How to Profit From Your Connections Without Sacrificing Your Integrity

Simply stated, I get a kick out of helping people connect their potential with deliberate action that allows them to enjoy success at a level they previously thought impossible. The good news is that it is relatively easy…if you develop the habit of making connections about other people, instead of you.

“There is no substitute for a true, off-line connection.”
-Scott Cooksey

Without a doubt, social media has changed the way people connect. Or has it? Certainly, technologies like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have shifted the definitions of a “friend”, “follower”, or “connection” to meanings significantly different than we once thought of them. And while this technology’s popularity makes it easier than ever to “stay in touch” even with the fringes of our networks, there is no substitute for a true, off-line connection.

Are You A Connector or A Collector?

Networking is a word which often brings back memories of hundreds of shallow, self-promoting people swarming around at some random event sponsored by your local chamber of commerce.  You probably have someone specific in your mind right now who claims to be a great networker….a claim backed up by the huge stack of recently collected business cards on their desk. Only, if you look a little deeper, it doesn’t take long to realize those “connections” aren’t really connections at all. In fact, that self-proclaimed networker is nothing but a business card collector – evidenced by the number of cards with their name on them, which they have given you over the years -each with a different company logo on it. (Get my drift?)

In recent weeks, I have given closer inspection to just which of the habits I have observed of people I admire as great connectors (as described in Malcom Gladwell’s instant classic, The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference). The rules listed below will provide a roadmap for you in becoming a sought after person in the network of others.  Each demonstrates just how simply you can integrate subtle changes into your own routine to achieve the status of Connector:

  1. It can never be about you. – I once went to an interview for a job I knew I did not really want, just to get an offer I could turn down.  Shortly after passing the “screener’s interview” at the door, I was asked to stay and visit with the insurance agency’s owner.  Sure enough, he offered me the job.  I immediately turned him down – then sat in his office for nearly an hour listening to him telling me how wonderful and successful he seemed to be.  Presuming for a minute he was half as successful as his puffed up autobiographical interview suggested, I knew my instincts were correct.  Working for him would never be about the development of my own career. It would only be about him.  Successful, perhaps.  Did I ever follow up?  Let’s just say the materials he gave me on the way out the door never made it out of his office building.
  2. Connections should be authentic. I enjoy a great spy/action novel. In between the great number of business & personal development oriented books I read each year, I find it relaxing to just get lost in a great fiction book once in a while.  When I learned a friend of mine had written a novel set in my former hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma, I downloaded the free sample from his website and sent him a note.  Prior to the release of his book, he kindly forwarded me the final version of the first two chapters.  On the day it was available for purchase from Amazon, I immediately downloaded the book to my Kindle….and posted everywhere I could online how great it was a friend of mine had just released his first in a series of novels.  And let me tell you, the book is a thriller! [Here is a link to the book: The Perfect Candidate. If you download it, please come back to this blog post and let me know what you thought of it!] A few days later, I asked him to preview a new video project of mine ahead of it’s release, and he gladly responded.  Offering his feedback, he then (without my asking) mentioned he would forward the link to a few of his own contacts whose organizations often hired speakers.  That’s a referral I didn’t even have to ask for! [Oh, and he has since released two more volumes with the same main character…they are ALL great reads!]
  3. Focus on giving. – A close personal friend of mine once said, “Don’t just be a face on a roster.” What great advice.  I have learned time and again that connecting people with their best interests at heart will gain you more than trying to shoehorn yourself into being the right solution when you (or the products or services you offer) are simply not a good fit. People remember and the return is much greater in the long-run when you keep this principle in mind.  In the past year, he took the courageous step of opening a car repair franchise…and MANY of the people he’d selflessly helped over the years became his first customers!
  4. If at first you don’t connect, try again. – Several years back, I “lost” the opportunity of a new client to another department of the bank I worked for at the time.  Eleven months later, I had not only wooed that business into my department, but increased it from $400,000 to a $3,500,000 relationship!  Some of my best connections have developed from people I just didn’t “click” with at first.  If your approach didn’t connect with them, it is up to you to show the value of what you can bring to their network. (See Rule #1)
  5. Always maintain your integrity. It is flattering to be asked to help someone out.  I’m sure that your reputation (out of a cast of thousands) has brought forth many efforts to help an obscure Nigerian prince ex-patriate some funds from his country, if only you would email this thoughtful and promising stranger all of your financial details so they can deposit the promised millions into your account for “your trouble”, right?
    Have you ever had a client walk out of my office, with a smile on his face, having lost nearly 95% of the value of his account, carrying only a new coffee mug?  Perhaps earned your single largest commission on a one-time sale with a gross payout to you of $17,000?  I have.  In both cases, the clients had acted foolishly and completely against my advice.  That’s right. By advising them against their respective investments (instead of slobbering over the commissions thus making a complete fool of myself), I earned their trust and respect while demonstrating my own integrity.  And I won their business (and some handsome commission income) while still finding myself able to sleep at night because I had simply told them the truth.

These five rules are the absolute keys to building solid connections with those to whom you do business.  Avoid them at your own peril! The most successful people I have ever studied all possessed the ability think past the short-term, and enjoyed success for the long-term.  Which path will you take?

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