I have a friend that says, “Networking is the key to life.” I’d have to agree, but I’d change the wording from “networking” to connecting. When most people think of networking they sometimes have a negative connotation. I think at this point we all have that long lost friend that reaches out to “have coffee” or invite you a “party.” Except, “coffee” and “party” is code for a sales presentation.
What is networking?
Networking like any other word is just a word. It’s not negative or positive. It simply describes the act of building a new relationship by relationship. In other words, networking is the act of friending your friend’s friends. This is such a powerful way to build relationships that network marketers like Amway, Mary Kay and more all leverage this effect to build an empire of salespeople all selling to their friends.
The network effect isn’t just in sales. In the book, Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg suggests that our friends and acquaintances create a familiarity network. This network allows some people to find out about unpublicized opportunities. Essentially, he explains the research behind the saying, “it’s not about what you know it’s about who you know.”
Parable Of The Shrew Manager
In Luke 16, Jesus tells a story about a shrewd manager. This manager was managing the wealth of a rich man and wasting it. If someone was wasting our resources at work, we’d fire them! That’s exactly what the rich man does. The manager thinks to himself,
He goes through his network of former customers and dishonestly helps them out with their debt. This guy is a snake! Then Jesus praises his shrewdness.
I know when I read this the first time I was like, “wait, what?!” However, here Jesus isn’t telling us to be conniving. Instead He’s illustrating the power of networking. The shrewd manager had relationships to fall back on. People to go to. He was praising the thought process of the manager to connect on purpose vs processing a transaction. Do you think those people would have helped him if he had treated them as debtors?
What Is Connecting?
It’s more than semantics. I see networking as an uninspired practical word. Connecting is describing “networking with intention” or if you prefer missional networking. Missional doesn’t mean missionary, it means driving with a purpose. What I love about connecting, is that you’re connecting on purpose. If you’re connecting, you are confident in who you are, what you offer and how you can help others. You’re able to listen to others intently and look for opportunities to help them. You can’t do this if you’re concerned about your next sale.
My friend Beau Henderson and I worked with the top 10 percent of networkers in an area and we found that the ones that were the most successful weren’t the professionals with the best elevator pitch. No, it was the ones that knew their “why” best and came from contribution. They add value.
How Do You Add Value?
About a decade ago John Maxwell kept telling people to add value. It became a buzz word. Successful people add value to others. How do you add value? I was stumped. Over the years thoug it’s become much easier to add value.
You add value by taking on the role of a psychologist, detective or coach. All three professions have to be great at two things. Listening for clues and asking the right questions. When you meet with people your job should be to ask the most questions and find out as much as you can about this person. You’re not asking questions just to ask, but rather you’re looking for problems that you can solve or help the other person move forward in.
Asking, “what’s your biggest challenge right now?” is a great question, but it’s not a great first question. However, once you know a little about a person you can ask this. Most of the time you’ll catch people off guard which opens them up to give you a real answer. This is your value-adding opportunity. Yes, listening adds value, but now that you know the other person’s challenge you can seek to help them with it.
This approach can help introverts as well. As an introvert myself, I prefer to have some control over social interactions. When I take the approach of a detective I can find out a world of information about a person. Usually, this creates a desire for the other person to want to inquire about me as well. As one person said,
“My job is to sell, I don’t have time to just make a bunch of friends,” is a typical comment I get from many business owners I speak to. Business owners and salespeople all want the same thing. People to call them. However, people only call those they like, know and trust. People call those they have a relationship with first.
Connecting (or networking with intention) is important. It’s the only practical way to change up your influences. We have all heard that we are the sum of the 5 closest people to us. This is true for health and wealth. By connecting we continue to meet people that could be future influencers for ourselves and others. As a Christian, connecting isn’t just a feel-good sales tactic, it’s actually a mandate. It really is, the key to life.