Welcome to the DAY 3 of the Core Principles of Entrepreneurship: Networking.
Your network is your net worth
Here’s the course structure so you know where we stand:
- DAY 1: Strategy – Click to access the previous lesson.
- DAY 2: Leadership – Click to access the previous lesson.
DAY 3: Networking
- DAY 4: Discipline
We’re now entering in one of the subjects that not only is extremely relevant to entrepreneurship but also for pretty much anything in your life. One of the greatest facts about life is that everything rises and falls on people. You will only go as far as the quality of people surrounding you. And that’s why networking is so critical.
Now, before we dive into this lesson, I wanted to tell you that I was going to talk about Sales instead of Networking.
And the reason why I decided to change it to Networking is because, first of all, I’m not the best example when it comes to selling and I wasn’t really seeing how could I add that much value, secondly, because the essence of networking also applies to selling, so what you learn here can very well be applied to selling scenarios, and thirdly, because networking or establishing bridges is as fundamental in entrepreneurship as selling or anything else, even though it doesn’t look that important.
I’m sure we’re not always aware of this, and even when we are – and if you’re like me – probably you don’t even want to hear it, right? I mean, you know networking is critical, but perhaps you don’t feel like you were born to be that kind of “tactical and political” guy who exploits people for his own advantage. We all tend to have this notion that networking is faking interest in someone so I can benefit from that person later on, right?
So, let’s start by changing a little bit the rules of the game:
If this is the first time you’re learning something specifically about networking, let me tell you right away that I hate this word.
Always makes me remember Porter Gale’s expression “Your network is your net worth”.
And it is! I know it is, she’s absolutely right, and in her book, she defends exactly what I defend. But I still don’t like the fact that it seems like we’re “monetizing relationships”.
You see, it’s really complicated to separate the concept of intentionally meeting people with the end results that we might desire. The harsh reality is that a lot of people still see networking as exploiting someone, trying to see how I can benefit from this person, and the second I believe he’s not useful to me anymore, I will lose all my interest on him.
This is sad and unbelievably selfish, and if you ask me, I really don’t see how this type of people will ever achieve anything truly great in life.
So, let me propose a different version, ok?
Every time we think about networking, now we think instead of BEING GENUINELY INTERESTED in knowing about other people.
Makes sense? Notice that I’m mentioning GENUINELY in knowing about OTHER people. It’s not about us! It’s about helping others, understanding them, and adding value if that’s within our reach.
This is the main point I wanted to state from the get-go about Networking.
And now that we already know what networking really is, let us then address how to use it.
And first, I’ll share with you how I saved 15k€ in a 30-minute occasional meeting with no expectations at all.
When I was developing Walkamole – my first startup that was a street food business – with my partners, we had no idea what type of vehicle we would use. But, for sure, we didn’t expect to use a Piaggio APE 50 transformed. In fact, we didn’t even though that such thing was possible. So, we thought we’d use instead some sort of van highly equipped and transformed. We didn’t even know that it would eventually cost us around 30k$ to have it all set up.
One day I’m talking with a colleague of mine, and because he knew I was creating a food business, he tells me that I should talk with a certain person he knew that was “well positioned” within the food industry landscape. So, I asked him for the email of that person and I emailed him right away to schedule a meeting.
Now you might wonder: why was I expecting from that meeting? What was my end goal? What was I plotting?
And the truth is: absolutely nothing. I wasn’t expecting anything out of that meeting, I didn’t even know how that person could help me.
So, I went to this meeting with my genuine interest in knowing him, knowing his path, his goals, and learning as much as possible from someone who had a lot of experience in the food industry.
And the simple fact of meeting with him, knowing about him and, eventually, telling him about my business, led him to suggest that I should use a Piaggio APE 50 as our vehicle. He actually knew the person who could help us with that, and this single advice saved us 15k€. Instead of spending from 25 to 30k€, we’ve spend 7.5k€.
Now, when you watch the final video with Porter Gale, I’m sure you’ll see way more interesting and remarkable stories, this is merely one that happened to me. The potential of genuine and authentic networking is absolutely amazing, and mostly because you really cannot anticipate the tremendous potential of connecting two human beings.
Everything rises and falls on people.
Moving on to the second point:
How should you behave every time you meet with someone who doesn’t know you?
And, here, we’re going to talk about what I call behavioral guidelines.
So, let’s assume you schedule a conversation over the lunch with someone you just met. The lunch is scheduled for 1pm.
The first thing to mention is, obviously, that you should arrive on time.
You don’t make the other person wait. Yes, usually there’s always someone that makes the other wait a little bit, but let it not be you. There’s always a 10 or 15 mins tolerance, but be sure you’re there on time, as that’s the single best way not to start a meeting with someone slightly pissed off with you.
