You’ve heard it a million times; “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”
So true. But what does that really mean for you and I anyways?
How can we live this out?
How can we focus on the things that will help us not only know lots of people, but know the “right” people in regard to whatever it is we are trying to accomplish with our lives?
And how can we leverage those relationships to be a blessing to others, while also experiencing the benefits of their network too?
Here’s what I’ve learned…
1. Take Diversified Initiative.
I say “diversified” initiative, because your presence in different places with different people, is really the first foundational step.
To fully diversify your initiatives as a networking connector, you must make sure you are spending your time in different geographical, socioeconomic and industrial environments.
He who can be more multidimensional; wins.
2. Be Memorable.
Presence is key. Your ability to make people feel your presence when you walk into a room, before you even speak, is the type of stuff that makes your memorable.
This comes from the swagger you walk with, the carefree smile you maintain and even your fashion, or confidence in it. Not everyone has these inclinations, though.
So you ability to say memorable things, but be your crutch instead. Start by asking a lot of questions to get people to talk about themselves. Then weave the things they are saying into things you’ve experienced or things that have happened in history, to establish not only your understanding of what they said, but your emotional relation to each thing they’re talking about.
3. Think Big.
The best visionaries can see things that most can’t. It causes them to make decisions 99% of us wouldn’t and take risks that most everyone wouldn’t take either.
You can follow the majority and look at each conversation you have with anyone at any time of day, as a chore OR you can live by my networking connector principles and really look at every single relationship as a step or connection that enhances your larger network.
To do the latter, you have to constantly think BIG and remind yourself that all of these conversations are all small pieces that work together to build a network that creates less and less degrees of separation between you and the people you need to know to accomplish your big hairy audacious goals (BHAGs).
4. Lever Your Network.
If you want to meet and connect with new people, you have got to make it a habit to connect new people to those who fit them well within your own network.
This isn’t a “get” game, it’s a “give and take” game.
The best part is that the people you are connecting your new acquaintance to, will appreciate this too. So much that they will usually reciprocate with new connections from you that you may not have even planned.
5. Borrow Their Network.
This step alone, is a 200-300 page book I’d like to write one day. Here’s the short story;
I grew up going to Christian Brothers Academy preparatory school for six years (CBA) in New York. While the athletics and academics were what drew me to go there, the biggest thing I attained at CBA was the ability to network and meet new friends.
Each of the 120+ kids per class in this school, were from different neighborhoods around our city of Syracuse. If we didn’t go to CBA, we would have went to one of the dozens of public schools with the rest of our childhood friends from our respective neighborhood.
So as I made friends at CBA, I would get invited to their neighborhoods, where I would meet their childhood friends that went to those public schools. By the time I graduated, I knew a core group of kids from each school district in the city, and I had more friends than I could have ever had if I went to a public school in the neighborhood where I grew up.
This story is a picture of how you need to approach networking in the United States and really, the world.
When I went to college in Ithaca, NY, I took the same approach, meeting kids from all over the country that were attending either Cornell University or Ithaca College. Then I moved to Alabama of all places, to play baseball at a small college (University of Montevallo), but was living just outside a city in the center of the Southeast (Birmingham) and close to one of the biggest markets in the U.S. (Atlanta), where I began to meet people from all over this new region.
But what might be my most valuable lesson, has been in business, where I’ve meet young men and women who have gone to the best schools, are better networking connectors than me, and live in bigger cities than I.
Through these relationships, I’ve experienced some incredible networks of people. I’ve been able to meet the same amazing people they’ve been able to meet through their accomplishments of graduating from prestigious universities and/or building awesome companies, and I exchange my network with them as well.
This is the true “give and take” of “levering” your network while “borrowing” theirs.
6. Elevator Pitch.
People usually compartmentalize an elevator pitch as something just for business or sales. Not true.
I don’t know about you, but when I walk away from a conversation with somebody new, I have zero doubt if I won or lost. I know if it’s gone well and we’ll talk again, or if I was a babbling failure.
The idea of an elevator pitch came from the Madison Avenue days that we have become so familiar with from shows like Mad Men, where people took skyscraper elevators every day, only to have seconds to pitch somebody new in the elevator ride up their respective floor.
If you only had seconds to meet somebody new, what would you ask? What would you want to make sure they knew about you? What do you want them to think about you in leaving the conversation?
Figure this out. Write it down. Massage it. Get it into a less than 60 second pitch with some questions and comments built around it as customized ammunition. Memorize it. It’s the key to you walking away from new conversations feeling like you’ve had “a win”.
7. Systems & Habits.
Like everything else, you’ll have natural skills that will contribute to your ability to be a networking connector. However, to take these things and put them together, you have to have systems for each.
These steps are more about “the game” than the prep or follow up before and after it.
Thus, you must make sure you have solid preparation tactics, such as researching the people you know you’ll see at an event before you get there.
And your follow up game must be on point. Collecting contact info or using social media, in a way that allows you to follow up to remain fresh in the minds of those you’ve connected with, is so important.
The more you do all of this, the more it becomes habit. Then you can take your game to the next level and learn a new skill set. But first, get these things right and I guarantee you’ll develop a network that will reinforce that “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” and you’ll have met the who to accomplish things you could have never imagined.