Monthly Archives: October 2016

Networking Is Important

When I ask an audience, “How many of you are here hoping to possibly sell something?” almost everyone raises their hands. When I ask that same audience, “How many of you are here to possibly buy something?” nobody raises their hands.

This is what I call the networking disconnect. Too often, people show up at networking events wanting to sell something but nobody ever goes wanting to buy something. This is how networking can be done badly.

So, it didn’t surprise me when I recently read an article entitled “Stop Networking.” It went on to explain how the process of networking is so “mercenary.” The problem is that every example the author gave about how networking doesn’t work was an example of really bad networking! The conclusion was to stop networking. Instead of networking, the author said you should do these five things:

1. Focus on relationships, not transactions.

2. Don’t ask for something before you give something.

3. Don’t make the process about you.

4. Strive for quality, not quantity, in your relationships.

5. Volunteer for leadership roles in organizations you belong to.

Hello! Does anyone notice that the emperor has no clothes? I would argue that all five of these strategies are, in fact, all about networking – but about networking done the right way. In this article, bad networking tactics were presented as the reasons that people should stop networking altogether. Networking can certainly be done badly, but networking itself isn’t bad. In fact, when it’s done right, almost everyone agrees it’s the best way to build a business.

Don’t stop networking. Just start networking right:

Relationships, not transactions.
The key for networking events is to make solid connections with individuals so they will remember who you are when you do follow up with them. You want them to be interested to meet with you for coffee or lunch. If you go to networking events with the intention of just trying to sell to people, they won’t want to meet with you later because they know you’re going to pitch to them.

Invest in some social capital.
If you want people to be eager to meet with you after networking events, the key is to find ways to help them. Think back to the people in my audience. Think about all the relationships that had the possibility of forming and how many of them most likely didn’t. If everyone focused on learning who they could help, as opposed to who they could sell to, imagine the relationships that might have been. Good networking is all about investing in some social capital before asking for a withdrawal.

Be interested, not interesting.
It’s not all about you. Do you want to make a connection (especially if you are networking up to someone more successful than you)? If so, be interested in what they are doing. Don’t pitch them the moment you meet them. But wait, it never hurts to ask, right? Wrong! Contrary to popular belief, it is does hurt to ask for business before there’s any kind of relationship.

Quality over quantity.
The only thing more important than the size of your network is the quality of your network. It’s a people puzzle, not a numbers game. It’s about finding out about the people you’re meeting with. It’s not about collecting as many cards as you can. If your network is a mile wide and an inch deep, you’ll never have a powerful personal network at your disposal.

Become engaged in the groups you belong to.
If you really want to stand out in a network, volunteer and become a leader in it. It is amazing how much exposure you can receive when you are helping to run a group that you are active in. However, remember two things. First, just being a leader doesn’t mean you’ll get business. At some point, when you have developed a relationship, you do have to let people know that you’d like to do business with them. Second, whatever you do, don’t step down from a leadership role and then immediately quit the group. That really makes it look like you were there for only one reason (and the wrong one at that). Being a leader in a group is about giving back. The secondary benefit is that you can build great credibility.

I’ve built a global company with offices in more than 60 countries and I’ve done almost all of it by building relationships, networking, and getting referrals. My advice to you is, don’t stop networking. Just start networking right.

Follow Passion’ Is Awful, Flawed Advice

With a job being something that we can no longer count on and more demands than ever on our time, we seem to be in constant search of balance and fulfillment. This has created a huge “follow your passion” movement, which suggests that you should earn a living by creating a livelihood from your greatest life passion.

But getting intoxicated by the passion story is akin to “business beer goggles.” You aren’t thinking clearly or seeing the reality.

For businesses to be successful, entrepreneurs need to think about opportunities from their customers’ perspective as much as from their own perspective.

While I do believe that successful businesses have leaders — and often employees, by the way — who are passionate about the business opportunity and their customers, you do not need your life’s passion as a starting point. If you were passionate about the television show Dexter, I’m pretty sure that doesn’t translate into you starting a serial-killer business — despite being amoral and illegal, I don’t think the market opportunity is that large. But seriously, why do so many people think that you need to earn a living from what you love to do the most?

Passion isn’t a starting point.
Zappos.com is a business where passion followed opportunity, but wasn’t the starting point. I can’t imagine that Tony Hsieh is more passionate about shoes than most of the women that I know. He is, however, completely passionate about customer service, which helped take that business to the top of its game.