Now, in this conversation, there’s only a few set of rules that I’d like you to know.
You want to avoid talking about yourself as much as possible. Seriously, we human beings are by nature selfish, we only care about ourselves, and that’s fine! We can’t help it. But when it comes to establishing relationships with people that we don’t yet know that well, it means the world if we’re able to put aside all our natural selfishness and focus on the other person.
Listen really carefully to what the other person says. Don’t interrupt sentences, wait for the other person to wrap up his thoughts, and do not cause tension or avoid seeming like you’re anxious to talk. You see, when you listen with attention to what other people say, the message you’re transmitting is that you value them, you value what they’re saying and you value what they think. And this is HUGE! You know why? Because we all crave for importance. And typically people lack that feeling of importance, whether because at home it’s all about the kids or at the job we’re not the director or the guy to whom everyone looks up to. So, if you listen attentively, the other person will naturally empathize with you much more. Besides, you don’t want to convey an anxious image like you cannot wait to speak. That single act will transmit the idea that you’re not listening anymore to what the other person says and that you are “needy”. By the way, there’s an outstanding book about all these concepts called How to Make Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie, I’d highly recommend you read it.
Make good questions about the other’s ambitions. Once again, avoid talking about yourself and your goals, focus instead on the other person’s experiences, stories, and ambitions. This is really important. You want to make sure you ask people what’s exciting them nowadays, or what are their main ambitions for life, professional career, etc. And why’s that? You see, every single time you focus the conversation on the ambitions of the other person, his brain will associate an excitement feeling with you, which is really interesting because, now, every time this person remembers of you, he’ll immediately associate excitement with it, so he’s much more willing to spend his time with you once again. And, truth be told, we all want to share our plans with the others, to have their advice or simply their encouragement.
Emulate the other’s gestures and reactions. Now, this one will seem a bit creepy, but it’s for a greater good. Perhaps, you’ve already heard about the fact that two people synchronized to generate a lot more empathy toward the each other. It really works that way, I’m afraid. So, the next time you want to generate empathy with someone in a conversation, try to notice his posture and the way he’s sat. Gently and smoothly, imitate the other person’s movements. Don’t do it abruptly, you cannot let your interlocutor notice it, do it slowly, and wait for 20, 30 seconds after the movement to copy it.
You only talk about your goals when the other asks you. Now, this is really the big thing. I’ve once heard about the way Tim Ferriss used to network with bloggers and journalists to prepare the launching of his worldwide famous book called “The Four-Hour Workweek”. So, how did he do it? Well, he would schedule meetings with these guys, and during those meetings, he would never talk about his goals, ambitions, and book plan. Nope, instead he focused all his effort on learning and listening attentively to the other person. Paying attention, listening carefully, showing that he had a tremendous respect for this guy, and, obviously, helping and adding as much value as he possibly could.
So, here’s the question: if during a whole conversation of, say, 1hour you’re only trying to add value and focusing on the other guy, what do you think will eventually happen?
Well, at a certain point, the other person will feel the need to know you as well. It’s a basic reciprocity principle that tends to apply to all of us. When someone is generous with us, we also apply generosity. It’s one of those beautiful phenomena of human beings. Let’s say you guys talk for 1 hour. By the 40 mins mark, the other guy will eventually ask you: “So, John, tell me about you. What are you looking for? How can I help you?”. And this is when, for the first time, you mention your goals.
Never do it before the other person shows genuine interest in knowing you, it won’t have the same impact. That’s what Tim Ferriss did. “Oh, you know, I’m currently writing this book that will be called the Four-Hour Workweek”, and so on. Now, when Tim Ferriss launched the book, who do you believe were the first guys reviewing it publicly on their blogs?
These bloggers with whom he’d talked!
And the same will happen to you. If you genuinely get to know someone, his ambitions, and concerns, and you add as much GENUINE value as you can, at a certain point, this person will eventually ask about you and your goals. This is when you tell him what you’re aiming at. And, trust me, if you’ve built great empathy during the conversation, by this time, your interlocutor will be more than willing to help you the best he can, and you won’t even need to ask him for help.
So, as the action steps of this lessons here’s what I’d like you to do:
- Start making a list of people with whom you’d like to talk. They don’t need to be celebrities, just list everyone who you think might have something interesting to teach you.
- Then, schedule at least one conversation per week. Forget the lunch, focus on a 15-minute chat only to get started.
- Don’t forget to keep in touch with the people you now know. Email them with something interesting and valuable to them from time to time.
Hope this lesson was insightful! 😉
Remember that you can share these materials with a good friend. That way you’re not only adding a lot of value to him, but you’re also helping me spreading the word.
All the best,
And I’ll now leave you with the video of this lesson: