Networking's Golden Rule
“All things being equal, people will do business with, and refer business to, those people they know, like and trust.” This golden rule of networking is attributed to Bob Burg. Even though I’ve heard it many times, as I was working on a recent project, it prompted a forehead slap moment of “Oooooh.” In other words, I suddenly got it.
If you are networking with the goal of influencing, you’ll do well to consider the three words KNOW LIKE and TRUST individually.
So how do you KNOW?
Let's start with KNOW. Usually, you are counting on those few degrees of separation between Kevin Bacon (you) and the people you speak with. It’s a straightforward approach for an introduction: you state who you have in common or who referred you.
You know the way to start: "I got your name from Marty Smith who told me you guys went to college together." Your opening begins to build a bridge between what you KNOW about each other. The next part is where some people shine and others miss an opportunity to get to know the other person. And it comes down to a pause.
Once you state your mutual connection, you need to stop talking and wait for the response. When you wait it out, you’ll learn more. Everything from their words and tone lets you get to KNOW this person better. They might say, “Yes, Marty was in the same fraternity as I was.” And then you take that information and weave it into your next statement. "Was he just as outgoing in college as he is now?" And then you pause again, waiting for more clues. Getting to know one another can't be rushed. While you are calling to talk about something specific, the art of getting to know people is foundational to successful networking. So remember the pause.
You'll also want them to KNOW about what you are doing with your fund. You will have some slide decks or collateral material that you will cover no doubt. But if you're looking for a pro-level tip, what you can do before your next attempt is to take a few minutes to write down what most people want to know about what you are doing.
With this in hand, once the personal introductions are over, you begin by giving your listener a choice: you tell them you can go over every nuance from start to finish OR you can give them the option to start by going over what most people want to know. It’s like offering a shortcut, and it lets you set the stage for your talking points in a way that feels like a choice. You will cover every bit of information eventually. But it makes people more attuned listeners from the start because they made the choice to hear the important stuff up front. They are ready to get to KNOW what you are offering them.
So much to LIKE
When it comes to getting people to LIKE you, you might have flashbacks to when you were trying to sit with the cool kids in high school. While in some ways it’s not unlike that, in networking, getting people to like you can include getting them to LIKE your project, your efforts, your return, or your goals.
One thing people like is simplicity. So you want to have an organized way of presenting yourself which will make you more likable. The problem is, there are probably some things about your offering that are complex or confusing. Experience will reveal it to you: that place where you begin to lose people. So identify those sticking points and try this approach.
Introduce an analogy.
As an example, we tell fund managers that Midland lets people invest in opportunities outside of traditional stocks and bonds using retirement funds. Sometimes we haven’t even finished that sentence and we can almost hear the confusion enter the conversation. Their first (sometimes only) question is, “Great. Can you send investors my way?” Because we are neutral custodians maintaining records and not financial advisors, we cannot refer business. But if the word "no" leaves our mouths, we’ll lose them, right? So instead we can use an analogy: “Let's envision for a minute that you've decided to open a new coffee shop. You have everything lined up including location, pricing, and staffing but you have one last decision to make. Are you going to only accept cash? Probably not. You want to make it easy for everyone to buy your coffee, right? So you’ll find a partner to set you up to accept Apple & Google Pay, credit and debit cards. At Midland, we're that partner that allows you to accept money from people's retirement accounts to buy in with you. We step in with the systems and knowledge of the rules to guide the investors, and we provide you tools to oversee and manage those investors.”
The reason analogies work is they allow barriers and objections to be removed momentarily while a story is told. We put you in the position of owning a coffee shop which is pretty neutral. Your defenses go down just long enough for you to see how it works. If you have a part of your pitch that gets tricky or that you continually run into the same response, see if you can come up with an analogy to get the barriers temporarily removed so people can see the possibilities. And you can return to it if you need to if the complexity comes back into the conversation: “No we don't sell you coffee beans or teach you how to make lattes; but if you want to serve coffee to people who don’t carry cash, we can help you accept alternative payments.”
Finally, the last component is TRUST. One place you can create trust is with your brand.
Do you know you have a brand? Whether intentional or not, your brand begins with your introduction and extends through the life of the investment. Here’s a quick way to evaluate whether people can TRUST you.
Write down five adjectives you want people to think of when they think of your offering. A wonderful tool for this exercise is www.thesaurus.com. Put in a word like “polished” or “trustworthy” and you’ll find nuanced variations that you can click through (for more nuances and rabbit holes) until you have five words that feel right to you.
Then, ask people close to you who have seen and heard your pitch - like family and friends - to do the same. Compare your lists for a start, and see how close they are.
You can also take a look at your slide decks, your email signature, and your fund documents; you can even flip back through a few emails you recently sent. Do all of these match the five adjectives that say who you want to be?
When people’s experience with you and your team matches up over time, trust builds.
While there's money in the first statement by Bob Burg, let's hear the grand finale as well: “All things being equal, people will do business with, and refer business to, those people they know, like, and trust. If you were to keep only that one sentence in mind whenever meeting or transacting with anyone, you’ll be nine steps ahead in the game…in a ten-step game.”
To give credit where credit is due, in addition to networking expert Bob Burg’s advice, this article was set in motion by a podcast called Success Through Failure. Jim Harshaw, Jr. is a fantastic podcaster/interviewer who spoke with authors Fenton and Walz of When They Say No, The Definitive Guide for Handling Rejection in Sales.
Midland Trust is an employee-owned IRA custodian. Midland opens opportunities in the alternative investment market and makes investing easy.
If we can help you raise capital, contact us today.