But people’s life passions generally aren’t around concepts like customer service, which drive successful businesses. Kids grow up wanting to be firemen, ballerinas, baseball players or Star Wars characters, not community builders. If you ask someone their passion, I can guarantee that 99 out of 100 times or more, you will get answers like golf, dancing, wine, scrapbooking or sex before customer service, community building and customer loyalty. If you start with passion, Imelda Marcos or Sex & the City’s Carrie Bradshaw end up running Zappos.com before Tony Hsieh.

Successful businesses identify a customer need or want — an opportunity. When the entrepreneur is incredibly passionate about filling that customer need and is uniquely positioned to be the best person to do so in some way, that’s where business success happens.

And here’s the brilliant part: As long as entrepreneurs aren’t a bandwagon hopper trying to jump on whatever is hot, they will likely find an opportunity from an area of interest. For example, if you have no interest in green technologies, it’s not likely that you will notice a customer need in that area. On the other hand, if you are a foodie, it’s quite possible that you will run into an opportunity in or around food.

The reason work is not called ‘fun’ or ‘hobby’.
One of the ways to truly have some semblance of balance is to try to keep your work life from seeping into the rest of your life. If you have something that you do to relieve stress or add joy to your life, do you want to layer on the requirement of earning a living from it? Once you depend on something to put food on your family’s table and to pay your mortgage, it changes the entire nature of the relationship. Sometimes, work can be fun, but it’s not called that for a reason. Plus, we weren’t designed to always be “on.” We need time to recombobulate and relax.

Passions are magical, but businesses are grounded in realities. Do you remember when Dorothy and the gang peered behind the curtain to find out that the Wizard of Oz wasn’t an all-powerful being, but rather, kind of a loser? Or when you found out that Santa Claus wasn’t real? Or when you figured out that your parents weren’t superheroes, just people with flaws? It sucked, right? Our hobbies are about escapism. There is a bit of magic and fantasy in them. When you make that your business, you are privy to the nuts and bolts. That tempers the magic.

It’s not all about you.
Having a hobby is a total self-indulgence. It is something that you can do that is mostly — if not entirely — you-centric. While you may think that you can have a business that is all about you, you would be wrong. A business is about your customers. In your business, you only get a say if it jives with your customers’ wants. Otherwise, they don’t buy from you.

We need to educate entrepreneurs that by approaching a business from what you are lacking or missing or passionate about, you are completely ignoring those who allow you to have a business: your customers. Again, our environment is fraught with competition. Customers, whose attention spans are contracting, are bombarded with messages and are harder to reach than ever. You have to make the customers the most important part of your business.

If you want to fulfill a passion, do it. That’s what hobbies and free time are for. But if you intertwine that desire with a business, remember that your passion does not pay your for goods or services.

While you may find an opportunity from things that you are passionate about, I don’t think it’s the best starting place to create a business. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. However, the exceptions don’t make for a good strategy. It is possible to win the lottery, but that doesn’t mean that you should invest all of your money in lottery tickets.

While you absolutely need to be passionate about making your business a success, you don’t need to make a business from your greatest passion in life. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Find the opportunities that ignite a passion within you- that is where the success will happen.

Tips to Immediately Connect With Anyone

Too many people succumb to the mistaken belief that the ability to connect with others is a natural, unteachable trait that belongs to only a lucky few. It’s easy to fall prey to this misconception. In reality, this ability is under your control, and it’s a matter of emotional intelligence (EQ).

Research conducted by Matthew Lieberman at UCLA shows that being social and connecting with others is as fundamental a human need as food, shelter, and water. For example, Lieberman discovered that we feel social pain, such as the loss of a relationship, in the same part of the brain that we feel physical pain.

The primary function of this brain area is to alert us to threats to our survival. It makes you realize how powerful and important social connection is. We’re hard wired to be social creatures.

MRIs of the brain show that social thinking and analytical thinking involve entirely different neural networks and that they operate something like a seesaw. When you engage in analytical thinking, the social part of your brain quiets down, but as soon as you’re finished, the social network springs back to life.

The social brain is the end of the seesaw where the fat kid sits; it’s our brain’s default setting.

Given that social connection is such a fundamental human need, you’d think that it would be easy to connect with everyone we meet. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Against our own self-interest, we get bogged down by shyness, self-consciousness, cynicism, pride, competitiveness, jealousy, and arrogance.

If you can get that baggage out of the way, you can connect with anyone—even those who are still holding on to their own. Here are some tips that will help you to connect instantly with everyone you meet.

