March 28th, 2018 | By: Zach Ferres | Tags: Management, Communication, Networking
We’ve all been to networking events where we’re bored to tears by the same mindless conversations. You swap credentials (and probably a few not-so-humblebrags), but the connection never goes beyond skimming the surface.
Networking is the first step of building a professional community, but you need to develop meaningful relationships to actually make an impact. In their book, “Superconnector: Stop Networking and Start Building Business Relationships That Matter,” Young Entrepreneur Council co-founders Scott Gerber and Ryan Paugh advocate for a move beyond the typical boring, dead-end interactions.
In the chaos and noise of the social media age, the demand for authentic, credible voices — otherwise known as superconnectors — is at an all-time high.
I had a chance to talk with Scott and Ryan recently about what it means to be a superconnector. As a longtime member of YEC, I have always admired how skilled Scott and Ryan are at networking. From their perspectives, technology and social media have made the world incredibly noisy. This chaos has allowed vapid, surface-level relationships to proliferate.
Over time, we’ve managed to dilute everything from marketing to public relations to technology tools. What we’re seeing now is a return to humanity. Instead of relying on status quo social networking tips, the people who stand out from the crowd are those who are able to offer help to others.
Superconnecting is the antidote to these low-value connections. Superconnectors ignore the low-hanging fruit of social media likes and shares in favor of mutually supportive professional communities. They focus on providing insights, feedback, and connections that help others.
There’s no one way to become a superconnector. It’s a personal path that people must create based on their individual personalities, preferences, and goals. Scott and Ryan both maintain thriving networks, but they go about it differently. Scott is an extrovert, and Ryan is an introvert, so they use the tools and workflows that suit their unique circumstances.
In Scott’s own words, they become a “beacon” that can lend a helping hand in an increasingly crowded marketplace.
The key to becoming a superconnector is applying the right systems and being genuine in your interactions. Ditch the hackneyed networking advice and move toward authentic business relationships with these tips:
Just because you can text or email instead of picking up the phone doesn’t mean you should. Some conversations require a direct touch, but you’ll need to put in the effort to determine which approach is best for any given situation. Get to know your contacts, and find ways to accommodate their preferences. You might hate phone calls, but occasionally sacrificing your comfort could yield an amazing partnership.
Scott and Ryan skip the lengthy emails when they want to provide context for a conversation. Instead, they record a quick audio or video message that allows people to see their facial expressions and hear the emotion in their voices. Each video might only last 10 seconds, but it has a greater impact than even the most detailed email.
People appreciate when you remember details about them. They are particularly impressed when you recall their favorite after-work drink or ask about the passion project they have been building in their garage for the past 10 years. Recalling those facts helps you win people’s trust and makes them want to work with you.
Of course, you can’t remember everything about everyone at all times. Keep a running document that you update as you learn about your contacts. You can use a simple note-taking app or a CRM to do this — whichever works best for you. The details you record today could serve as a springboard for an incredible opportunity six months down the road.
Any in-demand influencer is going to have a packed schedule, and they’re not going to waste their time on connections that don’t serve them. If you want to get on their radar, you need to find ways to create value.
Conferences are a great place to do this. Someone else has gone to the trouble of setting up an event and getting influencers in one place. All you have to do is connect them with one another. If a CEO with whom you’re acquainted would benefit from meeting a CTO you know, do whatever it takes to bring them together. You’re doing them a favor, and this seemingly small gesture will help them both begin to see you as a center of influence.
“How can I help you?” is not a great start to a professional relationship. You’re showing interest in the other person’s needs — a good thing, to be certain — but most people are caught off guard by the question. You’re unlikely to get a good answer on the spot, and you’re also creating additional work for them. They need time to consider their challenges, analyze your strengths, and come up with a response.
To cut through the rampant noise in the world, find ways to show people that you’ve already thought about their problems. Provide constructive feedback regarding their website, social presence, or most recent event. Better still, explain how you could help them improve or offer to connect them with someone else who can.
If you’re not sure what they might need, ask about their long-term goals. What’s something they’re currently working on that excites them? People love to talk about those topics, so you’re guaranteed to make an impression while extracting valuable information.
Being a superconnector allows you to add immediate value to almost any conversation. Lifting the community around you will pay dividends down the road — people share and talk about those who help them. You might have to spend a lot of time and energy connecting people at the start, but your burgeoning community will start doing the heavy lifting before long.
Helping others goes a long way toward building a community, but don’t discount your own needs. Some people end up doing so much for others that they neglect their own careers. Becoming a superconnector involves finding the sweet spot where your interests and needs intersect with those of your connections.
Zach Ferres is the CEO of Coplex, a startup accelerator that works with noncoding industry experts to start successful tech companies. He is also a founding partner at Coplex Ventures, the VC arm of Coplex. Follow Zach on Twitter.
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