Friday, April 19, 2013

Networking....9 Networking Secrets

Scott Gerber is a superconnector. He knows a lot of people, and he works hard to introduce the right ones to each other. Recently profiled in Fast Company, Scott, pictured here with co-founder Ryan Paugh of the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), is the author of Never Get a Real Job. But he's practically made a job out of connecting others. I met Scott about a year ago, through the YEC, and also know him through our investments together in Gen Y Capital. In just a year, Scott's been instrumental in connecting me to an investor, to a business partner, and three times to the media.
Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point, one of my favorite booksdefined "connectors" as "the people in a community who know large numbers of people and who are in the habit of making introductions." Scott is such a connector. In fact, he's the best networker I've ever met, so I asked Scott for his tips about how to network. The secrets are out, below:
1. Always be thinking about the other person, not personal gain. Other people come first. Since most people are concerned with their own personal gain, you'll quickly stand out. Albert Einstein once said, "Strive not to be a person of success, but a person of value."
2. Build a network around an idea that people believe in. They have to believe strongly enough to build trust, a foundation and a core value system. YEC is the example for Scott. This makes it more powerful because everyone participates based on their shared mission. It also establishes a baseline that everyone can identify with that removes small talk and the usual 'walls' by establishing camaraderie among strangers.
3. Maximize access. By connecting others to access, you're providing value-added service.Access is everything. And you can then surround yourself with people that want to work with you.
4. Don't go for meaningless "numbers". Baseball cards might be nice to collect a lot of, but fans and followers are people. Authentic relationships are the key. (Numbers are useful for a personal brand, but not super-connecting.)
5. Systematize it. Create a system for your contacts and review it weekly. Scott uses a list and reviews weekly to keep what people need top of mind (but use whatever system works best for you).
6. Always be connecting. Put yourself out there. Dinners, lunches, teas, cocktail parties and even seemingly random events are all opportunities to connect. Be available, be visible, and be helpful.
7. Dedicate real and meaningful time. This is not just a task on a to-do list. This becomes a lifestyle. You need to spend real time with others, really listen to their stories, their needs, and their passions, and really care about bringing value to others without any regard for immediate or future gain.
8. Be a hybrid. Being able to connect different worlds is crucial, especially as business becomes more hybrid-based (i.e. ed-tech or fashion tech). Knowing people in your own industry is great, but it will become more common for people to need assistance and partnerships beyond their traditional boundaries and comfort zones. Those who can connect the dots across industries will become even more valuable.
9. Above all else, be there to help people. I've written before that "How can I help you?" isthe most important phrase you'll say in a meeting. It's also the most important phrase for a superconnector.
A week ago, I attended and delivered the closing keynote speech at an excellent conference called Social Media Marketing World. I had not one but two amazing experiences with other superconnectors. First, the opening keynote speaker, Larry Benet of Sang Events for speakers and authors, met me and was immediately interested in how he could help me, and who he could connect me to for help. I particularly loved that within the first five minutes of meeting him, Larry had asked me what charity was most important to me and why.
Then, I met a man named Ian Cleary of Razor Social. Upon meeting me, Ian asked, "How can i help you right this minute?" He couldn't connect me to anyone right at that minute, but I thought I'd challenge him, so I told him I could really use more followers on Angel List for my new startup. An hour later, Ian had followed me - along with five others. But the kicker came at lunch the next day. I saw Ian sitting down, but I was running out of battery on my iPhone, as usual, and so as I sat down to a table, I thought better of it, and remarked, "I''ll be back - let me go charge my cell phone first."
Dave Kerpen is the founder and CEO of Likeable Local