reach into their pocket and say, “Yeah, I’ve got
that contact. Here it is.” Learning how to be specific and ask for those
connections is really the wrap-up part of this. Just knowing they have the
keys and knowing you have the relationship isn’t enough if you’re not
also effectively asking for the connections.
ACTION ITEMS: Complete the Action Items in your Action Guide
Think about the G.A.I.N.S. Exchange above and begin to cultivate your relationships through a “farming” mentality rather than a “hunting” one.
List three people who might recommend you and explain why they would recommend you:
List three characteristics that you expect someone to exude before you are willing to refer that person to your valuable network: