A power connector’s network is only as good as the quality of the people in it, and the strength of the relationships between those individuals. That’s why power connectors approach building relationships in different ways. Here are four important strategies to help you build your own 5+50+100 network.
1. Seek out the right people in the right ecosystems. You can work a room until the end of time, but what good will it do if you’re in the wrong room? You’ve got to determine the proper ecosystem for your needs and then determine the best people to help you reach your goals. Start by examining the connections of your current network. You may be surprised to discover that your college roommate knows the head buyer for that department store chain you’ve been trying to get your products into, or the parent of another child on your son’s Little League team is the CFO of the biggest manufacturer in town. Whenever I need to reach anyone, the first thing I do is to put the request out to my network: “Who do you know in (whatever ecosystem I want to reach)?” I always get an answer—but inevitably the contact comes from someone who I never would expect to have access to that industry or community.
2. Connect in the right way. The best way to build strong connection is to be authentically yourself and authentically interested in others. If I am going to meet new people in a professional arena, I often will do research beforehand about the individuals who will be there. I want to get to know what’s important to this person, what makes him or her excited in either their personal or professional lives. Before I ever say anything about myself, I try to ask questions of the people I meet. If you are genuinely curious about others, they will feel your interest.
When it is your turn to speak, please avoid a thirty-second “elevator speech” about your business! Instead, I suggest you develop a share that tells who you are, what you’re about, and what you’re interested in. Talk about your family, hobbies, civic or community involvements—anything that shows you have a personal life. Only after that should you talk about your business, making sure that the description reflects energy and passion.
Once you’ve created the initial connection, do whatever you can to quickly add value. As you listen to someone, keep these questions in mind: “How can I help?” and “Can any of my contacts be of assistance?” Remember that your goal is simply to establish enough of a connection to secure the next meeting, and then move on. Try asking yourself, “What’s the one thing I can say that will lay a foundation for a future relationship?” And always end your conversation with what I call the three Golden Questions: “How can I help you?” “What ideas do you have for me?” and “Who else do you know who I should talk to?” With these three questions you set the stage for future contact and the potential for a deeper relationship.
3. Assess the value of a connection and reconnect immediately. Power connectors appreciate the value of every connection while determining exactly what assistance that person brings and what assistance he or she can give in return. You must assess your connections to see if they are a good fit for your 5+50+100 circles based on (a) whether their values match yours and (b) can you both provide mutual meaningful value, now and/or in the future. You want your power circles to be composed of people who have a good head, a good heart, and who are a good bet. Once you have evaluated your connections, reach out to them within 24 hours and provide some sort of value immediately. I often will send articles, offers of help, or simply a “nice to meet you, let’s stay in touch” email. By following up quickly you demonstrate your own responsiveness and your willingness to create a further relationship.
4. Continue to build value and triangulate for greater success. Before people are willing to help with the big things, they must know you, like you, and trust you. You accomplish this through regular, value-added contact over time. Be proactive; be the first to offer to help and then follow through. Giving first is rare and builds trust in a world where talk is cheap and people mistrustful.
One of the quickest ways to deepen a relationship is to identify and solve a problem by sharing relevant information, a key introduction, a piece of strategy, a referral, mentor, or other support. Do the little things that others don’t, and give value multiple times without expecting a return.
Some businesspeople view their relationships as assets to be hoarded and kept away from others. But I have found that the real power of strategic relationship building comes from creating interrelationships between the individuals you know and with their extended networks. I call this triangulating. Some of my greatest successes as a power connector came from being the “matchmaker” between connections. Not long ago, venture capital firm CEO Claudia Iannazzo asked me to help a friend of hers find a speaker for a big entrepreneurs’ conference in New York. I put her in touch with Dr. Annette McClellan, who had just sold her company for several million dollars and was looking for a new opportunity. By referring Annette, Claudia came to the rescue of a good friend and professional contact; Annette received great exposure to entrepreneurs and companies in which she might invest; and I was able to put two friends in touch as well as adding to my own connections in the ecosystem of professional speaking.
Even if you are incredibly efficient with your networking, you have only so much time and so many resources in a given day. But if you can connect your connections to one another, you’re leveraging your time and energy by using the resources of those in your network to add value.
When it comes to building a powerful network, I believe that quality—defined as the level of connection you create with your communication and the ways you add value—trumps quantity every time. In high-quality relationships, people know you, like you, and trust you because you have communicated with them consistently and added appropriate value frequently. They take your calls, answer your emails, and help you when you ask—and you will do the same for them. With a wide, deep, and robust network of quality connections that are eager to help and support you and each other, you will find your path to success easier and far more enjoyable.