Whether you’re an investor, banker, or entrepreneur, you know that at the heart of every deal are people; people you work with, sell to and compete against. If you had to start your career all over again with only one asset, you would probably choose to keep your network.
As Keith Ferrazzi, author of Never Eat Alone, says “Success in any field, but especially in business is about working with people, not against them.”
It’s cliche to say, “It’s all about who you know,” but it’s also the truth. Each new person you meet has the potential to open you to their entire network. Healthy, beneficial relationships lead to more deals and better returns.
But attending a networking event once a year and occasionally posting and connecting with people on Linkedin isn’t sufficient to build a robust and productive network. If you want to get the most value out of your network, you must become a prolific networker or a super-connector.
In this article, we’re going to talk about what it means to be a super-connector, the top traits they exhibit, and how to take your relationship-building game to the next level.
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What is a Super Connector?
Simply put, a super-connector is a people person. It’s someone who maintains a massive network or rolodex of people from different backgrounds. He or she knows each person well enough to give them a call and get a response. Most importantly, they know how to connect people together, even when there’s no immediate benefit to them. They are experts at building and using social capital.
A super connector’s network isn’t just a list of names on a spreadsheet or a CRM. They not just know the names of the people in their network. They know about their lives, passions, projects, superpowers, and goals. It’s a large-scale, mutually beneficial arrangement where all parties feel like the relationship has value. These are genuine relationships.
When a super-connector meets a new person, she doesn’t worry about what she can get from the new contact. Instead, she focuses on how she can help the contact and add value to that person’s life. This creates a more profound relationship that becomes successful – and lucrative – in the future.
Social media plays a significant role in super connectivity these days. It makes it easy to store and communicate with your network at any time. But behind every efficient super-connector, there is some software to organize and categorize those contacts. But don’t be fooled; a super-connector strives to have real-world relationships with as many people. So technology is just a tool to enhance efficiency.
Scott Gerber, the co-founder of the “Young Entrepreneur Council” (YEC) and author of the book Super Connector: Stop Networking and Start Building Business Relationships That Matter, explains the difference between a networker and a super-connector. The former wants to connect with as many people; this is the person you see handing out business cards galore. The latter’s primary focus is to create meaningful relationships that fuel business growth.
What do Super Connectors do?
Some extroverted, gregarious people are born with the natural ability to build relationships. Others need to develop it. It does not matter if you are an introvert or an extrovert; with the right approach and practice, you can build a strong relationship network.
If you want to take your networking game to the next level, these are some habits you need to incorporate.
1. Ask Interesting Questions
When people are networking, they often hear the same questions. “What do you do for a living?” “Where are you from?” “What do you like to do for fun?” These questions are repetitive, tedious, and pointless.
Instead, learn to ask interesting and engaging questions that pertain to their life, work, projects, and goals. Ask them to explain their challenges. Give them opportunities to brag about their successes. One great question to start with is “What are you working on” it comes across as a casual conversation and allows you to listen and see if there is an opportunity where you or someone you know can add value to that individual.
A good rule of thumb to follow is that if a question can be answered with a yes or no, you are most likely not asking the right questions.
2. Connect People
Super connectors don’t just connect themselves to other people. Instead, they connect their network like a spider connecting each strand of its web to the others.
Remember those interesting questions you’ll ask? They will arm you with lots of valuable information to enhance the relationship in the future. For example, if you know that someone has a long-overdue dream to own part of a restaurant startup, you could connect him to your entrepreneur friend who needs investors for his foodservice tech.
It’s crucial here that you don’t try to force yourself into every deal. You don’t need a finder’s fee for every referral or a half-point commission on every deal. Instead, focus on bringing people together, and your network will reward you.
3. Offer Help
Sometimes you can’t connect people, but you can offer other types of help, usually in the form of guidance, advice, and tips. Don’t be stingy with this. Don’t demand consultation fees or to be part of the deal in exchange for your advice. Just deliver value without the expectation of a return.
In his book Give and Take, Adam Grant, a psychology professor at UPenn and New York Times columnist, tells the story of Adam Rifkin, a successful entrepreneur and serial connector who practices the idea of the “5 Minute Favor“. This practice entails spending 5 minutes every day doing something that will benefit the lives of others in his network, such as facilitating an introduction, offering feedback, etc.
Offering assistance and spending a few minutes every day to help someone is one of the most impactful ways to build a strong network.
