I have a treat for you below. One of the world-class experts on business development has written most of this post: a post with the most. And what will he be talking about? A topic lots of people are mentioning this month.
A mini-frenzy of posts on networking has appeared in the blogosphere, perhaps because the holiday season brings more social events. For example, see Tom Kane's post in which he also links to posts highlighting the topic from Michelle Golden and Guy Kawasaki. Allison Shields actually wrote three posts on her version of how one should interact in the network world. I was glad to see she included advice about asking questions of those people you meet and that she borrowed her recommended questions from Bob Burg's book.
Bob Burg, author of the book, Endless Referrals: Network Your Everyday Contacts, calls these kinds of questions "feel good questions." He suggests asking questions such as:
- How did you get started in your business?
- What do you enjoy most about what you do?
- What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?
- What significant changes have occurred in your business or industry within the past several years? How have those changes affected you?
- How would you want people to describe you?
- How would I know if a certain person is a good prospect or lead for you?
While Shields has changed the wording a bit, you can still see the spirit and intent of Burg's Feel-Good Questions®. That last question is one he calls “The One Key Question that will set you apart from the rest”. He says it like this: “How can I know if someone I’m speaking to is a good prospect for you?”
When consulting with people on their networking strengths and weaknesses, I teach them CLICK and always have them read Endless Referrals. Once people understand that networking is about listening and asking questions, they no longer resist the events. One man said, "I can't believe I am saying this. That was fun."
Networking is not complicated. Even the most introverted among us know how to focus on other people. To further explain, I went straight to the guru's mouth and asked Bob Burg about this often-dreaded activity. He said:
Networking is simply the cultivating of mutually beneficial, give and take, win-win relationships. It works best, however, when emphasizing the 'give' part. And, there's nothing unrealistic or naïve about that. It's simply a matter of continually adding value to people's lives on your way to earning the right to do business with them directly and/or receive an ongoing supply of A-List, high-quality referrals.
By systematically (I define a system as "The process of predictably achieving a goal based on a logical and specific set of how-to principles") cultivating these relationships on an ongoing basis, you'll very quickly develop what I call an army of personal walking ambassadors.
Now, the leveraging comes into play. Because the typical person knows about 250 other people (documented and proven many times), this means that every time you cultivate just one new relationship in which this new person "knows you, likes you, and trusts you", wants to see you succeed, wants to help you find new business, you've just increased your own personal sphere of influence by a potential 250 people . . . every . . . single . . . time.
The key is to always ask yourself how you can add value to their lives.
Some quick thoughts:
1) Make them feel good about themselves during the initial conversation. Focus on them, not on yourself. Most people feel they have to immediately lead with their "elevator speech" or Benefit Statement. My opinion is that, while there is certainly a time and place for that (I devote a large part of one chapter of my book, "Endless Referrals" to crafting the perfect "Benefit Statement") . . . NOW IS NOT THE TIME. Why? Because, they don't care about you and what you do right now. They're much more interested in themselves, and what they do. So, instead of talking about you, ask them about . . . them, and their business. To do this, I employ what I call Feel-Good Questions®. Feel-Good questions are simply questions designed to make this person feel good about themselves, the conversation, and you. [See above for some of his questions.]
2) Be a connector. Connect them with others. Yes, One terrific way of adding value to people’s lives is by introducing them to others and helping them to begin a mutually beneficial relationship. Talk about planting some seeds of goodwill, while at the same time positioning you as a person of value, a mover and shaker, and someone who can be a valuable resource to them as a connector.
3) Be an information provider. As you’re getting to know them you find out their interests. Is Gary an antique collector? Is Susan a skier? Does Tom’s daughter play soccer? Does Lisa devote herself to a charitable cause? Imagine the information you may come across that can add value to their lives and the lives of those they love. Pass it along when you find it. And, of course, if there is information that affects their business and livelihood then, by all means, provide that as well.
4) Constantly find ways to refer business to others. This separates the stars from the wannabees. A great way to add value to someone’s life is to add value to their business And, what better way to add value to their business than to refer them business? Wow!
And then, once you’ve determined that the know you, like you, trust you relationship is established, you can always contact that person to discuss your business, whether for direct business or referrals (or perhaps both if appropriate). The key is to continue to add value to their lives. Never stop. Never. It doesn’t cost you a thing but it does continually bring back rewards. It feels great, makes life fun, and keeps abundance as a constant part of your life.
Remember; in a free-enterprise-based society, the amount of money you make is directly proportional to the number of people you serve. So, if you want to make a lot more money, simply find a lot more people to serve . . . and serve them well.
What more need be said? Networking can be simple and fun. A networking event is not skull-splitting brain surgery or a vigorous marathon for your tongue. It's refreshing aural exercise. Go forth and listen.
Note: If you are a subscriber to Law Practice, you may read Burg's article “The Art of Feel-Good: How to Cultivate a Network of Endless Referrals" in the October/November 2005 edition. Added December 15, 2006, 6:45 PM Mountain: That article may be read online as it was also in the ABA's GPSolo Magazine.
Note (added February 18, 2007, 5:22 PM Mountain): Susan Cartier Liebel included a guest blog post by Bob Burg at her Build A Solo Practice, LLC. Click on over to read more of Burg's excellent networking wisdom.