Four (4) strategies for executives and board advisors to advance your relationships with others in the marketplace.
Networking and business development can create anxiety and uncertainty for business leaders. This article explores advanced networking strategies that will take the sting out of building relationships in new markets. It includes a downloadable script sheet for your networking ease.
Advanced outreach for investors, business leaders, and entrepreneurs
Accelerate your business development and deal flow activities by connecting with industry keynote speakers before attending an event using social media platforms, such as Twitter and LinkedIn. Industry speakers will be listed on the event page for conferences and by reaching out in advance, you become familiar to the speaker. You can introduce yourself in advance and set the stage (no pun intended) for a conversation during the event (a good resource is a book titled Never East Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time, by Keith Ferrazzi and Tahl Raz).
I recall a story told by Darrell Gurney, a career coach and entrepreneur, who traveled to another country to be in the audience with his targeted influencer (let’s call the influencer Mortimer). By chance, Darrell heard that Mortimer was attending the event. He paid to attend the conference and traveled to the conference at great expense to be in the same room as Mortimer for three days. Darrell monitored Mortimer’s movements throughout the event and saw an opportunity to approach Mortimer during a break on the second day.
With his message carefully crafted, he approached and introduced himself to Mortimer, explaining that he had traveled a great distance to the event exclusively to meet Mortimer. During previous months, Darrell had been messaging and cold calling Mortimer to make his pitch. Once they began chatting, Mortimer acknowledged that Darrel’s name seemed familiar.
While they were in the hallway chatting, Mortimer expressed his disbelief at Darrell’s audacious plan to travel to the conference for the sole purpose of introducing himself to Mortimer. And then, it happened. Mortimer invited Darrell to dinner that evening to discuss Darrell’s offer. And the rest is history.
Darrell and Mortimer soon collaborated on a major consulting project, and Darrell’s ROI was tenfold the cost of the expense of traveling to the event. Darrell’s story resonated with me for many years, and this is the first time I’ve written about his experience, but I think of it often. I’ve used versions of his strategy myself—some worked out well, and others were less successful. Nevertheless, the principles are powerful and a carefully constructed networking plan can produce tremendous results for your business, career, or investment.
My personal story of advanced networking
I was working with the chair of the management committee at a large public company in the late 1990s. He and I were responsible for creating and distributing the bi-weekly management committee agenda to the divisional heads. Heading for an IPO, the chair was on the road most of the time and I could not get on FaceTime with him to finalize the agenda on one particular occasion. At the last minute, I reserved the seat next to him on an airplane he was taking for a day trip to another city. Luckily the travel agent was able to secure the seat. In this way, I was able to have face time with the chair of the committee and finalize the agenda for distribution later that day. The look on his face was priceless as he took the seat beside me. The cost of the flight was offset by producing an agenda the divisional heads could review in advance of the meeting the following Wednesday. It was a fun way to optimize performance at the C-level and made for a few smiles at the management committee meeting.
Profiling targeted leaders and influencers
A very useful advanced networking strategy is understanding your audience before you speak with them. It may sound vanilla, but a lot of people don’t take the time to conduct due diligence on the person or people they are having conversations with. In not taking the time to do so, you are missing an opportunity to learn more about the person you are speaking with and thereby, alleviating some of the pressure and uncertainty that comes with building relationships.
When you understand the preferences of others, you can oftentimes predict their behavior, adjust your own behavior accordingly and create a positive conversation you would otherwise avoid. For example, some people are spontaneous and enjoy last-minute changes and decisions whereas others prefer a more planned approach and don’t appreciate it when things are changed at the very last minute.
- Thinks differently
- Decides differently
- Uses time differently
- Communicates differently
- Handles emotions differently
- Manages stress differently
- Deals with conflicting opinions differently
There are none worse, none better; just different.
How do you learn about someone that you don’t know? It is highly likely at the executive level that they have visibility and an online presence. Search their name on Google, find them on LinkedIn, access their Twitter, etc. You might be surprised at how much you can find. They might be part of an interview shared on YouTube or featured on a podcast. They may have endorsements towards the bottom of their LinkedIn, informing you on their leadership style from the perspective of others.
Our Network 7 (N-7) advanced networking and brand building service
The Network 7, unique to Westgate, is designed to produce a number of outcomes. It's a comprehensive strategy and while the concept it quite simple to grasp, the way we conduct it and how it produces results takes a little bit of explaining.
A previous client said, "I love this concept. I have no idea where to begin or how to conduct outreach with a network that I haven't been actively communicating with." We find that our clients' centers of influence become the ultimate tool they didn't realize they had.
