Networking: Is the the Plane or the Pilot?

In Top Gun: Maverick (one of the best movies of the decade so far), there is a repeated motif of “It’s not the plane. It’s the pilot.”

It culminates in the climactic battle when Maverick and Rooster end up an old F-14 up against multiple state of the art, fifth generation enemy fighters.

Rooster inspires Maverick to do some of that pilot s#!t by saying, “It’s not the plane. It’s the pilot.”

Very exciting. Very dramatic. Very awesome!

So, maybe it is the pilot?

I’ve also been watching Drive to Survive lately on Netflix. That’s the reality series about Formula One and the stories behind the races.

Many stories focus on the drivers and their skill and confidence and how they drive the car.

But they also talk about the importance of the car.

The best driver in the worst car cannot win.

The worst driver in the best car cannot win.

Only the best driver in the best car can win.

Which brings us to networking

I recently heard someone say that the most important thing in finding success in a networking group is “self initiative.” A good networker with the right mindset and techniques who takes the initiative to take the right action can find success in any networking group.

Technically this is true.

No matter what group you are in, if you take initiative to make connections, provide value, develop relationships, and get introductions, you will eventually be successful.

Anyone you meet can connect you to people who can connect you to people who can give you anything might possibly want.

Likewise, you could put Max Verstappen in my Honda Civic out on a Formula One racetrack, and he’ll get all the way from the starting grid to the finish line.

But he’ll get there a lot faster in an F1 race car.

It’s the pilot AND the plane.

If you don’t have self initiative, if you aren’t a go giver, if you don’t know how to ask for what you want, it doesn’t matter what room I put you in. You won’t have success.

However, if you do have self initiative, if you are a go giver, if you do know how to ask for what you want, then you will do better in a great, well structured networking space full of the right people

Can you be successful in any networking group? Yes.

But with tens of thousands of options of spaces to network in, why would you spend your time in a group that does not have the people you need to meet?

Why would you spend your time in a group that isn’t structured well?

This is why I created JV Connect

I created JV Connect because I want to put the best pilots in the best planes. 

I want to see what happens when we put abundance minded, successful, effective people into a space that maximizes connections, facilitates relationships, and does everything possible to make awesome things happen.

And then, I want to create a space where you don’t have to be Pete “Maverick” Mitchell or Charles Leclerc to be successful because the event is structured to guide you to do the right things in the right way.

JV Connect is December 12th and 13th, and you can get into the cockpit here.

The Pitch Pretending to Be Training

Recently, I attended a webinar and I learned something very important.

However, I didn’t learn it from the content of the webinar because the webinar was thoroughly devoid of educational content.

I learned it from what happened next.

The fellow teaching the webinar I knew to be a smart guy. I had gotten some good advice from him, and then saw him speak. In that talk, he shared a concept that seemed interesting. He invited us to attend his webinar the next week to learn more about it.

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Networking Asks like a NINJA

Networking is about giving, but part of that is help others to give to you. That is what the networking ask is all about.

In this article, I discussed the 5 levels of NINJA Networking. Now, let’s look at how these five levels respond to the question “Whom can I introduce you to?”

“Give without expectation. Receive without resistance.” This is one of the axioms I follow in life and business. A good networker wants to help those that they meet, so they will ask how they can help. Your answer is crucial to allowing them to give to you.

All five of these levels may apply to any networker. Even the karate master may still employ the simple straight punch he learned in his first day of training. The point is to expand your mindset and range of thinking as you move to higher levels of NINJA Networking.

To get some example responses, I’m going to share how a lead generation guy might answer the question at the five different levels.

Summary of Five Levels of Networking Asks

Level 1: Networking – Prospecting in the Room
“I’m just looking to get out and meet anyone I can. How are you generating leads for your business?”

Level 2: Introduction – Prospecting through the Room
I’m looking to meet entrepreneurs who need more leads for their business.”

Level 3: Non-Competitive Partners – Growing Your Network
“I’m looking to meet people who have audiences of entrepreneurs who need more leads.”

Level 4: Joint Ventures – Collaboration
“I’m looking for opportunities to partner such as summit stages, podcasts, and other lead gen folks I can do a joint webinar with.”

Level 5: Affiliates – Systematized Partnership
“I’m looking for people with an audience of entrepreneurs for webinar swaps, to promote my launch, and whose launch I can promote.”

Level 1: Networking – Prospecting in the Room

“I’m just looking to get out and meet anyone I can. How are you generating leads for your business?”