4. Remember Names
People feel important when you remember their name and diminished when you forget it. However, as your network grows, it becomes increasingly challenging to remember who’s who. Fortunately, there are some well-worn tactics to make this easier:
- Repeat the name multiple times, in conversation and privately to yourself. Visualize their face at the same time.
- Create a mnemonic device (70% of people find these helpful) to encode their name.
- Write a note as quickly as you can, ideally on their business card. Include any information that will help you remember them.
- Add the contact to whatever software you use to store your contacts.
The Power of Relationship Intelligence Software
It’s impossible to remember to keep in touch with a network of thousands of people without some digital help. Even a hundred people are too many to keep in your head all the time. You might be able to remember their names and professions, but not their projects, ambitions, and goals.
In this case, you need a tool to effectively manage those relationships. Ideally, this tool shouldn’t be a generic CRM designed for closing sales. It should be a system suited for deal-driven teams that rely on the power of their networks for success.
4Degrees is an intelligent relationship manager that automatically tracks your relationships & deals with actionable intelligence to help you move them forward. It stores all of your connections, enriches them with data, alerts you to changes (like new jobs, investments, and other insights), and even helps you identify the best connections for your needs. To see how it can help you best leverage the power of your relationships, request a free demo.
How to Become a Super Connector
Now that you understand what it means to be a super-connector, let’s talk about how you can become one. Follow these steps to build a powerful network:
1. Seek Opportunities to Meet New People
Don’t expect networking opportunities to fall into your lap. Instead, go out of your way to make connections and meet people, in-person and online. Attend industry events, trade conferences, and virtual groups that may be of interest to you.
2. Establish Rapport
Your goal as you enter a conversation is to be memorable in a positive way. That can take many forms:
- Having a funny (yet appropriate) story to tell
- Sharing something you’ve learned or read recently that might be interesting to the people you’re speaking with
- Being interested – asking not just the initial questions about what they do and what they’re working on, but asking follow-up questions that display your curiosity
- Finding areas of commonality (interests, family, affiliations) and using that as a basis to compare notes
Those are just examples (and your creativity is the only limit to what’s possible here) – you’ll want to find a conversation path that is authentic to you, and relevant to the people you’re engaging with.
3. Don’t Forget the Follow-up
The follow-up is a crucial step to creating professional relationships that last. After all, it’s difficult to establish a real relationship without multiple conversations – which means you have to follow up!
When you meet someone new, make sure to walk away with their contact information. Then follow up personally. Say something like, “It was great meeting you on Friday. I enjoyed hearing about your [project/deal/investment]. Keep me updated!”. Adding a personal touch to a follow-up note can go a long way.
Unfortunately, most people are not good at devoting time to follow up, but fortunately, systems like 4Degrees can remind you when is the best time to follow up. This way, there is no excuse to just collecting connections without building relationships.
4. Find Ways to Help
Opportunities to help others in your network are all around you – doing so requires a strong understanding of what that person is interested in / looking to accomplish, and having an eye out for ways to help them make progress.
Depending on the person and the nature of your relationship, creating value can be done in many different ways. Some examples:
- Making introductions: these could be client or investment referrals, potential hires, mentors who can help them reach the next level in their careers, or an expert that can help them navigate a problem they are facing.
- Share resources: if there are relevant articles, job postings, research papers, or other content you come across – send it their way!
Notably – doing so without expectation of an immediate return allows you to invest for the long haul. The lack of a quid pro quo is what separates transactional relationships from authentic ones.
Offering genuine help is one of the most effective ways to build a powerful business network.
5. Re-engage Old Connections
Don’t let your connections grow stale over time. This is the worst enemy of a super-connector. If you haven’t spoken to a contact in a few months, find a reason to reach out, even if just to congratulate them on completing a project.
These touchpoints will help them remember you – and even in cases where you don’t have something profound to say, enables you to stay top of mind.
If you’re someone who finds this kind of outreach awkward or challenging – 4Degrees provides you with network updates and notifications that help you stay aware of key events or updates that you can use as a reason to reach out.
6. Get Close With Other Super-Connectors
There are likely others you’ve built relationships with who have robust networks, and are constantly meeting new people – and by spending time with them, you grow your second-degree network significantly. As a result, be more intentional about engaging with this group than others – check-in with them weekly, if necessary.
Along the way, you may also learn what enables them to build great relationships and get better at your craft!
Being a super-connector isn’t about the cleverness of your mnemonic devices, the count of your LinkedIn connections or the number of rows in your CRM. It’s about caring about your network – your people – and doing your best to help them without expecting anything in return. If you foster and curate your network carefully, it will reward you eventually.