(I will be sharing many more posts on the subject of Networking POWER, in the upcoming weeks from my new book, You Don’t Know Me From Adam)
I started a small financial service related business a few years ago. It was a bold move because competition was fierce, the market stunk, and government pressures were making it harder and harder to succeed in the industry.
But, I had a vision. And lucky for me, I shared that vision with a handful of other visionaries who decided to tackle this challenge head-on.
In the first few weeks, I was called on by almost every salesperson in the city hawking everything from copiers to signage, business supplies to advertising. One particular yellow page ad salesperson dropped by one afternoon and invited me in to our conference room to give me a quick presentation.
Now given that I had just sunk about $30,000 into the renovation, furniture, and decor of our new offices, I was pretty protective of our surroundings. (Kind of like when your Dad bought that new car and was overly anal about people spilling drinks or eating food in the backseat.) To put it mildly, I was overly-protective.
So when the Super-Pages lady pulls me into our conference room and whipped out her 3-ring sales binder, I had a really hard time not grimacing every time she slid the binder across my brand new conference table, leaving narrow but long scratches in the finish every single slide.
She showed me every type-face, font, size of ad, competitor’s ad, phone number option, website, and additional upsell she possibly could.
Never once did she ask me how I intended to get business.
After about 20 minutes of hearing her drone on about web traffic to wonderpages.com and wearing a groove in my table, I finally said, “I think we’re done.”
A seasoned salesperson would’ve backed off, asked more clarifying questions, figured out my needs and wants, and then come back in for a close. Not this one, she went right for the jugular.
“Well how on earth do you plan on getting customers?” (And she asked it in a somewhat condescending tone too!)
“ Networking P.O.W.E.R.” was my response.
She gave me a “Well, good luck with that”, packed up her table destroying 3 ring binder, and walked out the door.
What this woman didn’t get is that she would always be selling something because she didn’t know how to leverage Networking P.O.W.E.R. (nor did she bother to ask what I was talking about…I’ll share it with you in a moment.)
What she failed to build with me from the get-go was social capital. It’s the one thing in our society that’s worth more than gold and silver. It’s worth more than the most valuable stocks, equities, commodities, or currency.
Social capital is the residual value that exists between two people. It’s inherently potential in every relationship, but most people never fully comprehend a) how to build it, or b) that it even exists.
Think for a moment about 3 people in your life that would do nearly anything for you. They’re the 3 people that you’d call if you had to move something heavy, get a contact for a new job, or pick you up on the side of the road when your car breaks down.
These people would do almost anything for you without so much as a second thought about when they’ll be able to ask a favor of you. You have social capital with these individuals. An unseen residual value in the relationship that’s been building for years. And not only is it reciprocal, it’s assumed and completely natural.
So when I told Wanda Wonderpages that I was going to be building my company using Networking P.O.W.E.R., I was telling her that I was going to build the business using social capital. I trained my team all about the Law of Reciprocity, the idea that givers get. I had them read books like Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi, The Go-Giver by Bob Burg, and How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.
I told them that the way we would be building this business is by building relationships with some of the most connected people in town, and we’d do it by giving of ourselves, our ideas, and our resources selflessly. I told them to go out and say nothing about our company until they were asked. Just go out and give… connect… teach.
But most importantly, I taught them what P.O.W.E.R. stands for:
Again, thinking back to the 3 people that you could call at a moment’s notice, more than likely you’ve shared ideas with that person. Maybe shared contacts. Introduced them to their significant other. You promoted opportunities while establishing relationships.
What most people don’t realize is you can do this with anyone, not just your closest friends. And, it doesn’t take years and years to build up this social capital. It might take just one or two interchanges. But to be sure, the onus is on you to promote opportunities to the people with whom you meet.
Our strategy was simple — arrange coffee meetings with people in our community that were the movers and shakers. Entrepreneurs, business owners, marketing directors, senior managers, young professionals… anyone that was on our “networking radar” was fair game. (In hindsight, we should’ve all bought stock in Panera Bread as often as we were there.)
We took a couple pages out of the How To Win Friends and Influence People playbook and spent 70-80% of the time listening, asking questions, and being interested in the other person. Only 20-30% of the time was spent sharing our story. The most important thing to come out of every meeting wasn’t us asking for leads, but the team figuring out how to best promote opportunities to those we met.
We’d ask them to tell us about themselves — their family, job, what they did for fun — and if they tried to turn the conversation around to us, we’d answer the question quickly and then say, “tell me more about _____, that sounds really interesting.”
One of the assumptions we made about the people we met was there was something in their life they’d like to improve upon. Maybe it was their health, their work environment, their finances… And while we didn’t ever ask it outright, we looked for hints of longing in their comments and then would ask, “it sounds like you’re not totally satisfied with ______, is there anything I can do to help you accomplish ______?”
This became the golden moment in every appointment. Our chance to promote opportunities while establishing relationships. To build social capital. To leverage networking P.O.W.E.R.
To be clear, what we were trying to do with these appointments was not get their business. It was to build social capital and position ourselves as people who could help. The team members that did this best had a very natural desire to help other people. To approach appointments like these with anything other than a completely selfless desire to see other people succeed ends up being transparent.
People know when there’s something you really want. When they have no idea what your angle is (and better yet, to have no “angle”) is when your new friend leaves the appointment saying, “what just happened? I feel like I want to give them something…”
We began to be recognized as a company that was doing things differently. We didn’t advertise like so many other companies did, but instead, began leveraging contacts within the media to get quoted in newspaper articles, be interviewed on the radio, and act as experts when the TV news crews needed a sound bite. The “company story”, a concept taught to me by Michael Gerber (author of The E-Myth Revisited), began to be spread among people that had never heard of us but needed our services. We didn’t have to sell our services, we gave so much to so many, they sold it for us.
And then the referrals came.
What the Super Pages lady didn’t get was Networking P.O.W.E.R., when leveraged correctly and frequently changed from:
Promoting Opportunities While Establishing Relationships
Profiting On What Everyone Refers
Before long, we had referral partner relationships built with so many influential people that not only did the quality of the referrals improve, but the sheer quantity of folks that knew about us went up as well.
I fully maintain that no matter what business you’re in, or aspire to be in, the concepts behind Networking P.O.W.E.R. will work for you.
In the coming chapters, I’m going to share with you specific strategies, scripts, questions to ask, and ways of handling appointments that will allow you to blow the doors off your business simply by promoting opportunities.
You’ll learn email introduction tactics that allow you to step in, introduce, and step out of the situation so the outcome is not dependent on you.
I’ll share the schedule my team used to build substantial relationships in a short period of time and still get all of their work done on a daily basis.
You’ll get a step-by-step account of how to set up an account that will help you stay connected with the people that are most influential in your life AND provide a valuable resource for them so they’ll always open your emails.
And much more…