Does Networking Work? Or Why Chris Brogan is Writing a Book Entitled “Marc Was Right!”

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I like Chris Brogan. He’s one of a few people I know of online that has genuinely figured out how to succeed at the service of others. As opposed to the expense of others like most.

Chris is a good egg.

Which is why it pains me to have to publicly shame him in front of the hundreds of millions of people that read my blog each and every day*.

*Actual number of readers may not be accurate.

This whole thing started a few days ago while reading his new book “The Freaks Shall Inherit the Earth.”

Before I continue, let me say that it’s a really, really, really good book. Really. You should totally read it. Just not right now. Wait until you finish this first.

Now, I’m on page so-and-so (I’m reading it on the Kindle app and have no idea if my page numbers are going to line up with yours) and this is what Chris says about networking:

“Does networking work?” What do you get for an answer? If you hear “yes,” run away from the person who tells you that. If you said yes, you’ll have to tell me how it has worked for you.

My answer? A resounding and enthusiastic “YES!”

WAIT!!! Where are you going?!? I don’t think you were supposed to actually get up and run away. Come back over here and sit down. Especially you, Brogan.

Yes, networking works. That’s right. I said it.

And not only am I going to tell you how it has worked for me, but I am going to be so convincing that the only outcome I am willing to accept is Chris Brogan entitling his next book “Marc Was Right!” (it’s a thriller).

The truth is that about 30-40% of my new business comes from networking. And it’s not by accident or necessity either. Networking works. Assuming that you know what you’re doing. If you are networking and not getting any business from it, you are doing it wrong. Period. In other words, don’t blame the car for not getting you to your destination when you don’t know how to drive.

So, let’s start by figuring out how to drive, shall we?

Change Your Mindset

The first problem with networking is that it’s networking. And we all have this awful vision in our minds of what networking is. It’s that annoying guy running around the room handing out cards. It’s that awkward moment of standing in the corner waiting for someone to talk to you. It’s going home after three hours with a stack of business cards from more life insurance sales people than you need to know in 10 lifetimes.

It’s a culmination of bad experiences, unprofessional people and crappy attitudes.

No wonder, you don’t like it. So, if you are going to succeed at it, the first thing you will need to do is change how you think about it.

Here’s what I do. I never, ever, ever, ever say that I am going networking. I know that if I call it networking it’s going to drum up all of those bad experiences from the past. And that will be out on display to anyone that looks at my face or body language. And who wants to talk to that guy?

Instead, I say that I am going to “meet some people” or “make some new friends.” I know. It sounds rediculous. But it’s that small shift in your mindset that will change the way you see it and ultimately how successful you are at it.

Whether you realize it or not, walking out the door saying “time to go make some new friends” will have you approaching it from a much different angle. Trying to sell everyone in the room is not how you treat your friends. Shoving cards down someone’s throat is not how you say “hi” to your friends. Sitting in the corner waiting for someone to talk to you is not how you react around your friends.

And every person in that room is your friend…they just don’t know it yet.

Stop Trying to Sell People Stuff

It goes against conventional wisdom. You go to a networking event as a way to grow your business. To sell people stuff. Otherwise, what’s the point, right?

Wrong.

You are there to build relationships. That’s it. That’s your mission. You are not there to sell anything, and you shouldn’t even try.

I recently moved to Tampa and didn’t know a single person when I stepped out of the moving van. I found a local networking group with a few hundred active members and showed up. When it was time to tell everyone who I was and what brought me there, I made my intentions crystal clear.

I told everyone that I was looking for a new BFF.

Not once did I mention my company or what I did for a living. I didn’t try to sell anything or pitch anyone. In fact, I told them that I was specifically not looking for any business.

By the end of the night, I had more people coming up to me than anyone else in the room. Some wanted to introduce themselves. Some wanted to hear my story. Some wanted to know what I did for a living. And some wanted to apply for the job as my new BFF.

Within one year, that group and all of my friends running and participating in that group are solely responsible for introducing me to more opportunities than any other room I have ever been in. Yet, I never had to “sell” them anything.  And yes, I found my new BFF.

Become a Connector

What is your first thought when you meet someone new at a networking function? If you’re anything like most people you are sizing them up to see if they are an ideal client. In other words, if I shake them upside down by their ankles, will money fall out of their pockets?

But most people can sniff that out from miles away and will avoid you like the plague.

Whenever I meet someone new, the first question I ask myself is “who do I already know that would be a good match for this person?” Because when you look at another person through those eyes, a few different things happen.

