Successful entrepreneurs like Tony Hsieh of Zappos and Chris McCormick of L.L.Bean have long realized that networking is no longer something that you do to get what you want, but requires listening and relationship building to do what the other party wants, with a win-win outcome. We now live in a world where even subtle persuasion efforts are suspect, so it’s a bad idea to go into a networking situation thinking you’re going to talk somebody into doing your bidding.
If your business and your style is still focused on the old-school, hard-sell, push-marketing approach, it’s time to take a close look at how well it’s serving you these days. The new culture driven by social media is all about forging real connections and building relationships.
How this relates to networking with members of your team, business partners, and customers is clearly illustrated in a classic book Real Influence: Persuade Without Pushing and Gain Without Giving In by business psychiatrist Mark Goulston and executive coach John Ullmen. They start by describing a four-step model for connecting with and influencing people in this new culture:
1. Inspire people in order to achieve the outcome you desire.
Focus on the three “˜R’s of a great outcome: Results, Reputation, and Relationships. Successful entrepreneurs with great networking skills have grand Results in mind; they build a Reputation worthy of long-term commitment; and they invest in Relationships to get buy-in to their desired outcomes.
2. Master listening to learn where other people live.
To network effectively, you need to fight the following common tendencies: listening while ignoring, defensive listening, and problem-solving listening. Effective networkers are curious to discover where other people are coming from so you can empathize with them, and to do this, you need to get to the fourth level of listening: connective listening into other peoples’ worlds. This means you have to make the leap and stop listening from your own perspective, and instead try to understand theirs.
3. Engage and connect with people in their space.
True engagement and connection requires that you get “it” (the other person’s issue reality), you get “them” (at a personal level), and you get their path to progress. They then sense that you are working with them, instead of manipulating around them.
4. Go beyond expectations to make yourself unforgettable.
This means adding value before, during, and after an interaction. Find ways to add value in expanding their thinking, making them feel better, and helping them take effective action. After you have mastered these steps, there is still room to take networking to the next level, and become a “power influencer.”
5. Let adversity lead you to great outcomes.
Don’t get stuck in the “I can’t” world, and don’t forget the positive lessons from every negative experience. Do acknowledge your feelings, because when you do, you can address them effectively. Do have the courage to let new great outcomes find you. And then share your experiences with others who may be going through similar struggles. Give others an advantage by showing what challenges you’ve overcome and how.
6. Network by getting out of the way.
It’s important for relationship building to understand when to move on or to let others shine. Every great outcome becomes a part of you, and it’s hard to let go, like handing over your CEO role, for example. If you are strong enough to get out of the way so others can take over, your great outcome can last forever, or become someone else’s even greater outcome. It also opens your door to more great outcomes.
7. Network positively after you’ve made big mistakes.
To repair the damage from the mistakes we all make, we need to learn how to make them right. Be brave enough and humble enough to make amends to the people hurt. Let others help you dissect the mistake, and they will respect you and learn from your efforts.
8. Let gratitude magnify your influence.
When you perform an act of gratitude, whether you are thanking a person directly or talking about someone else who has helped you, the person who is listening to you feels a strong sense of gratitude as well. That immediately creates a stronger bond between the two of you.
Being an entrepreneur has always been all about influencing others, but the rules of persuasion have changed. What worked in the days of Dale Carnegie doesn’t always work in today’s more sophisticated and less trusting world. Following these new rules of networking will help you achieve great outcomes.
Marty Zwilling’s passion is nurturing the development of entrepreneurs by providing first-hand mentoring, funding assistance, and business plan development. He is the Founder and CEO of Startup Professionals, a company that provides products and services to startup founders and small business owners.
He writes a daily blog for entrepreneurs, and dispenses advice on the subject of startups to a large online audience of 785,000 Twitter followers. He is also a regular contributor to Forbes, Entrepreneur Inc., and the Huffington Post. He has published three books, “Do YOU Have What It Takes To Be An Entrepreneur?” “Attracting an Angel,” and “StartupPro: How to set up and grow a tech business.” He is also an accredited angel investor with Arizona Technology Investors (ATI).