David Burkus: Networking

David Burkus is so freakin’ smart. A friend I have enjoyed cocktails with in Manhattan, brainstormed about book marketing and debated the trials and tribulations of the world of speaking. You may already know David from his books, Under New Management or Friend of a Friend, perhaps you have seen him deliver his infamous Tedx Talk on Ted.com about knowing what your co-workers get paid… All I know is that this conversation was a blast. In Episode 2 I talk to David Burkus who shares his insight into the word “Networking” – It only seemed right, given the title of his latest book, and I have to say, we ended up in a few spots in the conversation that are pretty interesting. Listen in on our conversation and enjoy being a fly on the wall to our discussion. David has a wealth of great content he has produced and you can learn more at www.davidburkus.com.

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The full transcript

Phil Jones: So, here we have another episode of “Words with Friends”, and today I’m with a good friend of mine, David Burkus. I’ll let you know the word in a second, because I like to roll people under the bus a little, and let them know the word that we’re going to be talking about, today. Let’s see if David is as excited as I am about talking about “networking”. David, welcome.

David Burkus: Oh. Thank you so much for having me. So, wait. Is that the word, then? Because you might have tipped your hand and released the word.

Phil Jones: Well, absolutely. That’s the point, right? Here we are. David is a friend of mine that I know, again, from the speaking circuit. Hugely successful in the world of writing some really kick ass books and great content out there, on Ted Talks, TedX talks, kind of blown up to be number 11 or something. Right?

David Burkus: I wish. 1.8 million views. Unfortunately, there’s probably like 25 or 30 that have over, or close to that.

Phil Jones: Well, the beautiful thing about lists, though, is that we could find a list that you’re number 11 on.

David Burkus: All right. That’s probably true. That is …

Phil Jones: The reason I like number 11 is because it’s kind of where I normally land. Just outside top 10. Nearly, but never mind. David, welcome to the show. We’re here to talk about a word. We’re talking about the word, “networking”. Why do you think I’ve picked that word for you?

David Burkus: You know, I have no idea. I have tried to avoid using that word, as often as possible. No. We’ve just written a new book, Friend of a Friend, that is … It’s actually not about networking. It’s about changing the definition of networking, which makes a show like “Words with Friends” the perfect place to discuss what the definition should be.

Phil Jones: So hit me . . . definition in your mind. What is the definition, should be, of networking?

David Burkus: Well, can we start with what the definition is, for most people, is? Everybody who is listening that already heard this and chose to actually listen for two more minutes, instead of just click to Phil’s other videos, or listen to a different podcast, for them, for a lot of people, networking means meeting strangers.

Adding new people to your network, your LinkedIn contacts. In the old days, your Rolodex. In reality, I think what networking should be about, is about having a better understanding of the network that you are already in. What I say often, is that you can’t grow your network. You can’t improve your network. You don’t have a network. You exist inside of a network, and the best thing you can do is figure out where you are in that, where you want to be, and how to navigate it to get there.

I think that, that active navigation through the network is what we should call “networking”. Not the weird little cocktail parties, meeting total strangers and giving elevator pitches to them.

Phil Jones: I turned off all notifications, and then something randomly starts ringing at my end.

David Burkus: Interesting.

Phil Jones: I have no idea what it is. Just some random noise, but this is the beautiful thing about a show like this, is this is real and raw as it could possibly come.

David Burkus: No . . . We’re going to let the audience wonder if I just secretly called you, just to mess with you. Because we were live. Which I did not, but …

Phil Jones: No. I don’t think you’re that smart.

David Burkus: I don’t think I’m that smart, either.

Phil Jones: We talked networking there, and you just gave a great definition about, we all exist inside a network. I think when we look at the social networks as a whole right now, they perhaps illustrate that point more than anything. People saying, are you on LinkedIn? Are you on Facebook?

That in itself is a closed network that has now grown to a point of being so big that its nature of being closed is almost nonexistent. So, your role within that network perhaps becomes a little bit clearer. Is that me getting the interpretations correct?

David Burkus: Yeah. No. I think that’s really true. I’ll give you a really weird stat that we uncovered in the research, which is that the whole sort of six degrees of separation thing that you’ve heard about, is actually true. For the 7.4 billion people on the planet, you are five or six introductions away from anyone else. But if you have a Facebook account, so if you’re one of the two billion that have a Facebook account, you’re three to four introductions away.

The network is, it is closed, but it’s massive. Two billion people. Yet, it’s closer than anything else. Unfortunately though, I think for a lot of us, maybe because it’s easy to track, maybe it makes us feel good. Like we’re winning in a game, etc. We, then, think about the network as, how many friends do I have?

How many connections, if it’s LinkedIn, or how many followers do I have on Twitter? Which doesn’t matter nearly as much as getting a sense for who that you are not already connected to, is connected to people you know, and where this network is sort of headed, and where you need to head. That’s far more important than just trying to run up the count on the number of people you’re connected with.

