How to Network in the 21st Century

(With David Fisher)

How to Network in the 21st Century

David J.P. Fisher (also known as D. Fish) is a speaker, coach, and author of nine books, including Networking in the 21st Century and Hyper-Connected Selling. David helps salespeople, business owners, and entrepreneurs understand the Sales Sherpa™ Path, where social media, networking, and traditional sales skills are the key to providing value and staying relevant. 

In today’s episode, David shares with us why networking is so important and how to do it effectively.  

The Sales Sherpas Path: Why Networking 

When David started his business, Rockstar Consulting, he found that one of the best ways to build his business was through networking. Because of this, he helped create the Sales Sherpas Path which focuses on networking and relationship building. 

One of the biggest business tectonic shifts we’ve seen is the rise of the internet. The traditional sales model focused on outreach. Sales teams made phone calls or knocked on as many doors as they could and tried to sell their product or service on the spot. However, with the internet, customers suddenly have access to all the information they need to make a sale. They don’t need to wait for us to knock on their door. 

“Because of the internet, because of the easy access to information, . . . to be a salesperson is not about doing that outreach and being aggressive. It really is about cultivating some credibility and positioning yourself before a customer even needs your service or your product,” David said.

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Instead of focusing on the quick sell, we want to focus on the long-term approach of building relationships and credibility. We should use the different tools we have available to build our credibility so we can form relationships with our customers early on. That way we can position ourselves as the resource. Our customers will come to us for information because they trust us, rather than simply searching on Google. 

David calls this idea the Barney effect. In the TV series How I Met Your Mother, the character Barney had a guy for everything. He had a suit guy, a limo guy, a ticket guy, etc. We want to be that guy. We want to be the person known as an expert in our niche. We want to be the guy our customers come to when they want information related to our industry. 

“It’s really about being proactive and building that relationship, being that guy, being that resource so when [they need something,] it makes total sense for them to reach out to you as opposed to [going] anywhere else,” David said. 

David recently bought a new home which required him to work with a mortgage broker and a real estate agent. Both the people he worked with were people he’d known for over 15 years through networking and building relationships over time. When he was going to buy a house, he reached out to his friends he had previously networked with. They were his go-to guys. Because he had a relationship and trust with them, he knew they were good at what they did. 

Networking and building relationships help us be that person our customers will want to come to. While it may take time, having that trust with our customers can really help us find more success in the long run. 

As we move forward, a lot of things become commodified in our businesses. There is a lot of noise and information that can be overwhelming for our customers as they have so many options to choose from. Networking is about the connection which feeds a human need for social interaction. If we can build a relationship and trust with customers or clients, they will most likely continually choose us over the thousands of other options. 

“There’s absolutely an investment,” David said. “It takes time, it can take some money, it can take attention, but I think it truly is an investment that comes back to you. That’s why I think it’s important.”

We should seek to focus on relationships instead of transactions. There is typically a limit to our transactions whereas relationships are creational and collaborative. They create opportunities that weren’t there before. 

How to Network in the 21st Century 

There isn’t one way or one channel to network. We can network on LinkedIn, on other social media platforms, at events, on Zoom calls, or while going out for a cup of coffee. It is about having multiple channels to communicate; the big thing is just to get out and talk to people. 

But, how do we actually network? How do we have those continual conversations? David shared three of his secrets to networking with us. 

  • Have One-On-One Meetings 

One of the best ways to really connect with someone is to set up a one-on-one meeting with them and take the time to get to know them. Once we are introduced to someone, we can get their contact information and set up a date to simply talk. 

“Make sure that you are truly networking without a kind of ulterior motive,” David said. “What I would suggest [is to] be specific like, ‘I’d like to find out what you’re working on in this company.’”

We can set up one-on-one meetings to learn more about what projects someone is working on or ask them about their entrepreneurial journey and if they’d have any advice for us. 

The key during the one-on-ones is to be specific about what we want to learn from them. That way it won’t feel like we are meeting simply to pitch them an idea. Remember, the first meeting shouldn’t be a pitch. We want to focus on building a long-term relationship, not a one-time transaction. 

  • Be Clear and Concise 

In meetings or other conversations we have as we network, we should remember to be clear and concise. We don’t want to ramble on. 

One of the most important things we can do is learn how to describe what we do in a way that is concise and easy to understand. That way, we can help clients and customers understand how we can add value to their lives as quickly as possible. We should also spend time listening to what the other person does. Once we understand each other and what we do, it will be easier to find ways to monetize our connection in the long run. 

  •  Follow Up

The key to networking is taking the long-term approach to building relationships. People think networking is transactional, but what it is really about is following up and spending time with that person. It is not a one-time thing. We don’t want to just go to an event and hand out our business cards and have that be the end. We don’t want to set up a one-on-one meeting and then never talk to that person again. It is about having a continual conversation whether that be twice a year or once a month. 

“There’s some follow-up required in good networking. It’s not just a one-time thing; it’s a relationship,” David said. David creates a task in his calendar to help him remember to follow up with people he connects with. Sometimes this means planning ahead six months and making a note to give someone a call.

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With our follow-ups, we don’t need to try to be best friends with everyone we network with since it is unrealistic and time-consuming. We only need to stay in contact to maintain those basic relationships. In his book, David calls this “weak is the new strong.” He explained that our best opportunities will often come through people we barely know, instead of family members or close friends.

In fact, studies have actually shown that our best opportunities can come from people we don’t know really well. Follow-ups don’t have to be super frequent. It is okay to have those “weak” connections and simply strive to maintain them at the most basic level. 

LinkedIn

These three tips above can also apply to networking on LinkedIn or other online platforms. We can leverage LinkedIn to set up one-on-one meetings with those we connect with. We can also be clear about who we are and what we do on our profiles. We can ask ourselves questions such as, is our profile clear? What would a potential customer want to hear from me? How can we explain what we do in a clear and concise way? Doing this will help us form connections with those that have more potential for sales or opportunities in the future. 

Then we can engage with our connections. Sometimes a follow-up can be as simple as commenting on someone’s post or liking it. It becomes a way of cultivating our social capital. The more we comment on their posts and build that relationship, the greater chance they will turn to us when they have a problem. 

While it is easy to comment on the content other people post, we should also focus on creating our own content whether that be podcasts, blogs, videos, shared articles, etc. Creating our own content really increases our credibility and people will be more likely to trust us. 

In the end, while networking and forming relationships take time, it will often have a greater return on investment compared to a quick one-time transaction. “You’re making deposits, and sometimes those will have a benefit in a month, and sometimes it’s years down the line,” David said. 

Key Takeaways

Thank you so much David for sharing your stories and insights with us today. Here are some of my key takeaways from this episode:

  1. Instead of focusing on the quick sell, we want to focus on the long-term approach of building relationships and credibility. While it may take time, having that trust with our customers can really help us find more success in the long run. 
  2. To begin networking we can have one-on-ones, be clear and concise in our communication, and remember to follow up. 
  3. We can leverage digital platforms to help us network and form and maintain our relationships. 

Connect with David

To learn more about or connect with David:

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    About the author

    Nathan Gwilliam

    Nathan Gwilliam

    I help organizations navigate tectonic shifts that are transforming the business landscape, so they can optimize marketing, accelerate profits, and make a greater difference for good.

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