At Level 1, a networker is looking for prospects among the people they are speaking to directly. They may not actually have a clear idea of who their avatar is, or they don’t know how to ask for it.

There is nothing wrong with doing this as long as it does not come across as pushy or salesy.

I call this network prospecting, and I made great use of it back when I published local magazines. 75% of my business came from this kind of prospecting.

This can be very effective for networkers who do not know how to ask for introductions, and it is also an excellent strategy for someone who finds themselves in a room with inexperienced networkers who do not know how to give introductions.

It is very difficult to reciprocate at this level. They may ask you what you do, but they are simply comparing it to their own needs. It is unlikely they need to buy what you are selling, and that would be the end of it at this level.

The limitation of this strategy is that if you are focused on the immediate sale, then you will not get invited to the higher impact networking communities. This kind of thing is not done in my exclusive TEN Group that I run for elite networkers, and I would not invite someone who approached me this way to that group.

The danger is that you don’t know what you don’t know. If you approached me at level 1, we’d have a pleasant conversation. I might even become a client, but I wouldn’t event mention the TEN Group. You might think it was a highly successful encounter because you didn’t realize the opportunity you missed.

The great thing about this level is that it’s really easy to measure quantitatively. You can track what leads came from what events, and double down in those communities. The tradeoff is that you don’t know what you are missing out on in terms of building your network through the people you are meeting.

Level 2: Introduction – Prospecting through the Room

“I’m looking to meet entrepreneurs who need more leads for their business.”

At this level, we’re not trying to sell the person in front of us. We are seeking to connect with their network.

This is the level that most groups like BNI, AmSpirit, and Success Champions Network operate at. You are aiming to sell through the room rather than to the room. This works because the people in the room are non-competitive partners with whom you are building a relationship.

BNI has a concept of The Referral Confidence Curve. It describes the way that you grow in trust and credibility with your networking partners as you build your relationship.

At this level, it is important to understand who your ideal customer is so that you can educate your networking partners on how they can help you.

This tends to work better in structured networking groups than open networking groups. If I meet you for the first time at a networking event, and you’re asking me to refer clients to you, it is unlikely I’ll do so. I don’t know you. I don’t trust you. And as a super connector, I know a dozen other people who do what you do whom I know better.

This works fantastically well in those structured groups because you do get to know people over time.

This level of networking is also quite quantitatively trackable. The introductions go directly to prospects. You can track how many introductions you get to good prospects and which of those become sales. BNI has a very robust tracking system to determine the value of membership.

Like Level 1, however, you are still not gaining access to the real font of value that is your network’s network.

Level 3: Non-Competitive Partners – Growing Your Network

“I’m looking to meet people who have audiences of entrepreneurs who need more leads.”

This is a most powerful form of networking ask you can make without needing additional infrastructure and capability in your business.

You are no longer asking to meet customers. You are asking for introductions you can build mutually beneficial relationships with.

While it is very difficult to introduce someone I just met to a prospect, I’ll make introductions to non-competitive partners all day long. People aren’t so keen to get an introduction to someone who’s going to sell them, so I’m very cautious about that. People love to meet potential partners, so I can do this much more freely.

This is the level where you can shift from arithmetic growth to geometric growth. At Level 1, each contact is worth less than one. At level 2, each contact may be worth one to two. At this level, one contact can lead to an infinite series of connections as one introductions leads to another ad infinitem.

A Level 3 NINJA Networker can no longer quantitively measure our networking effectiveness. Measurements must now be qualitative.

When I operated at Level 1, I determined that one local Chamber of Commerce generated more sales for me than the others, so I made sure go to their events.

I was operating at Level 3 when I attended a high impact virtual networking event in April of 2021. While I came out of the event with 45 meetings on my calendar, they were not sales calls. They were connections to a higher level of entrepreneur who have given me incredible knowledge, access, and resources. By October, I could still not trace a single dollar of revenue to this event, but as I write this today, a year later, I can credit 80% of my current revenues to connections and concepts that came from that event.

Had I measured it quantitatively, I would have called it a failure, and that would be incorrect.

At Level 3, the value of an event or a connection may come weeks or months later. It may come from an introduction to an introduction to an introduction.

Moving from Level 2 to Level 3 is a mindset shift, and doing so will shift your business and your networking.

Level 4: Joint Ventures – Collaboration

“I’m looking for opportunities to partner such as summit stages, podcasts, and other lead gen folks I can do a joint webinar with.”

Referral partners are good. Joint venture partners are better.

