Without trying to brag, one thing I have been told I do really well is network and connect with influential people. So, I thought I would share my thoughts around some things I have learnt along the way so you can improve your own skills and learn something new.
Building a strong network has many different benefits but most of all, it will determine whether you are successful or not. There is no way you can become an entrepreneur and be involved in a successful business venture without a team of people or advisors around you.
“Your network equals your net worth”
Being an entrepreneur comes down to the ability to be able to sell goods or services, and to be able to sell something you need customers. Your first customers (and probably your highest revenue clients) will most likely come from your close network.
These valuable customers will help you then create a revenue stream that will fund your vision and allow you to share yourself with the world. Networking is often over-thought, and way too many people try too hard. Networking is just the process of having conversations with other people. That’s it!!!
Don’t get hang up on trying to impress people, but at the same time, make sure you demonstrate your value without sounding like a wanker.
If you follow my top six strategies below for building a powerful network, then you will be able to connect with people, build a business or hang around great people with ease.
1. Look for two-way value exchange
This is my number one tip, and it’s missed by so many people that I meet on a daily basis. If you want to bring someone into your network, then you need to look for a two-way exchange of value. This means it can’t just be about you getting something; you need to find some value that you can deliver as well.
In a two-way exchange of value, ideally, you would show your value first by looking for something that could help the person you are trying to connect with. It takes a bit of digging but if you ask open-ended questions, and shut up and listen for the answer, you will easily discover how you can help them.
Every day I get emails from people wanting to meet up for an hour to ask me about something. While I think of myself as a friendly guy, if I said yes to every request I would have no hours left in the day. What these cold outreaches are missing is a compelling story (not long winded) of how we can help each other and create mutual value.
When you ask yourself the question “how can I help” every time you reach out, your results will increase substantially. Some people tell me that they don’t think they have much value. This limiting belief is rubbish, and everyone has something to offer, and skills they can bring to the table.
Remember what you love, how you earn a living, and the things you are good at and there will definitely be value you can offer inside of you somewhere.
2. Nail your 30-second elevator pitch
This can take time to perfect, but you will be doing it heaps so you’ll get used to it. To build a powerful network you need to be able to quickly and succinctly communicate what you do, why you do it, and the types of people you like to connect with.
Many people I meet fail to do this, and it takes them thirty minutes or more to explain themselves. What a 30-second elevator pitch does is provide a sample of who you are and then if done right, it should allow the person you’re talking with the option of opting in to hear more if they choose to.
The problem I see with most introductions is that there is no opt in, and you are forced to listen even when you can’t provide value or are not interested in knowing more. You have to learn that not everyone will love what you do, and that’s fine.
The great thing about a 30-second elevator pitch is that it removes all the people who are not relevant to your mission and only leaves the raving fans.
An example of my 30-second elevator pitch:
“I am involved with one of the top motivational / entrepreneur sites on the internet called Addicted2Success. The team love what we do, and it’s why I get out of bed in the morning. Day to day I work in finance helping overseas tech companies enter Australia and support their growth. I am obsessed with personal development and entrepreneurship, and I believe both skills can change the world for good.”
3. Be highly trusted
Powerful networks are not easy to build, but one of the quickest ways to accelerate the growth of a network is by being highly trusted. This means that you need to become known as the guy that can be trusted with confidential information.
In my network, I have a few high profile people who tell me things that are very confidential. I never share these secrets with anyone. On rare occasions, I might know someone who could add value to the secret, and so I ask the originator if I can share it.
The simple act of asking permission will help build you as someone who can be trusted. There are too many people out there who will just share information that is confidential without thinking twice. By not engaging in this bad habit it’s easy to build trust within your network and to quickly grow it.
4. Don’t say yes to everyone
Every social interaction you have in your personal and business life will have an opportunity to bring someone new into your network. If you say yes to bringing new people in constantly then you run the risk of over-committing yourself and not hitting the other points I mentioned earlier like being highly trusted.
Many people have broad networks, but they are so broad that there is no depth, which means the chance of two-way value creation, is very low. When you meet someone new, if you are not instantly into what they have to say then your default decision to stay in touch should be no.
It’s funny, this exact situation happened to me recently, and then I tried another two interactions with this same person and realised I was actually wrong. The person I was talking with hit all my criteria; it was just a case of them having a very strong Italian accent, and me not reading up about them in Google in depth enough.
While this is not the norm, it’s always worth being open-minded and reversing your decision to bring someone into your network when logic warrants it. A nice way to not say yes to everyone but still make other people feel good is to connect with them on social media instead.
By connecting on social media, you have created distance yet left the door open in case anything changes in both of your situations. So to recap, be careful who you let into your network and don’t say yes to everyone, there is no need and you don’t have the time to be keeping up appearances.
5. Stay in touch every three months
Once you have established a solid network you are going to have many different layers. The layer you should concentrate on though is the people you want to be closest to you. This layer of close people will only remain close though if you keep in contact with them.
With that said, I aim to catch up with my inner network contacts every three months. It’s amazing what you can miss and how many projects are occurring where you can add value. Keep in mind that if you have a few highly successful people in your network, regular meetings every week could really use up their time and put them off being connected with you.
The best way to avoid this issue is always to be respectful of people’s time. Tell your inner network how much you appreciate their time and always remind them of the value you can bring as a bonus for them knowing you.
“The value you bring to your inner network should almost be tattooed on your face. Inside your inner network, you should aim to be top of mind for your most valuable three skills”
6. Do lots of meaningful introductions
Part of creating a powerful network involves actually doing introductions to other people. I don’t see a lot of people do this, but your ability to be proactive and make valuable introductions is crucial to your networks success.
Where I see this one go wrong though is where people don’t ask permission before introducing. I have also seen people make poor introductions because they are not good matchmakers. This takes practice, but the key is to ask for permission before doing an intro and to ensure there is value for both people.
The other tip on this is to make sure that if you are introducing someone high profile, you always tell them about the possible intro beforehand to ensure it’s someone that is of interest to them.
Tim Ferris explains in one of his podcasts that the reason why he gave up being involved in startups is that too many people just blindly introduced people by email where there was no synergy and no consent. So remember guys; think before you intro someone!
The final thing to remember when doing intros is to make sure you do them quickly. If you are at an event, and both people are present, then do the intro right away. If it has to happen offline, then do the email intro straight away before you forget. Lots of people promise to intro but most forget.
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