Most days I send out a letter by email with some tips and resources. This is the one from July 18th, 2022.
Don’t talk past the close.
I learned it when I did sales, and I saw the other side of it the other day as a networker.
I was at a networking event, and there was a woman there who was a graphic designer. She collaborates with various people around the marketing space. How many people do you think I know in the marketing space? A lot. The answer is a lot.
So, I’m thinking that I can make a lot of connections for her, but she only has her first name on the Zoom screen and hasn’t given me her contact info.
I mention that I know quite a few people I can connect her to. I just need her last name and email.
What would you do at this moment? A professional connector who people pay to make introductions just said, “I have connections for you. What’s your last name and email?”
Would you… A) Stop talking and put your full name and email in the chat B) Keep talking C) Keep talking, emphasize that you mostly want people who will refer to you because you have plenty of people to refer to already
If you wanted more introductions, the right answer is A. If you wanted less, go for B or C.
Whether it’s sales or networking or anything else, when you are offered the thing you are looking for, stop talking and say yes.
Don’t talk yourself out of introductions.
Want more business tips? I talk about this kind of stuff many times a week on the Power5 Podcast.
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.
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.
S. A. Grant is a recovering workaholic who found a new light on life post recovering from a stroke. He is the Host of Boss Uncaged Podcast, CEO of Serebral360, A Design & marketing agency, and Brand & Growth Strategist Consultant at sagrant.com.
S. A. has 21 years of experience helping aspiring business owners create strategies and tactics that consistently generate more revenue, build online business presence with creative growth strategies.
Grant has Published eight #1 Best Selling books. S. A. is a speaker at Podfest Global, Podfest Master Class, and VidFest. A loving family man, rock-climber, and novice sailor.
2020 was going to be my year. The year I broke the six-figure barrier. The year I began living my best life. I had never heard the phrase “Covid pivot,” but I was soon to learn it very well.
It had been three years since I wrote my first book, The Guy Who Knows a Guy, sharing how I had built my network in my local area. During that time, I had connected a lot of people, helped a lot of people, made money for a lot of other people. The time had come for all the work I had done to pay off.
As the sun rose on the first day of 2020, I was a publisher for Best Version Media, running two magazines in Southeast Connecticut. Over the previous years, I had laid the groundwork. The magazines were established and popular. All that remained was to line up two new sponsors per month, and I’d be serving the community and making a good six figure income by 2021.
January: two new sponsors. February: two sponsors. March: two more. On track.
For a few months, I’d been hearing news of some new virus out in Asia. It was just a bad flu or something. The media was doing their usual catastrophizing, calling it a pandemic to get ratings.
There was talk of closing our local schools. Closing the schools, for a new kind of bad flu: Ridiculous!
On March 12th, I had a conversation with our state representative who had been briefed by the state health officials. This wasn’t a bad flu.
This was the real deal. This was serious. The Novel Corona Virus, which had recently been officially named COVID-19, required a profound and immediate public health response.
Covid Pivot Online
While I had been blissfully ignorant of the coming pandemic, Dave Durand, the CEO of Best Version Media, had his ear to the ground. In January, he was also following this Novel Corona Virus. As a CEO, part of his job is to look over the next hill and know what might affect the business.
He learned that COVID-19 could spread asymptomatically, and that’s all he needed to know. Lockdowns were coming.
Best Version Media had always been an in person, face to face kind of company.
They created community magazines serving hyperlocal audiences. The only way to build such a publication was to get out in the offices and coffee shops, face to face with our partners and sponsors. There was no other way to to do it.
Until there needed to be.
Upon learning of the coming threat, BVM immediately began the development of a Remote Guided Presentation. What had been unthinkable was now necessary, and the company would be ready.
Best Version Media was ready. By the middle of the next week, the Remote Guided Presentation (or RGP) was ready to go. While many companies were caught flat footed, we were ready to keep the engine running in changing times.
This was a very good thing. The BVM publications are positive, local magazines that make people feel happy and connected. If there was ever a time that such a thing was needed it, was the spring of 2020.
While there would be dramatic adjustments with remote learning and locking down in our apartment, I could continue my business… sort of.
Networker Gotta Network
I’m a networking guy. I wrote a book on networking. I went to every networking event I could find. That’s how I connected in the community. That’s how I found prospects and new business.
Over two thirds of my sponsors in my magazines came from in person networking.
Opinions vary as to why networking was so crucial to my success, but it was. Regular cold calling, which serves many other publishers very well, did not work for me. Whether it was my style or this particular market or my own limiting beliefs, I could not replace prospecting by networking with prospecting by cold call.
My pace of two sponsors per month became one sponsor per quarter.
While I did find some interesting virtual networking events, none of our local networking organizations were doing much in the virtual space. There was no platform that would allow me to make the connections I had been making through live networking events.
I tried hiring call setters, but that just filled my calendar with low quality appointments.
Some businesses were paralyzed by the fear of Covid, not knowing what would happen so they would not invest. The larger issue was that it was a certain type of business that was a fit to be a sponsor, and the best way to sift through to find the right ones was a conversation. A conversation which was easy to have face to face at a friendly networking event and difficult in the space of a cold call.