I know lots of random people in countries I’m never going to visit, that send LinkedIn requests to everyone, and then brag about how they have 15,000 connections. Those people are not doing this properly. It’s the people that know where they are in the network and where they want to go, that are doing it properly.

Phil Jones: Why do you think people chase the number?

David Burkus: I mean, number one reason, I think, is ego. Then a little bit of fear. Ego, meaning it’s easy to track, it’s easy to feel good at it, it’s easy to compare. If I wanted to brag, I could pull up your Twitter followers and compare them to mine, although I probably wouldn’t end up bragging. You would probably then brag to me for the rest of the show.

Probably not a good idea, but it’s easy to do and easy to see progress on. But the other reason is fear. One of the things I think is most interesting in the research, is that online social networks with very few exceptions, tend not to be an effective replacement for face-to-face, in person, connections.

They can be a really powerful supplement to them, but they’re not a replacement for. I think a lot of people are still have that initial sort of fear of being out, face-to-face. This isn’t an introversion, extroversion thing. It’s a, “am I going to say the right thing?” “Am I interesting enough?” All of those sort of questions.

It’s easier to just kind of sit at home and click, instead of actually make those face-to-face connections. But, we see, we thankfully had these tools for long enough now that we can see over the long term, they are not a replacement for actual in person, getting to know real people. Which is why despite the fact that you and I were friends for a super long time, we weren’t really friends till a couple weeks ago, when we finally met in New York.

Phil Jones: Right. And I think that human touch just makes a big, big difference, because all of a sudden you’ve got, you know, well I call it, in my business, some belly time or some eyeball time. Where you’ve been in the same space and you’ve been close enough to each other to be able to touch each other in some way.

David Burkus: Belly time?

Phil Jones: Yeah. You’re close enough, almost-

David Burkus: … Belly time is like, that’s like tummy time.

Phil Jones: Yeah..

David Burkus: … Trying to get them to learn how to crawl.

Phil Jones: There you go. There you go. That’s’ the level of intimacy that we’re looking for as we start to build a network here, maybe.

David Burkus: I would have used a term like FaceTime, although I’m pretty sure Apple owns it, now.

Phil Jones: Well, that’s why we can’t use it. Maybe we should start a new thing. Belly Time. I like it. I like it.

David Burkus: I think my belly’s big enough, too, that we can make this work. You don’t have a belly, so …

Phil Jones: Hey. That’s very, very kind of you.

David Burkus: Isn’t that barre three that you and the wife are doing? I know.

Phil Jones: Yeah. She keeps me on my toes, buddy. Keeps me on my toes. What are all these mistakes that people are making, then? Everybody is chasing quantity. People are sat out there thinking, okay, well what I need to be able to do is I need to network more. I’ve got to grow my network.

These are the messages that get sent down the line. How does this, then, translate into some real life, practical mistakes, and what could people do to avoid it?

David Burkus: Yeah. I mean, the number one mistake, again, is to go back to that grow your network thing. What does that lead you to do? That leads you to either try and run up the count virtually, or try and hit up all of these mixers, which can be good, but in reality we know from a lot of research in this area, people don’t actually mix at mixers.

Researchers have thrown events, cocktail parties, specifically for networking, and then attached RFID tags to everyone’s clothes, and tracked who is talking to who. Even though people go to that, wanting to make new connections, they end up actually just talking to people they already know, catching up or what have you.

What I think is interesting about that is that can be powerful, but if your intent and your mindset is, I need to know more … Get to know new strangers, need to make strangers into friends, etc., you’ve kind of got the wrong mentality. A, those events aren’t going to help you, but B, those new strangers, the likelihood that they’re actually going to be immediately useful to you or you’re going to be immediately useful to them, is really, really small.

A much better approach in the research literature, we refer to it as going after your weak ties or your dormant ties. These are people that you know but you don’t know that well. You talk to them, but maybe you haven’t talked to them in a while, etc. Just like strangers, they are out there somewhere else in the network, interacting with people that you don’t see often.

So, there’s a potential referral there or connection there. They have access to information that you don’t have. They think differently than you do. Right? Versus your close contacts, because everybody kind of thinks alike. And unlike strangers, they’re people you already know. But we just feel weird a lot of times, because oh, I’ve let that relationship lax.

Do you ever get to that point, where you feel like after about six months, well, now I can’t reach out to that person, because it would just get awkward. On the other hand, when someone sends you an email that says, like if I sent you an email tomorrow, it would actually be kind of weird because we just did this. But if I sent you an email yesterday that said, “Hey Phil, I know we haven’t talked in a while, I was thinking about you and I just thought I would check in and see how you’re doing.” Very few people in the world would think that’s weird, sleazy, creepy, awkward, whatever. In fact, they would be flattered that some other human somewhere else on the earth, is thinking about them.