At Level 4, you are shifting your thinking from individual referrals to audiences.

A referral partner is someone who keeps you in mind and refers people to you as the opportunity presents itself. In some cases, such as a Realtor referring clients to a mortgage originator, there is a natural flow of clients. The source of clients is the existing flow of connections that the referring partner has.

A joint venture is about creating a new stream of connections.

There are dozens of ways a joint venture can be created, and you may be participating in joint ventures without realizing it. An interview podcast is a joint venture. Guest provides content. Host provides audience. Guest promotes to their community to grow host’s audience.

Joint webinars, summits, collaborative books, social media joint live broadcasts, guest appearances in a program. These are just a few ways you might joint venture with someone.

Rather than a referral partner introducing you to individual people, you are seeking to connect with audiences. At this level, the introductions you want are not to people you could sell to, or even to people who can refer you people to sell to. You want contacts who can introduce you to entire audiences of dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of people.

Level 5: Affiliates – Systematized Partnership

“I’m looking for people with an audience of entrepreneurs for webinar swaps, to promote my launch, and whose launch I can promote.”

Most joint ventures you encounter are one offs, and each partnership is separately negotiated.

At Level 5, a NINJA Networker has turnkey joint ventures. There’s no negotiated needed because it’s off the shelf.

Some simple examples of this are speaker summits and podcasts. In these, you don’t normally negotiate details. There is some process to get on the summit or podcast. The speaker is told what is expected, and they will either find it acceptable or not participate.

More complex examples of this are launches, workshops, and webinar swaps. These tend to require more infrastructure on the part of the one being promoted, but because of this infrastructure, a promoter can sign up and participate.

For example, if you would like to promote a launch, you sign up. They send you swipe copy, instructions on what to do when, and you do it. Then you get paid for sales you create through your list.

When two Level 5 NINJA Networkers meet, the only complexity is figuring out how to match up marketing calendars. Beyond that, it’s just a matter of “my people will send the materials to your people,” and they’re off to the races.

Five Levels of Networking Asks

Just like the black belt martial artist doesn’t forget the basic strikes and blocks when they achieve the highest level, a NINJA networker will always employ tactics from all levels. Even an entrepreneur with a robust launch process and high converting webinar will still happily someone up if the need shows up in conversation.

The key difference is how you approach people you meet. Are you sizing them up to be a client? Are you seeking a referral partner? Do you want a promotional partner?

How you engage in the conversation will lead to different results and will make different impressions.

Michael Whitehouse is The Guy Who Knows a Guy. He has developed the NINJA Networking framework over more than a decade of networking from the lowest levels to the highest.

Do the five levels of NINJA Networking intrigue you? Get on a call with Michael. Click here to schedule a call.

Five Steps to Learn the Secrets of NINJA Networking

Networking, Introductions, Non-Competitive Partners, Joint Ventures, Affiliates.

Those are the five stages of Ninja Networking mastery, and they just so happen to spell NINJA.

Actually, it’s not a coincidence. Realizing that “networking” and “ninja” started with the same letter, I decided to see if I could make a cool ninja networking acronym. And I did.

Then, I realized that it not only spelled a super cool word, but that it did it in the order that most people follow on this journey.

It was meant to be!

In this article, I’m going to do a quick overview of the five stages, and in future articles I’ll dive deeper into each area. If you find this interesting, and would like to come on a journey with me to learn the secrets of the Ninja Networker, I encourage you to join my Ninja Networking program.

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If $10,000 Would Solve All of Your Problems, You Don’t Have Any Problems

“If $10,000 would solve all of your problems, you don’t have any problems.”

A very successful insurance salesman at a company I worked at said this to me many years ago. I understood the truth in it, but not how to act on it.

It is like understanding that airplanes fly because of pressure differential across the wings, but not knowing how to build a wing that creates the differential.

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Real Networking in Virtual Times

This piece was originally written as the script for an audio piece I recorded for the Bookboon audio library.

2020 was a very disruptive year, and 2021 is just following that trend, but disruption is not always bad. It has closed some avenues and opened others. In the next few minutes, I’ll share with you some universal tips and strategies for networking then I’ll share with you some of the incredible new opportunities that this new virtual space has created.

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Networking in the Virtual World

Networking in the virtual world

Are networking events an important part of your business?

If so, the last few months have been quite a shock to the system. The business I started 2020 with was absolutely dependent on local, in person networking, which is why the business I’m running as we start 2021 is a very different business.

There are fundamentally two types of networking: networking through events and networking through referrals.

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