First, it forces you to actually listen to them when they are talking about who they are instead of you just standing there with that glazed over look in your eyes waiting for your chance to speak. You’re actually engaged in the conversation. You’re interested. You have to be, otherwise how are you going to find a good match for them?

Second, you are not just helping them out. You are also helping out the other person that you are introducing them to. You are now connecting two friends and thus you have two people out there grateful for having bumped into you.

Repeat at this over and over again and before long you will have dozens and dozens of people that “owe you one” and that’s not a bad thing!

Stand out

As far as I’m concerned, this is the secret sauce to networking. You can’t just stand in the corner waiting for someone to say hi. But you also can’t run around and meet everyone in the room all at once without being kind of a jerk.

You need to do something that makes you stand out so you leave there and everybody in that room knows who you are.

And the best way to do that is to get comfortable being uncomfortable.

I admit, that I may have taken this to a whole new level of crazy, but not once have I ever walked away from one of these things regretting my decision to stand out. Here are just a few of the things I have done in order to get noticed in a room full of a few hundred or a few thousand people:

  • Showed up in a full blown super hero costume with my company logo as the chest plate.
  • Went to a ladies night out networking event as the only guy.
  • Stood up and sang in front of about 300 people (with my wife there who’s never heard me sing before because I suck).
  • Dressed up like a shark to an event featuring Mark Cuban.
  • Attended a black tie affair in a 1970’s rust colored tuxedo with ruffles.
  • Had a dozen pizzas delivered to the CEO of Papa Johns while he was on stage and I was sitting in the front row dressed like a slice of pepperoni and mushroom.
  • Showed up to a Christmas party dressed as Hanukkah Harry (representing the tribe).
  • Answered my shoe in the middle of an event when the facilitator was getting mad that someone’s phone kept ringing. The joke not only embarrassed the offender, but it lightened the mood of the room and lowered the facilitators blood pressure.

Don’t believe me? Here’s some proof. I know it’s uncomfortable. Scary. Borderline insane. I should probably see a therapist. Perhaps my mom didn’t hug me enough as a kid. All I know is that I very rarely leave a room without everybody in that room knowing that I was there.

You don’t have to be that rediculous. Sometimes it’s just a matter of being a little fun on the bus. Rather than being the boring attorney just because all attorneys are boring, approach the runway from another angle. You’d be surprised.

Be Valuable

There are a lot of people in that room fighting over the same piece of cheese. You can choose to be one of them and play the game and perhaps walk away with a little nibble or you can bring your own cheese and go out of your way to feed everyone else.

I would suggest the latter of the two.

If you become the most valuable person in the room by helping others, you are going to end up with more opportunities than anylons else in that room over time.

The way to be the MVP of the room is to be a giver and not a taker. Try and figure out how you can best help others. Maybe you can offer advice. Or give out referrals. Maybe you can show them around. Or invite them to other events. Maybe you can volunteer for the the organization. Or teach a workshop to the group.

Whatever it is, be a giver. Just don’t hold back and give with the expectation that you will receive. Give with no expectations in return. Be genuine.

Finally, Accept The Spoils

We are human beings. And for the most part human beings are decent.

When you walk into a room with a positive mindset and the sole purpose of making new friends people are going to want to get to know you and be your friend.

When you stop trying to sell people, they are going to stop avoiding you or being threatened by you. Instead, they are going to want to hang around with you.

When you connect other people in an effort to help them build solid relationships, they will always look for a way to connect you with their network.

When you stand out in a room, people want to know you because they want to stand out too. They just don’t have the balls to do it themselves.

And when you give to another human being, they almost always want to find a way to give back to you somehow. Not because they have to. Because they want to.

This is where the benefits of networking come in.

Sometimes they give back to you by giving you their business. Other times they have a referral. Sometimes it’s the introduction to someone new. Or maybe they invite you to another networking event where you get to meet a whole new community of people you otherwise never would have met.

And then sometimes they just become your friend.

But whatever the reward is for your efforts, it’s always worth it. Not because you “sold somebody” at a networking event. But because you changed your outcome to something more long term that is attainable and predictable. And you hit your goal.

And For All of You Bean Counters…

I know. Life can’t just be all sunshine, rainbows and lollipops. You have to make money. And if you are running around making friends and not making money, you will no longer have a roof over your head. Although you will have plenty of couches to crash on.

So, where does the money come from? I have no idea. It just comes. If I were to connect the dots, I could trace some of our biggest clients back to an event I went to or a person I met. Most of the business I have gotten from networking didn’t come from the actual person I met. It came from someone they introduced me to. Or another event they took me to.