Reaching back out to those weak ties and dormant ties is far more powerful, not only for getting the information, the referrals, the leads, etc. that you need, but also because these people are already your friends. You just haven’t talked to them in a while.

Phil Jones: I love that thought of saying, where is that periphery of a network that you’ve grown over a period of time, where there are people that you have a reason to contact, but they’re close enough to not be complete strangers. You can start conversation with them.

I get a lot of this in my inbox. That exact email that you just kind of crafted, whether it comes in the form of a LinkedIn message or an email. Someone hits at me, and I hit reply, and I respond that things are great. Got married last year, now living in New York City, crushing it in the business, yada, yada, yada. What’s happening with you? Then it’s crickets.

What it makes me think is it makes me think that somebody cast that email out to me, but they probably cast it out to another 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 other contacts, and it wasn’t done with sincerity. What does David Burkus think about that?

David Burkus: You know, what’s funny is I wasn’t expecting you to say crickets. I was expecting you to say that the followup email was some copy paste pitch to invest in my new company, or something like that.

Phil Jones: That happens, too, but yeah.

David Burkus: In either case, the root problem is the same. Again, we have that attempt to use technology, not a social network in this case, but just the ease of Control V, Control P, or maybe they have that backwards, but you know what I mean. The ease of copy and paste, to scale your reconnecting with people. Again, that doesn’t work.

It’s that belly time concept or that one-on-one time concept. Actually replying on that is pretty good. Even better if you can use … What I actually coach a lot of people to do is before you send that email, almost kind of use the digital tools for something that’s authentic. Almost Facebook stalk them. Or LinkedIn stalk them. See what’s going on in your life.

If I hadn’t talked to you in a year, but we were still connected, I could look up on Facebook and see, oh yeah, he is crushing it in the business. He is in New York, now. Well technically, he’s in Hoboken but you know, whatever. I could see those things, and then I could actually tailor a more authentic message.

But it would take time. What’s funny is we’re talking about 90 seconds. Two minutes, maybe, tops. Yet, we’re looking at all of these tools to make it, to make two minutes into 17 seconds to scale. When in reality, one a day is a far better way to scale than 40 all at once, and then nothing for six months.

Phil Jones: I do a lot of business into the world of network marketing, multi-level marketing, whatever you choose to call it. The primary concept of that kind of industry is, you know, you find something that you love, that you adore, then introduce that idea into three people who are close to you, who introduce it into three people who are close to them.

Who introduce it to three people that are close to them, and before you know it, you’re got a giant network that is ambassadors of your product or service or offering. Every time I see a presentation delivered for a room full of people with that kind of concept, one of two things happens. People either go, that sounds easy. I can do that. Or, that sounds like a scam. There’s no way that that could possibly be true. They jump into one of those two camps, real quickly.

But let’s talk about the camp of people that jump into the, that sounds easy. Because it’s real, it’s often the majority. Oh, of course, that makes sense. Just speak to three people I love about a thing that I love, and get them to see if they love it, as much as I love it.

Great. The breakdown, then, often becomes is to say, you know, how do I get into that conversation? We walk away from it. I see it at networking events. People say, just go to a BNI group. Get to meet some like minded people, and what will happen is you will be able to collaborate with all the local business owners. You’ll be able to get some more success.

Go and hang out with the people that have already achieved the success that you’re looking for, ahead of time. Everybody, does that make sense? I can do that. Then, what happens is, when we find ourselves in these environments where conversations need to happen, people find themselves lost for words.

They hide, looking at their smartphones, as opposed to engaging with people. They put it off to tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow. What’s the science behind all that sort of stuff?

David Burkus: Here again is where I think this idea of thinking about the whole network versus running up the count can be really powerful. For the group of people that you sign up and you go, okay. This is awesome. Right? What do we tend to do? In a weird way, network marketing works really similar to the way that sort of insurance sales works.

If you’re doing it wrong, you’re thinking about running up the count and then marketing direct for that count. Then what happens when that count is over? You make a list of 100 people. You tell them about this exciting new business that you just started in. Two or three of them sign up. The other 97 you can’t approach again, anymore.

That’s again because we’re looking at the count versus the network. What I think is, you reach back out to those weak ties, but you almost … Not to use sort of Magic Words or Exactly What to Say. You almost don’t sell to that group. Instead, you ask a question like, hey, who do you know in (blank), with (blank) being what the target market to sign up for that opportunity would be. Right?

Let’s say you’re joining a company that’s into health and fitness, and wellness. You would say, you wouldn’t just contact all of these weak ties and then go, I just signed up for this amazing company, this amazing opportunity. You would go, “Hey, who do you know that cares about health and nutrition?” “Who do you know that works in fitness?” “Who do you know that’s watching these things?”

