Popular Posts

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Goldilocks and the Nested Spheres Part 3 – What to Share and Who to Share it With

The Nested Spheres Model
In her TV show Project Runway, Heidi Klum's catch-phrase is "You're either In, or you're Out". For the first few years of my consulting career, networking appeared to me to be just that - a zero-sum game. I thought it was all or nothing - your either got a referral or you didn't. I had a lot to learn.

A few years later I found myself in the orbit of some very successful and influential business people. Many of these women and men were Polished Pros. Many were quite effective in using their networking resources to generate referrals. After spending quite a bit of time in these rooms I realized that my zero-sum assumption was dead-wrong. Generating referrals was more complicated, more subtle than I'd thought! I was starting to understand the playbook that Polished Pros follow, and I started putting their moves into play for myself.

Sharing Appropriately
We're all capable of adding value. We all have something to share. But the difference between how an Entrepre-nerd shares and how Polished Pros share is that the E-nerd is shotgunning it. The Pro adds value that is appropriate to where they're operating in a given moment. They consider each networking situation to be unique, and they share appropriately.

If you've read Part 1 and Part 2 of this blog then you're starting to see how a properly segmented network saves Polished Pros time, money, and energy. Today we'll re-visit that segmenting chart to fill-in the fifth column, "Share".

Take Care and Avoid
I'm the generous-type, so I always have one ear open for how to support my Pals, my Allies, and my Intimates. But back when I was an Entrepre-nerd, one mistake I made pretty regularly was that I was often innappropriately generous.

One example: A client was looking to fill a vacant seat on their board of directors. I'd had lunch the previous week with a transactional attorney who told me that he was looking for the opportunity to sit on the board of a tech company. Easy match, right? I made the referral. The problem was that this fellow turned out to be a real shark, someone that, today, I would definitely not allow into my sphere of intimates. And while he solved the client's most pressing problem (an issue with cross-state sales over the internet), he also created a few new ones. He was opinionated and abrasive. He was eventually dismissed and I went on working with the client, knowing that my referral had been a bit of a wash for them. Ouch.

My key takeaway from that misadventure? Keep sharing, but do so appropriately.

Concepts into Action
Keep sharing, but do so share appropriately (where have you heard that one before?)

Look at the the SHARE column on the chart below. Those are my own tactics for keeping my network shares in the 'appropriate' range.
  • I Chat with people in my Don't Know Well sphere, and spend time getting to know them. 
  • I share Information with my "Pals". 
  • I share Knowledge, Referrals, Experience, and Wisdom with my Allies. 
  • And I share Opportunity (like an introduction to the CEO of a fast-growing tech company looking to fill a board seat) with my "Intimates" (and occasionally, carefully-considered Allies).

See you there!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Diary of a Polished Pro - Mastering the Networking Rollercoaster

As with any type of mastery, the journey to becoming a master networker is filled with emotional challenges. These pot-holes, speed bumps, and whiteouts all cause Entrepre-nerds to spin-out, lose control, and find themselves saying or doing the wrong thing at the wrong moment - even as they 'give away' their ability to recover and get back on track in the moment.

Ouch. At those times it can seem to the Entrepre-nerd that Polished Pros have some sort of a mysterious ability, a power-of-the-mind to remain engaged and detached at the same time. Rest assured, they do - though the means by which they achieve this this isn't very mysterious at all.

Some people are born with this ability, or are raised in a home where sales and networking are a part of the daily conversation. The rest of us have to figure it out and work at it. Today's post is for those of you who are doing it the hard way. I'll outline three tactics that you can develop to help you stay in-the-moment when emotions start to get the best of you.
Imagine - tonight you'll be attending your first invite-only networking event.

The room will surely be filled with high-powered and well-placed business-people. Its going to be a great opportunity to build your network!

Tactic 1: Prepare
You leave for the event feeling completely prepared: your Gambit is ready to go, your One-liner is hooky, and your Elevator Speech is clear, concise, and memorable. You know your Ask. You're so on your game that the Magic Question is even front of mind. (here's a lexicon of the terms I use when teaching my workshops)

You're feeling confident because you're well-prepared. Preparation is key, and nice work there - but that feeling of confidence? It could wind-up being a problem later in the evening. The fact that you're happy with your preparation is certainly a net-positive, but that confidence can come off as cockiness, which is nearly always a turn-off. Retain that positive energy but lose the story in your head. This will help you to keep your balance as you navigate the strong personalities and networking challenges you'll face at the event.

