Sunday, May 31, 2009

How Strong Is Your Network?

How strong is your network?

How much do you rely on your network to benefit you, either personally or in business?

I have a friend who started a business / social networking group that was designed to help his friends and family market their businesses (as well as his own). His motto was "People prefer to buy from people they know and trust." So he built a network of his friends and family and brought them together - weekly.

It worked really well . . . for him. But no one else really gained from the network like he did. It wasn't his fault. Because it wasn't "his job" to network for everyone else - that was their own job. But no one else in the group really understood what he knew in his soul - it's not just about showing up at networking events, it's about what you do in between the events that builds the trust needed to tap into the power of networking.

I don't care if you are going to Chamber of Commerce Business Card Exchanges, attending networking groups like LeTip or BNI, leveraging the power of Social Media (i.e. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc), it doesn't matter who big your network is. What matters is how many of those people actually trust you. And how many of those people are willing to act on your behalf to support your vision / mission.

It's NOT Just A Numbers Game

Truth is Numbers will get you started, but they won't get you nearly as far as developing quality relationships built on real interaction.

You can have a 1000 friends on Facebook or in your CRM database, but if you haven't interacted with them in the past couple weeks or months, your networking isn't even half as strong as someone who has 50 friends that he connects with daily or even weekly.

Think about it. What if you have some money that you want to invest, but don't know what to do. Who are you more likely to listen to?

- The celebrity that comes on the TV and tells you to buy Gold.
- The Salesman that cold calls you last night and tries to sell you a timeshare in South Carolina.
- Your cousin, who is a Wall Street Stock Broker, that you see once every three years who has a hot tip for you.
- Or your personal banker, who calls at least once a week to discuss your position and that you actually have a personal relationship with who tells you to buy a 3 yr CD, because the market is too risky right now.

In the past, you might be tempted to follow any of the first three, because their messages might not be drowned out in a sea of other marketing messages. But in today's world, now more than ever, most people are going to trust their personal banker - not because he knows more, or is more ocnservative - but because there is a relationship there that goes beyond the money.

Networking Is All About Building Trust

What most people fail to recognize is that networking is about trust more than anything else. And trust requires that people "feel" that you care about them - not just their pocketbook. They need to feel that you understand who they are and what makes them tick (at least at a cursory level).

You don't build trust by telling people who YOU are.
Instead, you build trust by understanding who THEY are.

And you build trust by being consistent and trustworthy.

Trust takes Time

There is no magic trick that you can use to magically get others to trust you.

Because building a trust is a natural law that requires investment of time and energy. It requires you being who you say you are, again and again - day in and day out.

Sure you can act trustworthy for a short time period, gain a basic level of trust, but if you don't carry that forward in the future, the effects of it will wear off - and so will your influence.

It's Not Who You Know, It's How Well, Who You Know Trusts You.

Take some time this week and look at your network. But instead of just counting the numbers of people that you know, count the number of people that actually know you and trust you. Count how many people you have influence over - not how many you can email.

This is the true power of networking - when you understand this, you can begin to change the way you network, and leverage the real power behind networking.


  1. Great article and I agree totally....:).

    Jo-Anne Vandermeulen

  2. JJ,
    Yesterday, I bumped into this Mark Hansen quote and it seems to apply here:
    "Life's dance is a pleasure when you're in your right livelihood, and with your personally-created dream team." I see networking as creating a DREAM team :) Thanks for the great post!