Saturday, August 9, 2014

Networking

What Is Networking?

In my own words, networking is the ability to connect with another human being. Through conversation, both parties look for ways to create value as a result of the relationship. In business, networking with the right person could result in a new customer or the identification of a new solution to an existing problem. In our personal life, networking may result in finding a good babysitter or learning a new way to build model airplanes. In the end, the possibilities are endless.

For many of us, networking is nothing new. In fact, you may already have a contact list filled with names and phone numbers. Maybe you even have a desk drawer full of business cards from different people who you want to stay in contact with. For me, this was true. However, I knew that as my list of contacts grew, I was struggling with how to maintain a healthy relationship with so many people.

In Harvey Mackay's book, Dig Your Well Before You're Thirsty, he explains the importance of maintaining relationships with people because one day you may need to call on them. Surprisingly, Mackay revealed that he has over 12,000 people in his Rolodex and he "touches" them multiple times throughout the year. The idea that he could do that amazed me. If he can do that with 12,000, I can surely do that with my couple thousand friends, right?

My Networking Strategies

The Mackay 66

After learning that networking expert, Harvey Mackay, was able to maintain over 12,000 relationships, I wanted to learn how he did it. What did his system look like?

In the beginning, it started as a tip from Mackay's father, who worked in the newspaper industry. His father explained that as you meet a new person, obtain their contact information and record as much information about them as you can. Then, being creative, find a way to stay in contact with them.

Over the years, Mackay took his father's advice and expanded on it with the development of The Mackay 66, which is a template of 66 questions you should know about a customer or individual. Having this information, which ranges from family to lifestyle, is a powerful way to understand a person and what makes them tick. Using Social Media, many of the questions can be filled out even before you have a serious conversation with a person.

Armed with the knowledge provided by Harvey Mackay, where would I keep all of this information? In 2014, a Rolodex is not something you see very often. Second, I had no interest in keeping a paper copy of a questionnaire and thumbing through a filing cabinet to read up on a customer or friend. I needed a place to hold my information. Enter Google Contacts.

Google Contacts

It didn't take long to realize that developing a profile on the people I know was both time consuming and easily overwhelming. The first challenge was finding a place to hold all of this information. The second challenge was having access to the information when I needed it.

After reviewing a number of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools, I realized that Google Contacts was powerful enough to hold all of my important information and, because I could access it directly from my mobile phone, it was probably the easiest (and cheapest) solution to use.  

To date, I use Google Contacts to record the following type of information:
  • Names
  • Address
  • Phone numbers
  • Email
  • Birthday
  • Family names
  • Anniversary
  • Business title and company
  • Notes
Now that I know what types of information to record and have a place to save it, the next step was understanding how to use it all. This is where the 5-50-100 Rule comes into play.

The 5-50-100 Rule

By the time I reached the point where I needed a strategy to stay in contact with people, I already had a couple thousand friends in my contact list. My social media accounts felt overrun by my inability to "touch" people as often as I wanted to. For a while there, I was only talking with a few friends. How do I strategically reach out to the other 98% and build (or maintain) a relationship with them?

In Judy Robinett's book, How to Be a Power Connector, she introduced the 5-50-100 Rule, which I think is ingenious. Built on the Dunbar Number, which states that humans can only maintain about 150 stable relationships at a time. Beyond that number, tribes and connections begin to fall apart. Using the 150 number as the basis for her rule, Robinett gave me this strategy: 5-50-100. Using three groups, we are to strategically place a small number of "inner circle" connections. 
  • Top 5 - Top five people we contact daily.
  • Key 50 - Key fifty people we contact weekly.
  • Vital 100 - Vital one hundred people we contact monthly.

Putting It All Together

Armed with the tools listed above, this section talks about how I put it all together.

Step 1: Meet Someone New

At some point, we all meet new people. To explain how I use the aforementioned information, let's just start from the beginning. "Hi, I'm Damond Nollan..."

Regardless of how I meet a person, most new relationships begin with a name, job, and hometown. This is typically where I initiate the use of F.O.R.M. to ask the right questions and build rapport quickly. It's an easy first step and you can use it on everyone.