In A League of Their Own Tom Hanks plays a baseball coach who is upset that he's been "reduced" to coaching an all-women's team. His frustration turns to anger when one of the players starts to cry in the locker room, and in response he yells at the whole team in astonishment, "There's no crying in baseball!"

Strong positive and negative emotions have no place in networking. 

Strong emotions are no help - they can only confuse or distract you. Do your best to remain neutral when you feel like things are going well (or going poorly) and you'll be much better positioned when it matters most.

Back to the event: Let's say your first few interactions are strongly positive - you're relaxing and people are asking for your card. Then someone you've been trying to meet for two years appears unexpectedly. He's just a few feet away, talking to a few others. Should you approach? You feel a clammy nervousness and uncertainty displacing the heady confidence you were experiencing just a moment ago.

You don't want to wait for another chance to meet this powerhouse, so you suck it up, gather your courage, and walk over to his group. Everyone is leaning in, listening intently. As you reach the fringe of the group they erupt in laughter -  you've walked into a perfect opening! As they quiet down, you pick your moment, put out your hand, and introduce yourself.

Tactic 2: Right-size
Then you realize - you skipped right over your Gambit. "Oh well, points just for stepping up!", you think to yourself, but during your internal dialogue you miss the question that the powerhouse just asked you. Crap. You try to think fast and recover, but the startled look on your face means your Entrepre-nerd flag is flying. You ask him to repeat himself, and now its clear to the group - you're not a Polished Pro. You exchange a few pleasantries you ask for his card. He offers it and doesn't ask for yours in return. You feel like you've blown it and walk away, dejected. "God", you think, "they must think I'm an idiot."

We've all been there.

Part of whats going on here is that the Entrepre-nerd was busy 'ranking' when they should have been Right-sizing. They were putting some people on a pedestal, disregarding others, spending valuable time and energy figuring out where they stood in the pecking order. Keep reminding yourself: at networking events, everyone is equal, and everyone has something to valuable offer - including you.

Tactic 3: Be Present
Our Entrepre-nerd above quickly lost track of the present moment. There are lots of ways we do this. We might remembering what didn't get done today, or recall how unhappy you are with a co-worker. Sometimes its a family or relationship issue. The net result is that we're distracted from the here and now.

Your issues are all valid, and my point isn't to blow them off, but rather that a networking event is not the place to solve any problems. It's the place for building and maintaining your professional network, period.

To "be present", identify the issues that are distracting you, smile, then let go of them for the next 2 hours. Focus on showing up and networking like a Polished Pro.

Concepts to Action
Prepare. There is simply no substitute. Here's a handy checklist

Right-size. Remember that what you have to offer is of value. This value is no greater and no lesser than anyone else you may meet - even that business powerhouse you've been tracking for the last two years.

Be Present. Acknowledge any strong feelings you're experiencing and let them go before you walk into the room.

See you there!

Networking Terminiology: a lexicon

Key terms used in Professional Networking
(for use with Send the Right Signals coaching, classes and workshops)
Allies: A group of 40 or so people who have proven themselves to be Reciprocators, and with whom you regularly share referrals.

The Ask: A simple request made clearly and directly, usually towards the end of a face-to-face meeting. Your request might be for new business, an introduction, or fulfilling a vendor need for your business. All your preparation and hard work should lead to The Ask. An Entrepre-nerd often neglects to take this crucial step.

Back of the card: A technique I learned from Carl Terzian, that helps me to learn a little bit more about someone I Don't Know Well. The back of the card includes personal-but-not-overly-intimate things, like their family and what they do for fun.

Bookends: Bookending is a storytelling technique that provides your listeners with a cue, or subtle signal, that your story will have a context and meaning - and so, will respect their time and interest. The simplest way to bookend your story (i.e., your elevator speech) is by opening and closing with a challenge/outcome pairing that features the same character (or client), but this technique has many variants.

Case Study: Your response to the question, "Tell me about a recent project or client experience." Consists of: Client Contour, Their Problem, Your Solution, Their Outcome, Their Testimonial. Be sure to explain their outcome in a compelling way - this is a great chance for you to shine a light our your strengths. Can also be written and shared in print.

