A strategy in expanding and maintaining your network
Building a network is an essential component of becoming successful in life. As the saying goes, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. This posts provides some suggestions to create a powerful network while maintaining a secure base of contacts for your future.
Before I get into the strategy, I'll quickly recap some insights about the way people build relationships with others.
Insight 1: Tribes
Humans have an instinctual tribal instinct. We naturally resonate more with people who are similar to ourselves.
Insight 2: Trust
We’re more likely to provide opportunities to people we trust and believe will deliver the goods.
Insight 3: Perception
We make assumptions about people based on our perceptions, cultural and visible. From clothing and speech, to actions and friendship groups.
Now that we know the way people come to conclusions about us, lets look at the various types of contacts. It’s important to know the different kinds of contacts because how close you are to a person will make a significant difference to if they will help you in the future.
Contact Type 6: Friends of Friends
These are people that you don’t know directly, but that a friend has a friendship with. They would make an introduction if you asked them to.
Contact Type 5: Contacts
Contacts are people that you may not know well, but that you could reach if necessary. They know you but you don’t see each other very often.
Contact Type 4: Associates
Associates are people you know quite well but that you don’t see very often. You wouldn’t consider them a friend, but you know them.
Contact Type 3: Friends
Friends are people who you like and who like you back. You may not see each other all the time, but you’re in contact several times a year and when you meet it’s as though you've never left.
Contact Type 2: Close Friends
Close friends are the people you see all the time, and that you consider to be in your inner circle. These are the first people you’d invite to your wedding.
Contact Type 1: Trusted Friends
These are the people that you could tell anything to. People who have your back through thick and thin. These are people who would lend you money and would lie on your behalf. They would always vouch for you and never let you down.
Why is this important?
The idea is that you want to shift as many people as possible, from the outer rings (types 6-4) to somewhere closer into your inner circle of friend (3-1). These are the people who are most likely to surface opportunity for you in life. But even more than getting people into your inner circle, you also need to work out whom are the kinds of people that you want to attract in the first place.
Assuming that you want to attract the highest caliber of people into your network, lets look at the three tier approach to people selection. Tier 1 starts with the characteristics most people would say they look for in a friend.
*Note, people who are currently in your network who don't posses at least a few of these characteristics are worth filtering out. Your friends provide a huge influence on your life so it's important that you filter out negative influences.
Tier 1: Base Level Contacts
8. Fun to be around
These are all great character traits and if you have friends with these traits then that is great. However, for the sake of success in business and life, I look for other traits as well.
Tier 2: High Achievers
2. High Energy
4. Fast Moving
6. Hard Working
7. Street Smart
These traits, combined with the tier 1 traits, form individuals who are almost certain to be on an upward trajectory. As someone with only limited time, you need to get good at identifying which kinds of people possess these traits and to allocate time with those people proportionately. You need to decide what you consider the characteristics of a good person to be, and to make a conscious effort to surround yourself with those kinds of people.
Note* You may not value the same characteristics as me and that is fine, feel free to make your own assessment.
The third tier, is the characteristics of game changers. People who have these characteristics will possess the power to make a huge difference in your life.
Tier 3: Game Changers
7. Value Driven
These are the people who can get someone important on the phone, or provide you with opportunities to get huge media exposure. They can give you an insight that will save you years, or make you a lot of money. These are the people who have to be very choosy with their time and who you’ll have a hard time getting a meeting with.
How do you attract these kinds of people?
You attract these kinds of people by possessing as many of the aforementioned characteristics as possible. It also helps to have interesting ideas and a track record that validates your expertise. To have a compelling reason for why your interests align and preferably a mutual contact that can vouch for you. All these combined will go a long way to assuring the individual that you’re worth meeting.
How do you go about building this kind of credibility in your own life? Unfortunately, there is no quick fix for this step. In order to build a solid network you need to progress through these four steps with every individual you meet.
1. Provide value and stuff that helps = Follower
2. Provide a consistent and congruent message = Supporter
3. Get someone results = Believer
4. Cement real change in someone’s life = Raving Fan
This process can take years, or it can take days depending on the circumstance. But it certainly doesn’t mean handing your business card to someone at an event. That is not how you build a valued connection with people.
The way to bridge a mere acquaintance to a friend, is to spend time with that person in a context outside of business and work. To build genuine connections with people. This doesn’t mean it can’t be in a context that is professional, but it means that it needs to be a voluntary meeting rather than a forced meeting. This is how you’ll build bonds that last forever.
When it comes to cold introductions, you’re most valued assets for meeting people is your track record, your first impression perception, (online or face to face) and finally a mutual friend that has a good connection with the individual you’re hoping to speak to. If you have these three things then you’re well equipped for building a formidable network.
If you don’t posses these things, then you need to work on the fundamentals. You need to slowly increase your perceived value so that you can move up the social hierarchy. You can find out more about this in my posts about perception, and life assets.
How To Manage Contacts
When it comes to managing contacts, I have three tips.
1. Create a mailing list.
This is the best way to touch base with everyone in your network in one fail swoop. There are tools like Tiny Letter that can rake your email account, to form the basis for your initial mailing list. Keep the updates scheduled but infrequent so not to annoy people. I like to mail out once a quarter with any significant updates.
Use your Linkedin as a tool to only have the people that you really want to stay in touch with, and make a point of contacting everyone on there once every few months for an update on their life rather than yours. Don’t use it like Facebook where you accept anyone, be selective so that it becomes a valuable tool.
3. Three Part Follow Up List
Create a three-part list of people that you want to meet with monthly, quarterly and every 6 months. This is a way to maintain close relationships while keeping distant relationships active and hopefully moving them closer to the inner rings of your network. If you do this for a while, you'll no longer need the list, you will do it naturally. The list is helpful at the start to form the habit and from there you can drop it once you're acting upon the habit regularly.
I hope you found this useful. I'f you felt you took something away from it then why not pass it on to someone else who needs the advice? Or maybe you could follow me to see what I publish in the future. Thank you for your time.