I may not have signed up a new client that day, but if it wasn’t for that event I would have missed out on a new client (and the appetizers).

So, does networking work? Yes! Now you can go run away.

And as far as Chris Brogan goes, get out there and pick up his new book “The Freaks Shall Inherit the Earth.” Just skip the page about networking unless you pick up the updated version where he corrects that paragraph. And of course, look out for his new book coming out next year entitled “Marc Was Right!”

I hear it’s really good!

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  • http://printfirm.com/ Katherine Tattersfield

    Yep, nobody wants to read tweets that say BUY ME BUY ME, so why would they want to deal with pushy sales pitches in person? IMO, that’s even worse than online noise. Most excellent post, Marc!

    • http://www.marcensign.com/blog Marc Ensign

      Well thank you very much Katherine! Even though I’ve never bumped into you at a networking event, I know you already live this stuff! Except maybe the shark costume.

  • http://www.drmichellemazur.com/ Michelle_Mazur

    Where are the pictures? Seriously, I want to see you as pizza. :)

    I’ve been doing a ton of networking lately and the #1 thing that kills a conversation faster than a Mark Cuban eye roll during Shark Tank is the salesy elevator pitch.

    Networking is about connection and conversation. It’s so much more FUN and beneficial when we approach it that way.

    • http://www.marcensign.com/blog Marc Ensign

      Check out the gallery…if you’re nice, I’ll show you more ;)

      http://www.marcensign.com/gallery/

      • http://www.drmichellemazur.com/ Michelle_Mazur

        The one of you and Mark Cuban is full of win.

        • http://www.marcensign.com/blog Marc Ensign

          You have no idea how uncomfortable that thing was!

    • Tom Martin

      Excellent point, Michelle. In my PR work, most (all?) of my clients feel the urge to tell the world how great they are, what awards they’ve won, etc. It’s far more powerful, however, to give value without expecting anything in return — just as our friend Marc does in this great blog post. When I was producing stories for Good Morning America, my executive producer said that we mud never forget that every viewer is watching the show with one thought in mind — “What’s in it for me?” If you really do give value and help others, it makes a much more powerful impression — and I do believe that it (often) brings great returns.

  • http://thedsmgroup.com/ Jason Diller

    Nice post @MarcEnsign:disqus! and yeah, @chrisbrogan is a good egg. Just a good dude with good advice…

    And yeah, networking works. I spend a lot of time at traditional “advertising and marketing” events, blowing people’s minds with value when I talk about inbound marketing and what our agency does.

    Hell, I met you via networking. #njadclub

    • http://www.marcensign.com/blog Marc Ensign

      Nice! And it’s so much better when you can let your guard down and actually be real and not have to be ashamed of yourself when you leave, right?

  • Tom Martin

    Great blog post, Marc! And in the spirit of being a giver rather than a taker, you’ve given your readers some great insights into what I believe is THE most important factor in growing a business. I’d go so far as to say that 100% (!) of my business over the past ten years has come from networking! And not to deflate your catchy headline, but I actually think that you and the brilliant Chris Brogan are saying the same thing. Chris defines “networking” as the act of pressing business cards onto hoards of people while being obsessed with the thought, “What can I get out of this?” In contrast, you define “networking” as acting out of a spirit of generosity — giving to others, helping them, and supporting them without concern for “the payback.” This is how I define networking too, and I absolutely love it. Just last night, for example, I had the pleasure of bringing five friends together, and it was a great pleasure — one fellow I’ve known for nearly 40 years, one financial journalist and brilliant blogger (like you), one new friend who leads a chapter of “StartupGrind” in my area, and two friends with connections to the school my son attends who had never really met. The synergy was great, and even if the “only” benefit derived from all the time and effort involved in bringing this group together turns out to be the pleasure of great conversation, that’s fine. I have a feeling, however, that it will lead to business somehow, somewhere down the line — from someone one of these guys knows, from one of the many ideas we discussed, etc. I actually also enjoy the “surprise factor” – I wonder what this will lead to? — to be part of the fun. Great blog post, Marc! P.S. The ideas you share in this post are terrific, but you may want to run spell-check.

    • http://www.marcensign.com/blog Marc Ensign

      I love it! You’ll have to check back in and let us know if any business did come out of that meeting. I know something good will. Always does!

      • Tom Martin

        Thanks, Marc. I’ll be sure to let you know how this all unfolds. With respect to the people I brought together the other night, I’ve already seen evidence of another benefit of “networking,” done the right way. My clients appreciate the many useful people I can introduce them to (recently, several friends wrote nice advance testimonials for one client’s book), and the friends from whom I’ve asked favors appreciate the fact that I enjoy introducing them to interesting and helpful people, and to new friends and great conversations. As you said in your great blog post, it can be very satisfying bringing people together where there’s potential “synergy.” Many times, it does lead to new business, although I never bridge these connections with that goal in mind.