Go Ahead, Make My Data
As I was struggling, I spoke to a fellow publisher, and she referred me to a site called Make My Data. They sold lead lists. Lists of business information to call.
I signed up to buy leads from them, and I was contacted for an onboarding call which would change the course of my business and my life.
They had an interesting arrangement with a coach named Brandon Tillia. Brandon would handle their onboarding calls, finding out what the client wanted to do with the data, making sure it was something legal and ethical, explaining how the site worked, and helping them use the data strategically. In exchange for talking to all the new clients, Brandon got to talk to all the new clients.
Pretty brilliant arrangement, actually.
My intention had been to simply take the data from MMD and grind away on the phones, but Brandon taught me about some other technologies that might be effective.
I put them to work, and I was able to book more appointments, but I still was not getting effective results.
He then taught me a selling system, which I would later refer to as Solution Oriented Marketing. It was a powerful selling strategy for coaches. Unfortunately, I wasn’t a coach. I was a publisher. It didn’t work well for me as a publisher at all.
You’d Make a Great Coach
I shared with Brendan that the system seemed great but wasn’t doing anything for me to get sponsors for the magazines.
“I think you’d make a great coach,” Brandon suggested across the Zoom link from his New Jersey home.
“I have always wanted to be a coach,” I replied, thinking out loud. “I have always been the person people came to when they had problems because they knew I could figure them out. I do have two decades of varied business experience. I certainly have the knowledge. I just never had an effective way to get clients.”
Brandon allowed me to continue my line of thinking.
“But, I do now, don’t I?”
“Yes, you do,” he said.
Continuing to plug away trying to find sponsors for the magazine, in July I took some time to put this new strategy to work.
Around the same time, a few people who had known me for a while and followed me on social media actually reached out and asked if I did coaching, and I took them on as clients.
I didn’t have any kind of business structure. I didn’t even know what I was going to charge to how I was going to collect payments. I was jumping off the cliff and building the airplane on the way down.
And it was starting to fly.
Around the World Without Leaving My Chair
When the lockdown first began and everything went online, I saw an opportunity. I was a member of BNI and our group had gone online, as had every other group.
I had made the rounds many times, visiting all the chapters in our area. Of course, that was limited. There’s only so far you can drive to a 7 AM meeting to visit.
But not anymore!
I made a post in the BNI Members Facebook page saying that I’d like to visit groups around the world, and many reached out to me. One of the first I visited was Millennium BNI in Malaysia. It was an incredible meeting. They were so well organized you would have thought there was a producer in a booth managing the whole thing.
I visited groups in Australia, Washington state, Canada, England, and beyond. I made connections around the country and around the world.
I was evolving from The Guy Who Knows a Guy in Southeast Connecticut to The Guy Who Knows a Guy everywhere.
I joined a coaching group called Envision and Thrive Academy, run by Michelle Jacobik, through which I made connections which would lead to larger and larger communities. It was through there that I connected with Nicole Majik who would introduce me to Strategic Alliance Live in 2021. It was there that I met Amy Flores-Young who would introduce me to Matt Ward whose networking event would connect me to many of the people who would become Conference21 speakers the following year.
I had taken a step into a wider world, and there was no turning back.
Following the Path Laid Out Before Me
By October, two things were clear about my publishing business. Nothing I was doing was getting traction. While many other publishers were thriving in the new situation, it was not working for me. At the same, time my coaching business was taking off.
I was making more as a coach than as a publisher. I also felt that I had found my calling. I have always enjoyed helping people. I love solving problems. I am driven to bring people together and create connections. Coaching is all this and more.
It was time for a transition, and in October of 2020, I resigned as a publisher to become a coach full time.
My path since then has not been a straight or simple one. I have had many false starts and corrections, but I have learned from each one.
While I knew a great deal a year ago, today I would say I know many multiples more about the world of business and the opportunities and pitfalls that entrepreneurs face. In the past year, I have had conversations with and learned from over 600 entrepreneurs, experts, and authorities. I have learned what works and what doesn’t.
I now find I can be very helpful to others following the same path, whether they have been in business for 10 weeks or 10 years. I have accumulated an encyclopedic knowledge of business. Like the encyclopedia, I know a little bit about almost everything. I don’t have depth, but where depth is needed, I have my network to lean on and refer to.
One year after I left Best Version Media and stepped into coaching full time, I am putting that knowledge and network to work serving other entrepreneurs with my Inner Circle program and the new Power5 Podcast. In the Inner Circle, members can bring any challenge or distraction that they are facing. I can save them time and money. Rather than having to spend days or weeks researching an obstacle or opportunity, I can skip them to the end by directing them right to the answer they need.
While the pandemic has been tragic for many people, for me, it has been a great opportunity to step into my calling, to live my best life, and to serve others at the highest level.
I’d love to share with you what I have learned. Here is a link to my calendar. Let’s schedule a call and see how what I’ve learned on my journey can help you on yours.
Ely Delaney started as a roadie. One day when looking to buy a cable in Phoenix, he ended up getting hired by a local computer shop. He was eager to learn and help the business grow. He launched his own graphic design agency knowing nothing about business. His mom recommended the Chamber of Commerce.
He checked it out, and was a committed networker from then on.
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.
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.