It doesn't just become the blueprint for authentic endorsements, it also creates opportunities to open new doors and connect with individuals who have likely grown professionally since your last interaction.
The N-7 is similar to a Swiss army knife in that it serves many purposes, depending on the context. At its most elementary, it serves as a professional endorsements sheet. Professional endorsements are powerful testimonials to your abilities and add to your professional equity.
One possible outcome might be the development of a career advisory board helping you to strategize and open doors to organizations that match your ideal company profile—which is essentially the blueprint for tapping the hidden job market.
The N-7 process also acts as a signal to your colleagues that you are preparing for a transition. Our clients find the process of outreach validates their achievements and supports their career transition by helping them to open doors otherwise not available.
Finally, it can produce opportunities for mentorship. In my experience, most professionals (at absolutely every level) believe that mentorship needs to fall under a corporate program. Not so. You can ask your network(s) for mentorship on an informal basis (we have a script for that). Establishing an informal (but consistent) mentorship program can include (or exclude) your Career Advisory Board.
To sweeten the deal for your prospective mentors, you can offer to compensate them for their time. I’ve done this often myself and while most will not accept any form of compensation, the gesture of the offer is enough to crystalize the arrangement. Even if the mentor does not accept compensation, I will deliver some type of gift to the mentor, such as a coffee card, flowers, tickets to the game, or some other token of appreciation.
Offering a mentorship arrangement with a defined period provides a framework for the arrangement. I suggest a 3, 6, or 9-month arrangement of monthly meetings (telephone, virtual, or in person). This serves as a probation period and helps to manage expectations for the mentor.
Network 7 Feedback
Did you enjoy the process?
I appreciate the feedback and clarity that the Network 7 exercise provided. Networking is something that comes easy to me. The Network 7 exercise, however, illuminated the supportive colleagues who are literally only a phone call away.
Were you able to receive feedback from individuals in your network that you may have not otherwise reached out to?
Yes, in fact, I reached out to a couple of people whom I had not contacted for twenty plus years. I also reached out to people with whom I was only casually acquainted but thought may be interested in working with me professionally or who knew of people who may be interested. That's the obvious nature of networking which, well, is sometimes not so obvious.
- Canadian Cultural Leader & Influencer -
Advanced dinner networking & philanthropy
An effective strategy for meeting with industry leaders and influencers is the evening fundraising dinner for a special cause. Provided you support the cause, it’s a great way to support the cause while expanding your network with individuals you want to build relationships with authentically.
Introducing the legacy dinner
Without being calculated, establishing a baseline of trust early can pave the way for a future business opportunity. The legacy dinner serves as a “trust accelerant” for newly acquainted professionals who would otherwise invest months or years of interactions to develop the level of trust required.
This can be a special dinner for clients, prospects, or your centers of influence. You could use it with a board of directors or a new team.
This is an opportunity to connect on a deeper level with the guests. You won’t be talking about business or “what you do”. It will provide the kind of connection and conversation that by the time you leave, you’re no longer at news, sports, and weather.
The Legacy Dinner is an intimate dinner and discussion experience for twelve guests to explore the following topic:
What constitutes a lasting legacy?
This informal, Jeffersonian-style dinner is hosted by our friend and colleague, Denise Logan. She will invite a variety of people who are open to a conversation full of unique perspectives. Denise chooses the location and will share those details as well as the LinkedIn listings for each of the guests so that you have time to prepare in advance.
“Guests at prior events have said that it’s a dinner unlike any they’ve ever attended and that they made rich acquaintances that far surpassed any networking event they had ever attended.”
The opening question put forth in exploring the topic of a lasting legacy is:
If I could choose to take on the life of any other person (living, dead or fabled) who would I choose and why?
Denise says your answer can be whimsical, lighthearted or deep. You may wish to share an anecdote or two about how you came to that answer. The rest of the conversation will proceed from there.
Denise has conducted nearly 300 of these dinners and she stands by the power it has on advanced networking. According to her, “our peers, our co-workers, employees, our board members, our investors…often our connections are so shallow. ‘Do I need to know this?’ Yes. Because this is the human part of what builds connection, trust, and relationship.”
If you’re a business leader who needs to raise your visibility in the public capital markets, among boards of directors, or private capital markets, contact us privately for a conversation about your goals.
Below you can download a sample of our scripts from my e-book, CEO Script Vault: Job Search Scripts for Busy Executives.
The CEO Script Vault was written for business leaders looking to advance their networking strategies.