There’s an old Chinese proverb that perhaps you’ve heard of it:
The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.
Well the same holds true for building your network.
Getting the Right Mind-Set
Here’s the rub: success in any field (but especially in business), is about working with people, not against them. Business is a human enterprise, driven and determined by people. We need each other and we feel a need to help each other.
We’ve all been invited to networking events. Those post-work sessions are often frequented by card ninjas playing top trumps with the other attendees. Ferrazzi believes real networking is about finding ways to make other people more successful. It is about working hard to give more than we get.
Real networking is also good for business. Building relationships is good for the companies we work for because everyone benefits from our own growth — it’s the value we bring that makes people want to connect with us.
Here’s the key to success in one word: generosity. And here’s Ferrazzi’s supplement: We’ve got to be more than willing to accept generosity. Often, we’ve got to go out and ask for it. It’s his belief that until we become as willing to ask for help as we are to give it, we’re only working half the equation.
A network functions precisely because there’s recognition of mutual need. There’s an implicit understanding that investing time and energy in building personal relationships with the right people will pay dividends. But it needs to pay both ways: win-win. Any other way and it’s binary. One winner, one loser. So step up and ask for help.
Where we once found generosity and loyalty in the companies we worked for, today we must find them in a web of our own relationships. It’s a more personal kind of loyalty and generosity, one given to our colleagues, our team, our friends and our customers.
Experience will not save us in hard times, nor will hard work or talent. If we need a job, money, advice, help, hope, or a means to make a sale, there’s only one surefire, fail-safe place to find them: within our extended circle of friends and associates.
So, before we ask for help, we need to know what we want. Ferrazzi suggests the more specific we are about what we want to do, the easier it becomes to develop a strategy to accomplish it and part of that strategy is establishing relationships with the people who can help us get where we’re going. Here’s his 3-step process to identifying what we want.
Step One: Find Our Passion
Most people don’t. They accept what they “should” be doing, rather than take the time to figure out what they want to be doing. Yet deep within each of us, there’s an intuitive knowledge of what we want most in life. We only have to look for it.
We need to look inside: without the constraints, without the doubts, fears, and expectations of what we “should” be doing. We have to be able to set aside the obstacles of time, money, and obligation.
We need to look outside: We must ask the people who know us best what they think our greatest strengths and weaknesses are.
Step Two: Putting Goals to Paper
Ferrazzi suggests we use what he calls a Relationship Action Plan of three parts.
The first part is devoted to the development of the goals that will help fulfil our mission.
The second part connects those goals to the people, places, and things that will help get the job done.
The third part helps determine the best way to reach out to the people who will help us accomplish our goals.
Step Three: Create a Personal “Board of Advisors”
Finally, even the best-conceived plans benefit from external help. It helps to have an enlightened counsellor, or two or three, to act as both cheerleader and eagle-eyed supervisor, who will hold us accountable.
Build It Before We Need It
Ferrazzi points out that the people who have the largest circle of contacts, mentors, and friends know they must reach out to others long before they need anything. The most important thing is to get to know contact as friends, not potential customers. The dynamics of building a relationship is incremental: one small step at a time.
Ferrazzi suggests that all around us are golden opportunities to develop relationships with people we know, who know people we don’t know, who in turn know even more people.
So step one in creating our relationship network is to focus on our immediate network: friends and family. Without a doubt they will know someone that might just be that magic connection. When making connections, people who are constrained by fear need to realise the worst anyone can say is “no”. We need to have the “guts” to face up to our insecurities. To help, find a role model and observe their behaviours. Pay attention to their actions and over time, adopt some of their techniques. Slowly, we’ll build up the courage to reach out by ourselves.
The Key Skills needed within our toolbox.
Leave nothing to chance. Who we meet, how we meet and what the objective of the meeting is should be pre-determined. Research who they are and what their business is. Find out what’s important to them: their hobbies, challenges and goals. Pre-armed with this information we can step into their world and talk knowledgeably. Ferrazzi assures us their appreciation will be tangible.
#2 Take Names
The successful organisation and management of the information that makes connecting flourish is vital. Tracking the people we know, the people we want to know, and doing all the homework that will help develop intimate relationships with others can cause one heck of an information overload. So set up a working system to track the people you want to know.
#3 Warm the Cold Call
Ferrazzi gives us four rules for making effective cold calls:
1) Convey credibility by mentioning a familiar person or institution
2) State the value proposition
3) Impart urgency by being prepared to do whatever it takes whenever it takes to meet the other person on his or her own terms
4) Be prepared to offer a compromise that secures a definite follow-up at a minimum.
#4 Managing the Gatekeeper, artfully
How do we open the door? First, make the gatekeeper an ally rather than an adversary. And never, ever get on his or her bad side. Treat them with the dignity they deserve. If we do, doors will open to even the most powerful decision makers. Acknowledge their help. Thank them by phone, flowers, a note.
#5 Never Eat Alone
Ferrazzi believes invisibility is a fate far worse than failure. It means that we should always be reaching out to others, over breakfast, lunch, whatever. It means that if one meeting happens to go sour, we have six other engagements lined up just like it the rest of the week. He suggests we keep our social and event calendar full. We must work hard to remain visible and active among our ever-growing network of friends and contacts.
#6 Share Our Passions
When it comes to meeting people, it’s not only who we get to know but also how and where we get to know them. Ferrazzi suggests shared interests are the basic building blocks of any relationship. He tells us it is what we do together that matters, not how often we meet. When we are truly passionate about something, it’s contagious. Our passion draws other people to who we are and what we care about. Others respond by letting their guard down. Which is why sharing our passion is important in business.
#7 Follow Up or Fail
When we meet someone with whom we want to establish a relationship, we need to go the extra yard to ensure we won’t be forgotten. The fact is, most people don’t follow up very well, if at all. Making sure a new acquaintance retains our name (and the favourable impression we’ve created) is a process we should set in motion right after we’ve met them. And remember, it’s not what they can do for us, but what we might be able to do for them. It’s about giving them a reason to want to follow up.
#8 Connect with Connectors
We all know at least one person who seems to know everybody and who everybody seems to know. Ferrazzi suggests these people should be the cornerstones to any flourishing network. They are at the hub of many networks. The most efficient way to enlarge and tap the full potential of our circle of friends is, quite simply, to connect our circle with someone else’s.
#9 The Art of Small Talk
We’ve all struggled with that ancient fear of walking into a room full of complete strangers and having nothing to say. That’s why small talk is so important. Conversation is an acquired skill. If we have the determination and the proper information, just like any other skill, it can be learned. The goal is simple: Start a conversation, keep it going, create a bond, and leave the other person thinking, “I like that person”.
#10 Be Unique.
When it comes to making an impression, differentiation is the name of the game. Confound expectation. Shake it up. Ferrazzi assures us vulnerability is one of the most under appreciated assets in business today. Charm is simply a matter of being ourselves. Our uniqueness is our power.
And there you have it…some of the top ideas from the fascinating book Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi.
Hope you enjoyed this summary. If you are interested in becoming a business coach then please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can set up a time for an exploratory discussion.