You’re asking not for that person to sign up, but just asking this broad question. Who do you know that is, would potentially be interested in that? Then, what I love about the “who do you know in (blank)”, is it’s not targeting a specific person and begging for a specific introduction. Every introduction is actually a referral, a recommendation.

Putting my name on you, if you refer me to you, etc. But when you say who do you know in (blank), you give an openness to that question, and you encourage people to answer only with people that they would feel comfortable introducing you to. If Phil asks Dave, “Who do you know in investing?” And I know Warren Buffet but I don’t trust Phil, I’ll tell you that I know this guy who works at Edward Jones. Because I’m comfortable introducing you to that guy. Right?

This “who do you know in (blank)” question is a way better question to start with, after you’ve rewarmed that contact, then to run into your traditional pitch. Again, it’s that difference between just creating a list and thinking a network is a list of people you know, versus thinking a network is something you’re in, and there are potential first and second and third degree connections that are way more valuable than your close contacts or close friends.

It’s not called friendship marketing. It’s called network marketing, for a reason.

Phil Jones: Okay. So, I like this thing what you’re saying here, is let’s identify who some of the people are, who are in your network that are within arm’s reach but not necessarily right up in your face. What we can do is we can reach out to them and say, what’s new with you? We can start to be able to fire up a conversation.

Then, we can ask the “who do you know in (blank)”, question. I feel like there’s a whole gap … That needs to happen, between those two things, and if we don’t explore that opportunity, we’re going to send an army of people sending emails out to people saying, what’s up withy you? What’s new?

They come back and say, hey. All’s good here, just starting a new job. They respond by saying, “who do you know . . ?”

David Burkus: I think this isn’t something that you scale and you do 100 all at once. I think I, what I try and do is literally, one to two weak tie reconnections a week. If you’re trying to launch something, you might want to scale by moving that to two or three a day. Any more than maybe let’s say five per day, and you’re not going to be able to keep up with that conversation.

The trick, if it is a trick, is to have an authentic connection. When that conversation is going back and forth and now you’re able to talk about that new thing that you’re launching, that’s when you go into the, again, “who do you know in (blank)”. What I think is interesting is a lot of people are so conditioned to wait for that, the weak tie, we’re so conditioned to expect that sales pitch, that copy/paste thing right off the bat, that as soon as you actually make an authentic human reply, hey, that’s so awesome that you moved to New York. Have you found all 57 Ray’s original pizzas, yet?

When you can have some real conversation about certain stuff and then they finally ask, you know I forgot to ask, what’s going on with you? Then the invitation is there. Again, then you’re not launching into the sales pitch. You’re launching into an ask for help, by helping you explore who’s at the fringes of your network.

Phil Jones: Got you. What we’re looking at being able to do is to create context after that initial discussion, first. It’s almost to create a problem worth fixing, through conversation, is that we find ourselves that we open up a warm connection. We start to get them back into conversation.

We have to care about them. Right? We can’t just say, “Hey, look. This is somebody that I’m now working.” “This is somebody I’ve been meaning to catch up with.” What we’re then going to do is frame something up that is like a problem that exists in our world, or what’s new with us, but to create some circumstance, some situation, some context to what’s going on in our world.

Then, represent them potentially with a puzzle or a problem that we’re looking to be able to solve. Then ask the question, “who do you know in (blank)?”

David Burkus: Right. No. Precisely. I think that workflow, again, it’s far higher ROI. It’s hard to scale it and do 100 a day, but five a day, four to five a day, for a month, leads you to this whole idea of who is one or two introductions away.

The other thing is, again, you’re being friendly. Your reestablishing trust in that relationship, puts you, and you’re not launching into an immediate sales pitch with that person, puts you at a point where that person is an advocate for you, even moving forward.

Even if they say, you know what? I don’t know anybody. They remember that Phil is doing this new thing. Now as I go through conversations, for the next couple of weeks, it’s not that sticky, but it is far sticker than that moment. They now can encounter that, and when they’re in a conversation where somebody is sort of relevant, you come back to mind.

Not because they just tried to end the conversation quickly, because you were doing that copy/paste thing, but because you reestablished trust. You rebuilt . . .the fancy term in sales is rapport. But I like to think of it again as, you just won back an old friend.

Phil Jones: You just got back into a position of being front of mind. You were somewhere towards the back, and now that you’re just coming to the foresight. There’s a formula that I, seem to be true. I talk about it in Exactly How to Sell. It’s a formula called 10, 5, 2, because that’s the basis of the ratio that appears.

I’m seeing some direct comparisons to it, in what you’re talking about here, in that the way 10, 5, 2 works is that if you have a conversation with 10 people who fit your target market, or in some way that kind of warm contact tie, and you share with them about some of the context or circumstance of what it is that you’re looking for, five of those people will have some form of genuine need or awareness towards it.

