The below is taken from my new book “Progressive Partnerships – The Future of Business”.
Every book I read on networking talked about how important it was to build rapport: to mirror people or feign an interest in their interests. In short, use whatever techniques you can to be liked by people, then you can do business with them. Yet something wasn’t stacking up.
It’s a widely held belief that, all things being equal, people will do business with people they like. It’s a good theory. I will certainly choose to do business with people whose values and sense of humour I share. In an ideal world I would only work with people like that.
The theory is good; the reality is that business operates on creating value. I have great friends whom I adore, but I would never do business with them. Our values match, we love the same things, our families get on, but when it comes to business they do not provide the value I need. If I only worked with people I liked then I could never deliver the value I need to my clients and shareholders.
Value trumps everything. You may hate your current phone provider, their customer service could be lousy, their rates might be extortionate, etc., but if they allow you to make calls all over the city and their competitor has patchy coverage, then their value is enough to supersede everything else.
Build rapport if you can, but if you are good at delivering value, you will get the business opportunities regardless. That’s not an excuse to be horrible, but understand the value you are creating is your network. As long as you can build the network, the value will come and so will the opportunities.
So I knew how to build rapport, I knew how to ask interesting questions and give interesting answers, but how did I create value for others?
Put some ICE in your cocktail
When you meet someone for the first time at an event, the chances of you doing business with them immediately are very remote. The law of averages suggests they’re not going to be the perfect person to do whatever you want them to do at that time. However, there’s a good chance that, at some point in the future, you’re going to need somebody like them, and they’re going to need somebody like you. You want to be in as many people’s minds as possible as the person to call when they need your service.
So here’s the piece I was struggling with: I could go and be the nice guy, ask interesting questions and build great rapport with people, but if I didn’t have a way of following up by demonstrating my value to them beyond our rapport, ultimately it was going to be a very short-term exercise. I didn’t want that. I wanted my networking to be something that would generate value for years to come.
Thus began the next stage of my investigation, and this was the area I found very little information on. In fact, there was nothing I could find at all about how to create enough value for people to want to be a part of your network. Sure there were books about small talk and the importance of networks and some best practices, but I didn’t find anything about creating value for your network.
If you have a huge asset like a successful business, massive talent or widespread influence, then you don’t need to find additional value for people to want to be in your network. However, I’m working on the basis that you either don’t have those things, or if you do, not enough people know about them yet.
I started a process of deconstructing value. Who were the people I had met over the past couple of years that I wanted to stay in touch with? Who were the ones I wanted in my network? Why was it that I wanted them in my network? I figured if I could understand that, I could work backwards and discover how to create value for others so they would want me in their networks. As a result, I came up with three reasons why I kept people in my network.
If you enjoyed this and would like to read more, you can download a free sample of the book here: CallumLaing.com/Future