He came to me. He wanted help.
What events should he attend he asked? What groups should he join?
With his pen at the ready, he waited with baited breath for pearls of wisdom to drip from my lips.
His enthusiasm for taking my advice about building his network had finally sunk in. His recent evaluation of his company's declining sales could no longer hide the fact that he had not been growing his professional network very well over the past few years.
What I said surprised him. It might surprise you as well.
I told him of course there were plenty of opportunities to get out and network. Hell you could practically eat breakfast, lunch and dinner at network functions. Meeting people wasn't his problem and we both secretly knew this.
The biggest problem was he needed the right contacts. He needed people who would see the value in being connected to Bob.
So I asked him to pull out his Blackberry, open his Outlook and grab that paper and pen.
He looked confused. I looked confident.
I explained that the best way to build his network was to leverage the power of the network he already had. He remained confused.
I asked him to pull out the names of his top customers and tell me their story. His energy shifted as he mentally called up each name on his Outlook - many with a slight chuckle as he gave me the quick synopsis of how they came to business.
I let him write down maybe twelve names before I stopped him. With some casual background on many of his best clients I asked simply, "Which of these clients know one another?"
The puzzled confused look returned to his face. I thought about telling him what my mom always told me about looking that way could lead to looking that way permanently. I resisted.
We began a very frank discussion about the power of connecting those people within his network that need to know one another. The more we talked the more he found specific "connection points" that intrinsically linked his connections.
With connection points mapped from one connection to another he started to envision the fun he would have introducing these top clients to one another. His foot began to tap as his excitement began to build.
Bob left with a simple assignment: bridge those connections via phone, fax, email, smoke signal or pony express. Share the common thread that he saw between each individual and why he wanted to introduce them. Then offer to broker a coffee summit.
Bob wanted to build his network and in the end he did. Brokering this connection to another opened up other lines of conversation that often led new people to be brought into the conversation which of course got introduced to Bob to them as well. Not bad eh?
The result? Bob became a super hero to all concerned. Though I advised him to leave the tights at home. Poor Bob, like me, doesn't look good in tights.
He became a connection champion (he gave himself a gold medal to prove it too!), undoubtedly strengthening his connection to each of his clients by the thoughtful and purposeful way he went about connecting them to one another. He met several new people that his clients had brought into the various conversations that were happening and by extension which grew his network of connections.
Bob came to me a few months later. He not only had built his network but had strengthened it significantly.
He was very happy. And ready to do it all over again with another set of 12.