Two of those people will probably look on to be able to go and help. What I see more people are looking to do, is to try and find the five to convert to the two, but don’t have the conversation with the 10, first. Then, scale up the pitches to the five. You’ve got to go through the conversations with the 10, to get to the five, to be able to find the two, is what I found through time.

Then the magic in that is the five who aren’t the right five within the 10, go on to help you be able to find some people in your next 10, 5, 2.

David Burkus: Right. This is actually where we get scale. We don’t get scale from the outreach, we get scale because … I would call it the 10, 5, 2 to 3, 2. Right? The 2 to 3 being every, for the five people that go, oh yeah. I know. I would love to help. I know this person, I know this … In my experience, they actually give you two to three names. Not just one name.

So you’ve gone from 10 down to five, but then you’re back at 10-15, and they’re better qualified, is your two is probably not even two. It’s probably four or five. That’s how you scale. The unfortunate thing what you’re talking about is more like pitch all 10 like they’re the five, and then get one, but then because you’re doing 100 a day you’re getting one a day and you’re thinking, this is working. It is, till it’s not. Then you’ve got a huge problem.

Phil Jones: That’s, again, I agree, where you get it wrong. That everything is a start line and a finish line, whereas what you and I are talking about is saying, how do we create a perpetual organic self-feeding cycle? This is actually, I never run out of people to talk to, because every time I get something that’s not quite right, it leads me towards something else. Or it leads me towards something else, which leads me towards something else, which creates movement.

David Burkus: Exactly right. The “who do you know in (blank)” does that. It keeps sort of filling that on the front end. To go specific to network marketing, we know this is important. Unfortunately, where a lot of people put this “who do you know in (blank)”, is after the sale.

You do 10, 5, 2, and then just those two you ask for who else. Meanwhile, those 2 just said yes, so they are immediately in. To use Joey Coleman’s term, they’re now in the buyer’s remorse phase, because they . . . they’re less likely to want to refer you.

Phil Jones: The least likely point in time, for anybody, every, to refer anybody, is at the point where they have been brave enough to say, yes, but I haven’t got any personal experience in the product or service.

David Burkus: Precisely. Precisely. So, the number you’re going to run out of those numbers really quickly, because they all shrink down instead of trying to grow that as much as possible with your initial 10 and then trickle down. You’ll never run out of that. As long as the approach is, and this is what’s weird. The approach isn’t, who do I already know that could buy from me? Or that I could recruit.

The approach is, who do I know that could help me? The sheer answer to that question is a much bigger number, than the answer people that are in your space, that want to buy from you.

Phil Jones: We’ve seen some great examples of this in the world, when it comes to being, people being put under pressure. Say, for like a fundraising exercise. All of a sudden it’s like, they put on you to say, okay. This is a great cause I care massively about. We’re going to try and raise $50,000 dollars towards achieving X.

We immediately jump towards thinking, who do I know that can help? The conversation starts to flow far more freely. Why is it that we can have more free flowing conversations, when what we’re looking to be able to do is to help a cause that’s bigger than ourselves, then when we feel like we are the benefactor of that help.

David Burkus: Well, I think two things. I think number one, it’s because we think that the cause is bigger than ourselves and then the value that we’re providing to a potential client is not a cause bigger than ourselves. That’s a confidence problem. I’m not entirely sure how to solve that, other than to suggest that maybe you need to spend a little bit more time internalizing the fact that you’re actually, you’re helping people buy, promoting this cause.

I think again, the second is that we naturally, because that’s seen as, and so many of us have flirted in sales a little bit, and played around with it, and then feel weird about it, that … Or, it was like the only people that replied when we graduated university and actually wanted to recruit us. We went to the initial interviews.

A lot of us have this weird, bad taste in our mouth about it. When it’s a transaction we feel weird, and when it’s just seen as helping, and that’s again, why I love to sort of reframe this whole thing. You are not asking anyone to buy from you. You are asking the people that you know to help you, in the service of helping, who do you know in health and fitness, for example. Because I have something that will help their health and fitness business. Right?

That’s in the service of this bigger cause. I mean, again, I don’t know what to tell you on the deep down psychological level. One of the things I love and think about often is Daniel Pink’s prior book, To Sell is Human, which was all about this idea that 2 out of 10 people say they’re in sales, but the truth is, 10 out of 10 people are actually in sales.

We just have found a way to convince ourselves that we’re not, because we’re in the service of something greater than ourselves. Go find that, and internalize it. Then I think it takes care of itself.

Phil Jones: Where are some examples that you can refer to, where this content of yours, of friend of a friend and the way we’re talking about reframing networking today, has worked? Can you give me some evidence to prove that this isn’t just a good idea.