Step 2: Record The Facts

Once I meet someone, I immediately record their basic information into my phone. I often begin with their name, phone, email, and a brief note about how we met, who we know, and any other relevant/interesting facts that I may have learned during our conversation.

Then, and this is new, I decide how soon after I reach back out to "touch" them. The time varies based upon the conversation, group, and interest, but in the end, there is always a date. For me, it ranges from the next day (Top 5) all the way up to 3 months. 

It is important to note that recording facts about people is not something you do once. Instead, this step gets revisited often. Imagine how much you already know about a person through conversation, social media updates, and Google searches. It's almost scary to think how much information is out there about us. Individually, it may not seem like much, but when you put it all together, it tells a powerful story.

Step 3: Find a "Next Touch" 

As Harvey Mackay points out in his book, be creative in "touching" people. It doesn't have to be anything huge, just consider ways that you can add value into people's lives and do this often.

For me, I schedule my "Next Touch" based upon the 5-50-100 rule. If someone does not fall within the inner circle, I make it a point to at least touch them once every 3 months. This means after one year, I would have found a way to touch everyone at least four times a year.

One way to remind myself to reach back out is through the use of the Google Calendar. By connecting Google Contacts and Google Calendar, I can see special dates that were entered into a person's profile on my calendar.

What are some examples of a "Next Touch"? Check out this short list:
  • Send a text 
  • Send a birthday or Christmas card
  • Reach out and say "Hi!" in a Facebook message
  • Stop by their office and give them a "High Five"
  • Go out to lunch
  • Grab coffee and chat for an hour
  • Buy them a gift while on vacation
  • Share interesting articles that align with their interests
  • Introduce them to people 
  • Compliment them on a job well done
  • Leave a sticky note on their computer saying, "Hi!"
As you can tell, the list could go on with great ideas for a "Next Touch." The idea is to invest in others by making regular deposits of value.

Have a Networking Mindset: It's Not About You

In the beginning, as with newborn babies, we all have an interest in ourselves. However, it is important to realize that networking isn't really about what other people can do for us, but rather what we can do for others. In his book, Harvey Mackay drives this point home when he says that we should dig our well before we are thirsty. This essentially means that we should be pouring into other people's lives by giving them value repeatedly.

By pouring life into others and delivering value consistently, you are building social capital with people. Then, should the day ever arise when you need some assistance, you would have created numerous healthy relationships and deposited enough into others that you could ask for help. Do understand that networking and pouring life into others is not a power card that you get to play at whim. People are people and there are no guarantees that someone will be there for you when you need them, but given a history of regular deposits, the chances are good that you can call on your inner circle (5-50-100) when in need.

Final Thoughts

Understanding the importance of networking goes far beyond making a sale, finding a good plumber, or having a lot of friends. For me, networking is an opportunity to touch lives. Through the process of networking, we get to help people become better, stronger, richer, and more fulfilled. We do so by pouring value into them whenever possible.

Don't get me wrong, it's not wrong to ask for help. In fact, we are encouraged to reach out often because it gives others a chance to pour back into us. However, it is vital to recognize that before one comes seeking for help, one should have started the relationship by depositing value long before one needs to start writing checks.

Hopefully, this article provides some value to you. Let me know if you have any questions or ideas on how I can improve this page. Please do so in the comment section below.

Resources

Below are two books that I have enjoyed on the subject of networking.

7 comments:

mrender said...

Nice!!! Learned something from the first time I read it...

Damond Nollan said...

Thank you, @mrender! What did you learn this time around?

mrender said...

The sample conversations are awesome!!! They make it more visual to the first version of the post...

mrender said...

This one Golden!!!

Damond Nollan said...

Thank you, @mrender! The idea that we can go back at anytime and improve on our writing makes it even more powerful. Were there any aha moments in this post?

Damond Nollan said...

Awwwww, that's good to know. Moving forward, I'll take a serious look at how I organize my posts. More examples is probably a great idea.

Damond Nollan said...

Awesome!

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Damond L. Nollan, M.B.A.

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