NETWORKING >> Each section contains key Action Items located within the downloadable Action Guide >> Click to Download Action Guide.
GET THE RIGHT NETWORKING MIND SET AND SKILL SET
When you’re thinking about becoming a more skilled networker, you usually think about what you can do to network more effectively. This includes teaching others what kinds of referrals you’re looking for, asking for referrals from your clients, and using incentives for those referring you. These are all components of your skill set.
And 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. Let’s take 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.
The law of reciprocity sets in motion in-kind responses of individuals based
on the actions of others. I like to call this the “Givers Gain®” approach. You
shouldn’t approach networking thinking, I did this for you, now what are
you going to do for me? Rather, you should 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.
2. 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. There are many great networking organizations out there. If you stay only in groups that focus on
your profession, you lose the breadth you need to develop a wide-reaching
3. Farming mentality.
For networking to yield extraordinary success, your mentality must be that
of a farmer. He prepares the soil for months before ever planting the seeds. He tends the seedlings with care, feeding and watering them regularly, putting up a scarecrow to keep pesky birds away. It’s a long, drawn-out process to go from seeding a field to harvesting the crops. There’s no quick return.
Approaching networking with a mentality that focuses on the process of
cultivating referrals will create the results you desire. Too many times I
see professionals who are trying to grow their networks ask all the contacts they make at a mixer to visit their referral group, or keep them in mind for referrals as they give each new contact two or three of their business cards. This is way too soon. Think about that farmer diligently tending the seeds he has sown, and spend more time strengthening your friendships with those whom you wish to have as part of your networking circle.
Now that you have the basics for thinking about networking down pat, let’s examine a few of the things you can do to develop a strong word-of-mouth based business:
1. Activate the VCP® process.
VCP® stands for visibility, credibility and profitability. What you need to do
in order to be visible, credible, and profitable takes a certain skill set.
Things like participating in monthly mixers hosted by your local chamber
of commerce, writing a regular column in your local newspaper, or
sponsoring the Little League team are things that make you visible. (See
my article “Build Relationships That Last” at www.entrepreneur.com to
learn more about the VCP® process.)
As you become more and more visible in your business community, you’ll develop credibility. People will recognize that you’re here for the long haul, and you’ll begin to receive quality referrals. So look for opportunities to make yourself more visible. Think out of the box—be creative!
2. Sharp-shoot, don’t shotgun.
When talking about their businesses, many entrepreneurs try to get everything they do into a 30-second pitch—and potential referral sources miss most of it. They tune out after the first few items on the list.
Instead, you should focus on your top two or three areas of expertise.
Keep in mind that you’re not marketing to your referral sources. In effect,
you’re training a sales force. Your networking team is there to keep an eye
out for potential clients. If you communicate exactly what type of client
you’re looking for, better and more qualified referrals will result.
This skill set is especially productive when you’re meeting weekly with a
strong-contact network. The difference between trying to say it all and
focusing on one aspect of your business each week is huge.
3. Hold one-to-ones.
Conducting a one-to-one is almost like doing an interview, except that you
both get to ask questions. The idea is to share something in each category
you discuss with your referral source. I once had the chance to see how
this literally transformed a networking relationship between two
businessmen who’d been in the same networking group for quite some
time but hadn’t really made a deep connection.
The two begrudgingly took my recommendation to do a G.A.I.N.S.
Exchange—to talk about their goals, achievements, interests, networks
and successes—and found that they had quite a few things in common.
They both coached their young daughters’ soccer teams, they both
collected sports teams’ hats, and their college degrees were in the same
field. These two seemingly disinterested people became very close and
developed the type of networking relationship that most only dream about.
See how networking is as much a mindset as it is a skill set? Clearly, there
are many things to do that will make your networking attempts successful,
but there are also a good many things to be that are equally important to
Can you tell us when you recognized the significance of Givers Gain®?
The light bulb went on for me when I was working my first job out of
college. It was my first day on the job. And the position I was filling was
brand new. To make things worse, the boss wasn’t there. The HR
consultant walked in and said. “Here’s your desk; there’s the phone—dial
9 to get out; the little boy’s room is down the hall; and, your boss won’t
be back for three days. Good luck.” Then she left.
I sat there having no idea what to do, so I decided I would meet all of the
managers in this company. Not knowing what my job was, I went
around from department to department, introduced myself and asked,
“How can I help you? What can I do to help you achieve your goals and
your objectives here with the organization?”
I was shocked at the response. First of all, they’d never had anyone come
to them and ask how they could help. They really took it to heart, and
many of them gave me ideas. When my boss came back, I gave him the
results of all the conversations that I had. He was incredibly impressed,
and it gave us a leg-up on turning that company around.
Instead of going in and telling them what my job was and what I was
supposed to do, I asked how I could help them. I developed friendships
very quickly and got right on the ball as to how to solve the problems.
So instead of focusing on “What’s in it for me” it’s about “How can I help you?”
Yes. “How can I help you?” is a great opening for anyone who really
believes in the law of reciprocity—and there are only a handful of people
whom I’ve ever met who really practice that well. I always know that they
are a believer in that philosophy when I hear them use that phrase: “How
can I help you?”
How can a businessperson add diversity to their networking?
Surround yourself with people who don’t look like you, don’t sound like
you, don’t talk like you, don’t have the same educational background as
you, and don’t have the same experiences as you. Connect with people
who are substantially different than you. The value in this is that you meet
people who then become connectors who connect you to clusters of
peoples you wouldn’t normally have contacts with.
You’re talking about having diversity in your networking, but you also talk about maintaining contact spheres with individuals in similar professions. So, which is it?
It really is not an either/or but a both/and situation. You want to have
relationships with professions that are synergistic to yours. The problem
is that if you do that exclusively, you’ve missed a huge opportunity to
meet people who will be connectors to those diverse groups outside your
On the other hand, if you are so focused on diversity that you’ve not created
any relationships that are synergistic, you are missing the opportunity to get those kinds of referrals from the symbiotic professions.
ACTION ITEMS: Complete the Action Items in your Action Guide.
What might be your Givers Gain® responses:
What are your goals? Ex: start a custom auto part business, visit Rome, go parasailing, etc.
What are your achievements?
What are your interests?
What are your networks?
What are your successes?
Now, schedule on your calendar to attend two upcoming social events where you will be able to meet a diverse group of people and begin using the Givers Gain® approach with the people you meet.
List the three people in your network who you plan to offer help to and list how you intend to so. (Provide a referral, new business idea, etc.)
1) I will…
2) I will…
3) I will…
Sharp-shoot your message: Define your top three areas of expertise.
Activate your VCP: List three things you can do to become more visible in your community, specifically, your market.