David Burkus: Yeah, I mean, one of my favorite examples unfortunately, is from the world more of sort of job hopping, than selling, but it’s a fascinating story that I got to write about in the book of Michelle . . . Doyle who is somebody who, a brilliant thinker, again, because it’s less about who I know, and more about asking the network, who do you know [inaudible 00:25:12].

The top line on Michelle’s story, she was trained as an accountant. She grew up in a family that loved football, of all things. She obviously didn’t play, but all of her older brothers did. Her dad assumed that one day I’m going to see a kid make it into the NFL. Michelle obviously didn’t play. She studied accounting, she gradually transitioned actually into IT, taking care of big data, etc., and became a Chief Information Officer. But still loved football, still ran a fantasy football league, etc. One day she’s on the NFL website and she sees this job posting for this thing, VP of Information Technology.

She’s reading the description and she’s like, well, they need a CIO. I don’t know anyone at the NFL, but they’re writing this job posting wrong. What they need is a CIO. That’s kind of the end of it for her, until other people start to email her and go, “Hey, I read this and it sounds like you.”

Then of course, the first couple times, she’s replying, “Well yeah, but what they don’t need is a VP of IT. They need somebody higher level.” After the third or fourth, she’s like, all right. Maybe there is something here. But again, it’s not who do I know that’s in the NFL. It’s, I need to explore the fringes of my network.

She starts reaching back out to a lot of weak ties. One of whom used to work with her at a prior company. Actually, a Disney company, which I think is just kind of cool. But now is working for a head hunting firm. His firm’s not handling it, but he knows the firm that is. So he makes that introduction. We’re at a weak tie, we’re at one, slash two degrees of separation to the people that are actually handling the job posting, inside the NFL.

Now, because we’re in that warm referral marketing, the “who do you know in (blank)”, oh, well I know the search firm that’s handling this. Let me introduce you. Then the search firm recommends you to them. She’s now in the board room with all of the main senior leaders in the NFL, and she’s managed to convince them, you don’t need a VP of IT. You need a CIO. You need me.

They make her the offer, and on the day that she is given the offer, she is the highest, ranking in highest paid female executive at the NFL. What I most love about this story is she remains her father’s only child that made it into the NFL.

Phil Jones: Love it.

David Burkus: The lesson isn’t the sort of, the oh, she was great at this and convinced them, and was persuasive. The lesson is, she didn’t just think, oh, I don’t know one who works in this. She thought, there is a path, somewhere, to where I need to get to. Rather than just LinkedIn stalk and see who works at the NFL and then, how many connections away I am, and beg for introductions.

She took an open posture and started asking, hey, “who do you know in blank?” Who do you know that works in search? Who do you know that works in the NFL? Who do you know that works in sports? Just trying to figure out where her network could lead her, to actually get that connection.

Phil Jones: I love this kind of “explore the fringes of my network”, phrase. There’s so much power in that. I’m saying it right now, just thinking about that very point. Looking at the quality of people that exist within the fringes of my network. I haven’t taken a moment to be able to explore. I’m always exploring the fringes of my network. But when I think about “explore the fringes of my network”, I’m scratching the surface of it.

The potential is limitless.

David Burkus: No. I think it absolutely is. Especially, again, that’s the beauty of a phrase like, “who do you know in (blank)”, is it’s multiple. It’s open-ended, so you can generate a lot of stuff. You ask it from a lot of different people, those weak ties and dormant ties that people that are somewhere else in the larger network we’re all a part of. Their close contacts, their friends, are people you can’t even see because they’re further away from you.

Your close friends, I mean, the … We all know, for example, we’re in a couple different groups together, online. We interact whenever we’re in the same city, etc. But we all know each other and we all know that we know each other. It’s not a good place to ask for introductions and what have you, but to ask that group, “Hey. Who do yo know in finance, because I’m going after this realm”.

Those people are, they’re not your wife, your close friends, your business partners. They’re not people that all know who you are. They are people who are somewhere else in the network, so their close friends are different from you. That makes the list, like you said, potentially endless, so long as you keep asking the question.

Phil Jones: Taking that example, you and I both speak for a living, outside of some of the other things that we do. If you had asked the question within that closed community, “Who do you know that might be looking for a speaker who talks on, X, Y, or Z”, that network’s going to shut down and think, well, I’m not going to introduce you to anybody that potentially could have made …Now I’m not saying that’s going to be all of the people, all of the time.

But it certainly is a consideration of some. Whereas if you were to say, in your mind that you knew that you had a great offering towards financial services, and that you would drop a different question into that group that says, “Hey, who do you know in senior positions within the financial services industry?” I’m pretty sure the exactly same network would deliver a demonstrably different result.

David Burkus: Right. Again, it’s because you’re, I mean, to go back to our point earlier in our example with sales and network marketing, it’s because you’re not looking for this transaction immediately. There’s not even a transaction on the table. You’re just exploring.

