Three Things I’ve Learned About Networking

Networking is good questions, listening, and helping others. Carry more than your own card. Connect folks who will benefit from talking.

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.”

Update April-6-2010:  A16z Ben Horowitz: Ron Conway Explained

Ron runs a network. In Ron’s network, the nodes are important business people and Ron governs and routes the calls. In order to place a call on the network, you must meet certain important requirements:

1. You must have a relationship with Ron. Note that I say “relationship” as different than “have met” or “know.” More on this distinction later.

2. You must answer when called. Ron ensures extremely high reliability in his network by requiring all nodes to participate if called upon.

3. You must be in good standing with Ron.Taking an investment from Ron is the simplest way to establish a relationship and qualify to make calls on the most important business network in technology.

7 thoughts on “Three Things I’ve Learned About Networking”

  1. Sean,
    Something to add to my rule of thumb about how you spend your days as a consultant. First, let me clear up one common misunderstanding: I am talking about average days per week, not that you do not spend some weeks not working at all and some weeks working five or even seven days working. In this business, you cannot always control the way work arrives (but you often can control it more than you think).

    Second, people often complain that they cannot make a living doing paid work only two days a week (average). To them, I answer that it means they are not charging enough for a day of work. Which does not mean that they should immediately raise their rates, but that they have a goal to strive for–which is why they need to spend so much time developing both their skills and their marketing.

  2. Sean

    Many thanks for the kind words about my book, Rain Making. There is a second edition out that has about 40% new content that I would recommend over the one in your link. It is also available on Amazon as Rain Making-2nd Edition.

    Good Post

    Ford Harding

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