It’s All About Who You Know

 5 Tips to discovering valuable connections

With only 130 connections on LinkedIn (at the time of this writing), I’m within 2 degrees of 9,800 people! (…3 degrees away from 864,000 people!)

In 2006, a former client invited me to join a leadership breakfast group that he’d founded 15 years prior. Within a few months of joining, I met my future co-founders of the YPLG (Young Professionals Leadership Group). By attending these monthly leadership meetings, I continue to meet like-minded professionals and always walk away with fresh ideas on training and business development.

I purposely did not use the word “networking” in the headline. Why not? For many people, that word carries a stigma, conjuring up images of a room full of “Me Monsters;” business-card-dispensing salespeople, all with dollar signs in their eyes, engaging in cheesy, superficial conversations.

While many of us have had awkward or even unpleasant experiences with networking, it doesn’t have to be that way. Whether you already make networking a part of your business development or it’s the last thing you feel comfortable doing (even though you know you should) here are five tips designed for making valuable connections:

1. Showing Up is 80% of Success

While online networking is important, nothing compares with face-to-face meetings. Sure there have been times that I didn’t feel like attending an event, but each and every time I reminded myself that I had nothing to lose and everything to gain and went anyway, I met some excellent people. If nothing else, it’s a nice way to remain top-of-mind within your locale.

2. Pitch That Elevator Pitch

You know the scene: Everyone is talking and no one is really listening. Fact is, people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. You could theoretically deliver your elevator pitch to a hundred people in order to meet just one that would bring you new business, either directly or indirectly. Why play with those odds? Instead, here’s a way to engage in a conversation with a stranger and still make relevant points about your business:

Ask for a story and listen well. Say, “Will you share a story with me, about a client you’ve recently helped?” The other person will always oblige.

  • You’ll understand what they do and maybe even why they do it;
  • You’ll develop a much better sense of what type of person they are;
  • You’ll get them onto new conversational ground, and away from the same old script;
  • You’ll learn how to position your story, making it relevant for them.

3. There are no competitors, only partners

People are always asking me who my competitors are. My answer is always the same – “There are no competitors, only partners.” We live in an abundant world. There is enough for everyone. For example, it doesn’t matter that our Young Professionals Leadership Group includes two or three financial advisors as members. They can learn from each other … and do. Besides, any given member will connect with one of them more than the others, when it comes to doing business together or referring leads.

I’ve traded lots of great ideas with many people in my industry, butI’ve never considered any of them to be my competition. I’ve noticed that, in the end, we tend to attract clients that are just right for us.

4. Join Non-Networking Groups

Not a fan of structured networking groups? Do what I do. Join “non-networking” groups. I attend three separate monthly leadership breakfasts. We’re all there to share strategies for success. When you’re surrounded by dozens of like-minded individuals, networking occurs … naturally. Fact is, any time you’re surrounded by a group of people, it’s an opportunity to make valuable connections. As you attend those holiday parties and friendly gatherings, make an effort to talk with someone you don’t yet know that well. More often than not, you’ll be glad you did. What do you have to lose?

5. We Should Really Do Lunch

When you make a valuable connection, set up a follow-up appointment for coffee or lunch. This allows you to pursue more focused conversations than those had in large group settings, meet more people, and can lead to stronger associations.


Our world is a richer place for the many connections we make along life’s path. Like bestselling author Bob Burg always says, “All things being equal, people will do business with and refer business to those people they know, like and trust.”

[Originally posted 12/17/08]


  1. Chef Tony Marciante says

    Great insights, I see so many people in sales just plug along, missing great relationships and the business it can bring. In the end, people understand there is a sales process, but remain human through it all, it’s more productive, more invested, and in the end, we’re all better for it.

    Best of luck to everyone in 2009, turn off the news, turn on your family…peace to the world.

  2. Maggie Robledo says

    You always have great tips and ideas I wouldn’t think of.
    And I love how you organize those ideas.

    When I was assistant to PR in VIU, they used to send me to “networking events” and God I hated them.

    I’ll have people approaching and offering me their services more like trying to sell me something I did not need, and after that I will spend time looking how I could get rid of them.

    One thing that made me go to the YPLG is that I saw that it was a “non-networking” event. Meaning for me, an opportunity to meet professional people with no pressure to come back with business cards.

  3. Steve! This is great. Now … people can easily sort through all the great information that you share!

    Have a great new year!

  4. As always, great stuff Steve. In my humble opinion this is the best post so far. I’ve seen such a dramatic evolution from when you first started doing these.

    Your writing just keeps getting better and better! Can’t wait to see what you have to say next month.

  5. This is brilliant, Steve! In my book I talked about the Nine Mindsets of Networking and you’ve actionalized those mindsets with your suggestions here. If you like the results you’ve gotten on LinkedIn, I definitely recommend you try playing on Twitter. It’s the fastest networking vehicle I’ve found yet, and I absolutely love it! If you want, you can check out my blog post on the subject:

  6. Masoud A. Edalatkhah says

    I’ve been getting so bored of the “traditional” networking. Thanks for sharing the new & improved way to building a REAL substantial network chock-full of caring people who, over time, will inevitably become friends.


  7. Steve, Great post. As always, you put your ideas together in such a way that they are to the point, easy-to-apply and, most of all, filled with great value.

    Thank you for all you do in helping all of us to build better inter-personal relationships.

    Jupiter, FL

  8. Great post, mon ami. As is often the case with your material, it’s gone immediately into my “pass along” queue.


  1. […] Assumed Permission Whenever someone asks for your business card (especially at networking events) they may be intending to add you to their listserv. I recommend nipping this in the bud by […]

  2. […] Pitch that elevator pitch. Instead, ask your prospects to share a story about a client they’ve helped … then use that intel to share your own (relevant/related) story. […]

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