Everybody wants to help somebody who’s just sort of exploring, trying to figure it out. My favorite thing to ask, if I’m talking about our group in particular, but also just in general, is not just the “Who do you know in (blank)”, but the, “Who do you know in (blank)? I’m working on a project and I would like to learn more about this industry, or this sector, or this city” Or whatever it is.
Again, it’s again, not a salesey thing of “who do you know in (blank)”, because I need clients. It’s, I’m trying to learn a bit more about this. I’m trying to learn. Phil, for you, it would be like, I’m trying to learn how Exactly What to Say, can actually translate into financial services. Who do we know in that?

Or you, I think you and I even had a conversation about the pharmaceutical industry. I started out selling in pharma, and familiar with terms like “carrying the bag”. Right? Those kind of industry terms that if you’re saying, “Hey, who do you know that books speakers in the pharmaceutical industry”, A, I don’t want to help you, but B, I can’t as much as I can say, well, let me talk about all of this, and then in the course of that conversation names start popping up. That information and that, those referrals, are limitless, so long as you keep asking that question.

The moment you sort of shift to, all right. Let’s close this deal right away. You’re not in exploratory mode. Now you start that funnel to use that term, instead of getting it as full as possible, first.

Phil Jones: And there’s proof in that, as well. I think everybody over a certain age knows that if you are reaching out looking to be able to explore possibilities, that we’re almost going on little micro dates. We’re trying to be able to feel each other out. See if there’s some form of mutual benefit, here.

Other people don’t expect that communication or conversation to be something that is all heart and no purpose to it. I think the minute that somebody accepts that exchange of communication, they’re okay with the fact that there might be commercial success somewhere, later down the tracks, in there. They just don’t want to feel like you’ve asked for something inappropriate on the first date.

David Burkus: To take it a little bit further, they are … Not only are they okay with it, because they’re aware of it. They’re actually much more willing to be open to it, because the manner in which you are doing it suggests that what you’re looking for is the key word that you said earlier, was mutually beneficial. You’re looking for a win/win. You’re looking for some exchange of value. Not just this sort of sell somebody on something that they didn’t want, but bought, because a friend of yours referred them to you.

When you take this open posture and this more exploratory nature, they know that there’s potentially a transaction down the road, but they also know that they can trust that that transaction will be a win/win, because you won’t pitch it unless it is. Why do I know that? Because you haven’t pitched it, yet.

Phil Jones: Just to segue in different direction, is one of the things I’m loving about what I’m hearing here, is that you don’t need a networking event or a platform for social networking, to network in the way that we are talking about, here. Networking can just be something that you can start to decide to do, like now. You could hang up on this interview right now-

David Burkus: … Please don’t. We’re not done, yet.

Phil Jones: Oh, please do. Please do, but come back in and let us know how you got on.

David Burkus: There you go. Bookmark it, and come back. Yeah.

Phil Jones: Yeah. To explore the fringes of your network is something that you can start doing instantly. Something that you can do within those pockets or windows of time that occur in your day that currently go to the win whilst you’re traveling or between meetings, or waiting for something to start, etc.

That you can almost cast your net, providing you don’t do it with so much abundance and lack of care that it doesn’t need permission. If somebody isn’t in the world of, say, they owned a business and they’re looking for more new clients, or they’re on the job hunt for something new. Somebody is just somebody who is happy and content in their life, that has been petrified about the idea of networking events and sees networking as a thing that weird people do, what can they do to use some of these principles and concepts?

Just to be able to further their life in some way. Not necessarily their final position, but to kind of reengage?

David Burkus: Again, this is why I love that shift in the definition. The definition of networking is not, head to the event. The definition is, understand the network you’re already in. Between weak ties and dormant ties, between exploring the fringes, this is what I actually love about the six degrees of separation studies.

It’s not the six degrees of separation and everybody could get an interview with the President. At any given time, only about half of the country wants to talk to the President. Or, less. It’s not about that, and who you’re connected to. It’s about, if you think that 7.4 billion people are connected by five introductions, how many hundreds of millions are one or two away?

You don’t need to go to that sort of speed dating for professionals, mixer type thing, and then hope and pray that there is a perfect person there. If you authentically reach back out to weak ties, if you’re asking the who you know in blank question, which can be done from your home. You don’t go to the event, you just sort of do it from your home.

If you’re joining . . . the other thing I encourage people to do, is jump into what is known as shared activities. These are events that draw people from a diverse set together. The purpose of the event is not unstructured, just face-to-face time. It’s to do something else. Volunteer for a charity. Run a 5k together and have a running club that trains for 12 weeks, ahead of time. For me, it’s actually Brazilian jiu jitsu, which is super esoteric, but it draws a bunch of diverse people.