  • VeronicaSicoe

    You know who you remind me of, Marc? Hawkeye Pierce from MASH. I loved him for being shamelessly friendly and straightforward too. ;)

    • http://www.marcensign.com/blog Marc Ensign

      Thank you for not choosing Klinger.

      • VeronicaSicoe

        Ah, but Klinger is the pride of Toledo, and the cherry on top of that Mash unit. He’s a real fine gal. ;)

  • http://www.cafecasey.com/ Dawn Casey-Rowe

    Great post, Marc. I’m wondering if you can send me the link to Chris’ “Marc is Right” book. I couldn’t find it when I searched. I’ll give it a look and review:)

    • http://www.marcensign.com/blog Marc Ensign

      I don’t see it being released until sometime next year. He’s a busy guy you know.

      • http://www.cafecasey.com/ Dawn Casey-Rowe

        Yea, but we always make time for the truly important things in life:)

  • Jorge Maldonado

    Not for Nothing but, This ois by far your best post EVER! Thanks Mark!

    • http://www.marcensign.com/blog Marc Ensign

      Wow! Thanks Jorge! I appreciate that! Unless of course what you’re saying is that all of my other posts suck in which case, not cool Jorge. Not cool.

      • Jorge Maldonado

        Not at all Marc. Just happened to really like this one!

  • CFA Weiss, CLVS

    Enjoyable post Marc. I never had a negative thought process about networking though. I approach it in a similar fashion to you. However, I have been to a few networking events where the people were too shy to begin with to have a networking event. Made for a rather dry and awkward time. lol I still stood out though and made a few people smile. lol Next event that you plan to dress in costume for, Please, send me an invite. Sounds like a fun time.

    • http://www.marcensign.com/blog Marc Ensign

      I’ll invite you, but you have to get dressed up too! Deal?

  • http://wutupdogg.com/ Lisa Demmi

    Marc is right! Totally agree Marc…I never EVER think of networking as well, networking. I think of it as making new friends and feel that I’m the best example of what kind of business I might conduct. I have stopped short of the shark outfit but there was this time I dressed up as one of the Elwood Bros a la Dan Akroyd…but that’s another story for another time.

    • http://www.marcensign.com/blog Marc Ensign

      Ahhhh the sweet sound of Lisa Demi saying those three words I love to hear. Marc is right! Please say it again!!

      • http://wutupdogg.com/ Lisa Demmi

        Don’t push it, Ensign…

  • bekiweki

    Loved this. I find networking to definitely work when you’re not selling yourself as if you were down on the corner hoping for a Pretty Woman-type experience, business-wise (of course, cough cough). The tip about thinking of people you can introduce to the person talking to you is a great one — I also think of questions I want to ask them, stories I want to commiserate with them, projects they’d be interested in (that I am NOT selling.) When you look at things like a big puzzle just waiting to be assembled, things just happen naturally and it’s great.

    Also, this gem applies here: “Learn what people love, and then love what they love. Then they’ll love you.” Of course, one needs to do this genuinely. It would be awfully silly if I started acting like an NBA nerd because everyone around me knows I find basketball incredibly boring (sorry, NBA nerds.)

    • http://www.marcensign.com/blog Marc Ensign

      I agree on the basketball thing. But you don’t have to be that into it to connect with someone. Just ask a lot of questions and genuinely interested in listening to them. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told someone that I can’t stand something they like and asked them what it was that they loved about it and just listened. Being genuine trumps pretending to love something any day!

  • Jorge Maldonado

    @MarcEnsign:disqus, no not at all. I just loved this one the most. LOL!

  • http://www.iwearspandex.com/home Brian Stephens

    Marc was right! I nodded my head along with my reading…yup, that sounds right…yup, that one, too.

    One question for you…where did you find that first local networking group when you moved? Just a Google search?

    You’ve inspired me to kick start myself and network some more. I do some infrequent networking with my local alumni group, but it’s a small group and I want to expand from there. But either way, you’ve given me a new approach to use…thanks.

  • http://www.theclippingpathindia.com/ Clipping Path

    Marc U R Ri8 :)You made some good points there.
    Thanks :) Clipping Path Clipping Path Service

  • Valerie

    Great article. What I realize is that what I thought was common sense indeed is not.

    Of course networking works – just like you laid out here.