The old saying goes, “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” In some respects this is only half-true, but the half that is true should not be overlooked. There are many examples of how people were able to find greater success by knowing someone, especially those they helped in some way. For example, when Howard Shultz was rebuilding Starbucks in 2008 he hired a very talented woman he knew to help with the PR campaign, which is noted in his book Onward. He hired her because he knew her, and what he knew about her was that she’d do a phenomenal job.
During the course of doing the work for Starbuck’s, it is very likely that that PR firm grew even more because more networking occurred, and the members of the board (which currently includes the CEO of JC Penney’s and former CEO of PepsiCo) likely referred business to their own companies.
Now, we know that we should network. How do we do it?
The Art & Science of Networking
There are certain nuances invovled in getting to know people, but before getting to the art of this process, let’s break down the science.
The science of networking would tell someone that the most important thing is to be out there. The more people you can reach, the more exposure you give yourself, and the more opportunities you take, the better. After all, no one can offer you something if they don’t know you, and no one can buy what you have to offer if they don’t know that you sell it. This is why the best bloggers are also active on social media, and it’s why Dave Ramsey, host of The Dave Ramsey Show (3rd largest talk radio show in the country), never lets an hour go by without mentioning his Twitter and Facebook (and that you can follow him there), or a book he has published either by referencing it in an answer to a caller or giving it away for free.
As for us here at Kleer-Fax, we ensure that we make it out to the territories of the people who sell our products. This includes tradeshows as well as going out and making calls with sales reps. During the tradeshows we can present our line of products, as well as talk about who we are as a company. During sales calls, we are helping the reps better understand our line while also showing their cusomters why they should consider us over foreign-made goods.
There are many times that we make sales calls on law firms and hedge funds just miles away from our building, and they have no clue who we are, or that we make the very things they use right down the street from them.
So, that’s the science of networking: More contacts = more probability of success.
The art of networking is about knowing people. What do people need? What will make them want to see more of you and what you have to offer. When you learn this, you can find out how to relate to people so that they will like you more. With Kleer-Fax, we can tell people that our products are:
- Less expensive
- Made in the USA
- FSC Certified
We can also mention that in over 43 years our employees have always had health and life insurance, and that our average employee has been with us for over 15 years!
However, if we tell someone all of that, we’ll be bogging them down in details that may be a total waste of their time. What you need to do is find out what matters to them, and then see if you can help in that way. If someone wants the best price, then show them how you match up. If they only want the highest quality, let them compare your brand to someone else’s.
Also, you may need to do something for free, or connect with them in some way that makes them know you are worthy of their precious time and hard-earned money.
People Need to Know What You’ve Done for Them
One of the many things we purchase here at Kleer-Fax is corrugated boxes. We have a great relationship with the vendor and hope to continue doing business with her for many more years. Having said that, we probably could save a penny or two per box if we bought them from someone else, but her prices are within the range of being acceptable, and there is something much more important about this relationship that another vendor would find it hard to match.
During the late ‘90’s up until 2010, Kleer-Fax president Lou Nigro’s oldest son was in a band called As Tall as Lions. Prior to getting a record deal in 2001, the bandmembers were funding their own demos, playing bowling alleys, and working to get some exposure. Also during that time, our vendor was showing support for them by going to shows when they played on Long Island and purchasing their CDs when they were released.
By going the extra mile and appealing to what matters most to Lou Nigro – his family – our vendor for corrugated boxes will forever have our business.
For those who might wonder what they could currently do now that As Tall as Lions is no longer together as a band, you may want to check out Scough, a fashion company in Brooklyn owned by Lou’s daughter, Alexa! Now, we’re not saying that buying a Scough will make us do business with you, but it would certainly garner the attention and appreciation of the one person who can make that final decision!
Giving Time, Money and Valuable Goods
It’s important to always remember that if you’re going to donate your time or money to an organization, it should be something you care about, because sometimes the only benefit you derive from something is what you got out of giving. However, there are many times that what you give away comes back many times over, and this was seen very prominently in the success of a young woman named Paige Robertson.
Ms. Robertson graduated from the University of California in 2006 where she studied global economics. From there she began working in the finance industry in New York City, but found herself in a predicament that left her seeking a new job. Rather than filling out applications on Monster.com and hoping someone saw her résumé, she got involved with an organization called Stop Soldier Suicide, a non-profit dedicated to helping our service members better transition into society so that they experience less challenges in the process.
An organization like this requires money and talent, and it takes people like Ms. Robertson to make sure that our troops get the help they need, especially in a nation that is fortunate enough to only require about 1/200 of its citizens to serve in uniform.
Today, Ms. Robertson is the head of Investor Relations for Sandler O’Neill Asset Management in New York City, a position she attributes to her dedication to helping our servicemen and women, for which she is now on the executive committee for fundraising.
Networking is both an art and a science. By capitalizing on your ability to help others, you can greatly benefit as well. But people need to know that you actually care about them and you must have the ability to be of good service.
What you know is very important. But if no one knows about you, and your talents, you may find yourself missing some incredible opportunities.
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I was having a lot of trouble finding work when I finished college in 2011. I began volunteering with the American Legion Hall near my house. After a week there was a night that the bartender didn’t show up, so regardless of whether I knew anything about it (tilt the glass on a beer tap!), they knew me and gave me the chance. Then one of the members offered me to come to his office, and it ended up being my first job.
It was a big deal, and really made a difference. People are so offended at the idea of working in a business for free, but I spent 1 week at the American Legion before I was making money behind the bar, and then I was working at a better job.
John – thanks so much for your comment!
That’s a great story and it goes to show that you really just have to get yourself out there.
For those who don’t know, the American Legion is a veterans organization that was formed as a result of the WWI veterans being denied bonuses they were promised, and desperately needed, during The Great Depression. They marched on the capital and were physically put down by National Guard troops.
As a result, these veterans banded together so that something like this would never happen again. They are a big reason that when a politician talks about turning the military pension into a 401(k) plan or reducing healthcare for retirees, the proposal never gets very far.