Client Contour: It goes without saying that the people you'll be selling to will be of nearly infinite variety. Contours are a way to manage that complexity. As a salesperson, one of your jobs is to identify the 5-10 qualities that make a prospect ideal, and then, to assess to what degree that prospect does or does not meet that ideal. Your assessments will, over time, form a kind of shape or contour. Keep in mind that contouring is one of many types of Discernments. Be careful not to use these contours as the exclusive basis upon which you determine whether or not to pursue a working relationship with someone, or you'll risk coming off "shark-y".

Closed Hand: (see Open Hand)

Discernment:The questions you use to assess the depth of capacity someone might have to support your interests or needs. Just like a PGA pro golfer wouldn't look for a foursome at their community golf course, Polished Pros practice discernment as they navigate their networks and build working relationships.

Don't Know Well: Anyone with whom you have a professional relationship that you haven't graduated yet to Pal, Ally, or Intimate.

Elevator Speech: Your Five-Second Pitch plus a Case Study plus a Trigger.

Entrepre-nerd: An individual who is committed to professional networking but lacks the sophistication of a Polished Pro. Their naivete might come off as charming or annoying but it rarely leads to referrals or to new business.

Gambit: An engaging opening line used at networking events. Can be spontaneous or scripted. 

Giver/Taker: Some Entrepre-nerds excitedly Share inappropriately, offering resources before actually getting to know the other person, and they wind up with a rep for making inappropriate referrals. Others E-nerds are stubborn - they decide (sometimes unconsciously) that they aren't willing to accept offers of help from others. The rest feel uncomfortable either way. So in all cases, business relationships like these 'net out' the same. For expediency, we lump them into this one grouping. Some Polished Pros are supportive when they see a ex-Giver/Taker begin to Reciprocate.

Host: Supervised the heavy lifting that was done before you got to the event. 

Ideal Client Profile: Polished Pros know that being able to verbalize the key 'whos whats and wheres' while describing the clients they most enjoy working with is one of the most important tools in their networking toolbox.

Intimates: A group of ten or so people people with whom you regularly share high-potential professional opportunities, and with whom you probably enjoy activities outside of work as well.

The Magic Question: "Who is your ideal client?"

The Nested Spheres
: The most basic model we use to segment your network - thus saving you time, energy, and money.

Networking: a Polished Pro habitually views networking as a set of techniques that can be mastered so that they can form trust relationships with the right people. The Pro places high value on those relationships, and so, hones their technique to the point where its invisible - and highly effective.

One-liner: Describes what you do, and who you do it for, in less than 10 words.

Open hand: One of the defining characteristics of a Reciprocator. Reciprocators often make good Allies, and are a pre-requisite to becoming an Intimate.

Pals: A group of 100 or so people with whom you have a casual, friendly professional relationship. You feel good about Pals when you run into them, but they haven't revealed their true nature to you yet, ie, you don't know whether they're a Giver/taker or a Reciprocator, so they haven't graduated to become an Ally.

Polished Pro: A professional who leaves you with a positive, memorable impression. They generally use many or all of the techniques presented in the Send the Right Signals workshops.see Entrepre-nerd.

Reciprocator: Anyone who is comfortable with and focused on both giving and receiving referrals, information, experience, and opportunity within their network on a consistent basis. Some people are only comfortable when they're receiving, others are only comfortable when they're giving. Reciprocators are a rare breed. Treat them accordingly.

Share: see the fifth column in this chart

The Shift: The moment during a networking conversation where an Entrepre-nerd starts to feel lost. Chances are that what happened is, the conversation just shifted but they missed the cue.

Trigger: Fills in the blank "Think of me when ________________________"

Trust-based networking: Lays a foundation for multidimensional business relationships to emerge, reduces it's members expectations of Tit-for-Tat, and excludes Giver/Takers.

Value Proposition:A statement or offer of a compelling business solution (be sure that that you're capable of delivering on it), presented to the right person at the appropriate moment. This is essentially an ultimate Ask, but its presented in a manner that focuses on your prospect's needs - not your own.

Values: Your values are the ultimate determinant of how you show up in the world. Polished Pros have invested time and energy in understanding what they hold most dear. Here's an exercise to get you started defining your values

Vision: What do you want out of life? Who do you want to be? What do you want to have?

See you there!