Leave a strong first impression.
Research shows that most people decide whether or not they like you within the first seven seconds of meeting you. They then spend the rest of the conversation internally justifying their initial reaction. This may sound terrifying, but by knowing this, you can take advantage of it to connect with anyone.

First impressions are tied intimately to positive body language. Becoming cognizant of your gestures, expressions, and tone of voice (and making certain they’re positive) will draw people to you like ants to a picnic. Using an enthusiastic tone, uncrossing your arms, maintaining eye contact, and leaning towards the person who’s speaking are all forms of positive body language that high-EQ people use to draw others in. Positive body language can make all the difference in a conversation. It’s true that how you say something can be more important than what you say.

Be the first to venture beyond the superficial.
Our first conversation or two with a new acquaintance tends to be pretty superficial. We portray a careful picture of ourselves, and we stick to nice, safe topics. We talk about the weather and people we know in common and share the most basic details about ourselves. But if you really want to connect with somebody, try upping the ante and revealing the real you. You don’t need to get too personal, but it’s important to let the other person know what you’re passionate about. Most of the time, if you open up, the other person will follow your lead and do the same.

Ask good questions. If the other person seems hesitant to open up, encourage them to do so by asking substantial questions. “What do you do?” doesn’t further the relationship nearly as much as, “Why did you choose your profession?” Search for questions that will help you to understand what makes the other person tick, without getting too personal.

Learn from them.
In the course of his research, Lieberman concluded that our educational system would be much more effective if we tapped into the social side of learning, rather than trying to squash it. For example, the best way to help an eighth-grader struggling with math would be to have him get help from another student. Apply that same principle to your life, and be willing to learn from the person you’re trying to connect with. Not only does that make them feel more bonded to you, it makes them feel important. It also shows that you’re willing to be vulnerable and aren’t too proud to admit that you have much to learn.

Don’t make them regret removing the mask.
If your new acquaintance does you the honor of opening up, don’t make them regret it. Sarcasm, criticism, or jokes that might make the other person feel judged for what they’ve shared are major faux paus. Instead, empathize with their approach to life, which you can do even if you don’t agree with their beliefs, and then reciprocate by revealing more about yourself.

Look for the good in them.
Our culture can often predispose us toward cynicism. We seem to focus on finding reasons not to like people instead of reasons to like them. Shut that cynical voice off, and concentrate on looking for the good in a new acquaintance. For one thing, that keeps you from writing someone off too soon, but more importantly, when you expect the best from people, they’re likely to deliver it.

Smile.
People naturally (and unconsciously) mirror the body language of the person they’re talking to. If you want people to like you, smile at them during a conversation and they will unconsciously return the favor and feel good about you as a result.

Use their name.
Your name is an essential part of your identity, and it feels terrific when people use it. You shouldn’t use someone’s name only when you greet them. Research shows that people feel validated when the person they’re speaking with refers to them by name during a conversation. When you meet someone, don’t be afraid to ask their name a second time if you forget it right after you hear it. You’ll need to keep their name handy if you’re going to remember it the next time you see them.

Follow the platinum rule.
We all know the golden rule, and it’s pretty easy to follow. The platinum rule is harder to follow because it requires us to treat people the way they want to be treated. Not only does doing so make the other person more comfortable—and therefore more likely to open up—but it also proves that you’ve been listening and have really heard what they’ve been telling you. And that shows extra effort on your part.

Don’t make it a contest.
We’ve all seen the stereotypical sit-com scene where two guys in a bar spend the night trying to one-up each other. The same thing happens when you meet someone new. Their accomplishments and life experience sneak up on you and make you feel the urge to make yourself look just as good (if not better). Doing so may stroke your ego, but it doesn’t help you to connect with them. It keeps you focused on yourself when you should be trying to learn about them and find common ground.

Turn off your inner voice.
One giant thing that keeps us from connecting with other people is that we don’t really listen. Instead, we’re thinking while the other person is talking. We’re so focused on what we’re going to say next or how what the other person is saying is going to affect us down the road that we fail to hear what’s really being said. The words come through loud and clear, but the meaning is lost.

You must turn off this inner voice if you want to connect deeply with people. So what if you forget what you were going to say or if the conversation moves in a different direction before you have a chance to make your point. If your real goal is to connect with a person, you have to shut off your own soundtrack long enough to focus on what they’re telling you.

Bringing it all together
The good news is that we’re programmed to connect with each other; we just keep getting in our own way. Try these tips the next time you meet someone new, and watch a superficial conversation turn into a real connection.