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Now, who were all these people?
I’ve reached a point in life where my business cards get the same status as my driver’s license and my credit cards: Always with me, all the time. I keep business cards in my briefcase, in my wallet, in my car, and in suitcases in case I forget them for a trip. Like many people, I’ve absorbed the conventional lesson of networking — always on, all the time. Success could happen 24/7, and it helps to give and get as many business cards as possible. I feel driven to track who I met and talked to at industry events. I take confidence from that little stack of business cards wrapped in a rubber band that states: “Look at me and and how busy, busy, busy I made myself meeting all these new people.”
So I was enlightened and outright relieved when I read a recent column by social media maven Gary Vaynerchuk in The Wall Street Journal, who upends the traditional method of networking. I thought it appropriate to cite him here, since he is the keynote speaker at the LCT Leadership Summit in Miami Beach May 16-18. This is an executive-level luxury conference artfully crafted to maximize B2B networking. but with the currency of friendship and fun.
Vaynerchuk — an entrepreneur, cofounder of VaynerMedia, and bestselling author of “Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How To Tell Your Story In a Noisy Social World” — makes this liberating point in his column: “I am completely baffled by the number of people who think good networking is predicated on the distribution of business cards; that giving a card to anybody in the room is somehow meaningful or useful. This is a massive misconception.”
That near-universal approach is wrong-headed, he writes. He asks, “Why are we networking in the first place? Why would someone want to network? Because at some point, you want something from this other person.”
His concept is simple, among the oldest in human history. In my words: Give first, receive later. Be kind, and let go.
“In my career there have been 500 to 1,000 times where I have approached someone, done something for him or her and then figuratively walked away,” Vaynerchuk writes. “I expected nothing in return from those situations, and yet they have been, by far, the interactions that have driven my career (and my companies) forward. On the other side, the five to 10 times others have done this for me have been the beginning of great relationships.”
By being the first to give something in a business connection, you not only do the right thing by listening and helping someone, you build up a bank of good will. It may not literally come back to you in a dollar-for-dollar value swap, but in a viral world the benefits can be numerous and priceless. And then there is the practical aspect to this.
“I’ve learned the true secret to networking is gaining the first-mover’s advantage: leverage,” Vaynerchuk writes. “The right kind of leverage in a relationship allows you to extract value over time. How does one acquire that kind of leverage? Be the first person in the relationship to provide value.”