Three things I’ve learned about networking:

  1. Good questions sell.
  2. Listening sells.
  3. Networking is helping other people: carry more than your own card and connect folks who will benefit from talking to each other.

Ford Harding’s Rainmaking (now with 2nd Edition, see not below) has been a source of inspiration and insight for me, his focus is professional service firms but a lot of it is also applicable to any complex sale that involves orchestration and ongoing service and support. He has a good blog as well.

Related blog posts

  • Customer Development for a Consulting Practice in a Downturn” from October 2008 where I also suggested that
    “One good book on consulting is Gerald Weinberg’s “Secrets of Consulting” (he also blogs at ). He advises that in a week you spend two days doing work, two days marketing yourself, and one day getting better at what you do. If you are working on a product to complement your consulting you might modify that to three days doing work, 1 day marketing yourself, and one day developing your product. As work slacks off divide your time between additional marketing efforts and working on your product.”
  • Networking and Referrals from August 2008 offers definitions for both
    • Networking is the act of putting yourself in an environment to meet and interact with others.
    • Referrals happen when someone introduces you to a third party who might benefit from what you have to offer.
  • Networking in Silicon Valley” from July of 2007 where I observed:
    “One of the secrets to navigating Silicon Valley, is that it’s actually a very small place with many connections: some that can take a while to discover are nonetheless quite potent. That being said the single most important thing to avoid is wasting people’s time. Time is more scarce than capital, technology, or knowledge.”
  • “Continuing Education in Entrepreneurship” from October 2006 suggests networking offers “knowledge that isn’t written down” (and not to be found in Mr. Google’s basement):
    “I had this epiphany that I had spent the last dozen years or so, since I started attending Software Entrepreneur Forum (now SDForum) and Churchill Club meetings, in this ad hoc program in continuing entrepreneurial education. Books are valuable, and not enough entrepreneurs do enough reading, but there is also a category of knowledge that hasn’t been written down yet. And you can gain wisdom from listening to someone who has played the game–even if it’s just their mistakes–that you would otherwise have to gain from your mistakes experience.”

Malcolm Gladwell offers a perspective on networking in “Six Degrees of Lois Weinberg” about the true nature of excellent networkers.

“…people like Lois aren’t bound by the same categories and partitions that defeat the rest of us. This is what the power of the people who know everyone comes down to in the end. It is not — as much as we would like to believe otherwise — something rich and complex, some potent mixture of ambition and energy and smarts and vision and insecurity. It’s much simpler than that. It’s the same lesson they teach in Sunday school. Lois knows lots of people because she likes lots of people. And all those people Lois knows and likes invariably like her, too, because there is nothing more irresistible to a human being than to be unqualifiedly liked by another.”

Update February 19: Ford Harding E-mailed me a reminder to link to his second addition of Rainmaking, called “Rainmaking Attracting New Clients No Matter What Your Field” which has 40% new material in preference to his older addition of “Rainmaking.”