There’s a reason for being there, beyond networking. There’s a lot of research that suggests that you end up talking to people you wouldn’t talk to in that same event, if there were a drink everyone’s hand and you were in a hotel ballroom. You end up having a deeper connection, because you explore more than just professional relationships. You end up having a longer lasting connection.

Reaching back out for weak ties, exploring the fringes of our network, we’ve already talked about those. Then the third I would tell people is, just pick one or two shared activities that you’re engaging in every month. Go after those and let your network grow organically in that capacity. You would be amazed at the diversity of people that you actually get connected to, who then are a great sort of target for “who do you know in (blank)” question, to just keep exploring.

Phil Jones: I love that, too. You find that safe space, right? That mutual agreeable topic to say, well, whatever happens if you run out of things to talk about, we can talk about this thing and we both happen to already have a shared committed interest in that thing. That creates almost some structure and safety to conversation.

David Burkus: The other thing that happens is it encourages people to leave their scripts at the door. Their scripts. There is some great, our mutual friend Clay Eber has this perfect thing about, the script of “How do you answer the, what do you do, question?” But in shared activities, people don’t really ask the what do you do question, first.

They get to know each other in a bunch of different angles, first. Which is better, because the likelihood that if I ask you what you do, and you ask me and we find something that’s a perfect match, the likelihood that that’s going to happen is really small. But if we’re exploring lots of different areas because we both checked our scripts at the door, then there’s a much higher percentage we’re going to find a thing to connect about.

It might be that we both love some novel series or some random show on Netflix, or whatever it is. We’ll find something much more likely than if we’re just trading our scripts and seeing if there’s a match.

Phil Jones: I love that. I think it’s fun, as well. It removes all the pressure.

David Burkus: It’s also part of being a decent human being, which is why I really like it. The reason the book is called Friend of a Friend, for example, is that we already know how to do all of this stuff with our friends, our personal connections. We know not to keep it transactional. We know to explore sort of, the totality.

We know to do that thing that, oh. You know Derrick? How do I … We do all of that naturally, with friends. Then we shift over to professional and it’s all about systems and scripts and weird, it just gets uncomfortable and inhuman. Then we worry that we feel authentic and sleazy, and all this other stuff. When in reality, if we just take it back to treating professional contacts the way we would treat friends, there’s a whole lot of value that gets unlocked just by doing that.

Phil Jones: I think there’s another limiting factor in that. I just want to address, from a sales point of view, almost. You need to approach this with an abundance mindset. You need to approach this with the viewpoint of it’s not … That was a prospect that I was trying to network with, with the purpose of achieving X, Y, or Z outcome.

It’s a process of exploration that I’m doing it because I like to be able to do it. I believe that somewhere in amongst that activity we will find the goals, but I have no idea who the gold is, what the gold is, etc. I just have the belief of saying, in and amongst this stuff there’s a load of people that aren’t right to work with. A load of people I’m not right to work with. A load of people who are fun to hang out with, a load of people that I don’t want to talk to again.

But I’m going to do the activity with the abundance to know that good is in there, but I’m not going to go home and beat myself up and say, I failed to convert or create opportunity with that person.
Or that person has the keys to my kingdom. What I’m now going to do is harass them into giving me what I want.

David Burkus: The favorite thing that happened to me during the week of launch, and you know how launch of book, you’re sending lots of emails to your lists, and on social, and whatever. I got this email back from this guy, who will remain nameless. But who ironically worked in financial services, and sold products.

He actually told me, he goes, I’m not interested in your book because I didn’t see anything in the preview that tells me how to convert an introduction into a sale. With online and this and that and whatever, I feel like if you can’t do it immediately, if you can’t convert a certain percentage immediately, there’s no point.

I wrote him back and said, buddy, you missed it. I’ll go ahead and take you off the list. Don’t even bother to unsubscribe. You missed it. You’re right. This book can’t help you. But if you’re interested in understanding the network that’s around you, which then makes you genuinely interested in every human you meet because you’re just, again, treating everybody like a friend and trying to figure out who’s connected to who, and how, then there’s that abundance mentality. A couple people in that group you’re going to be able to help, and then you help them and then they’re excited.

It’s a much different mentality than just, the 10, 3, 2, this what we’re missing there is exponential. What I love about it is this idea that it’s always there and you’re always trying to help people. It’s that abundance thing, versus the funnel.

Somewhere in some sales curriculum from the 1960’s we were taught that if you knock on 100 doors, two people will say yes and then, and it just, yeah, it works. But it’s painful.

Phil Jones: Stupid. I mean, oh. I hate this “every no is one step closer to a yes”. Because it’s the most nonsensical strategy, ever. Go get punched in the face 99 times to get a hug, once. There’s no fun.

David Burkus: I was launched in the Conor McGregor/Floyd Mayweather fight waiting for Conor to finally turn all those jabs to the face into a knockout punch. It didn’t happen. The proof of concept, that no . . . sometimes you’re just getting jabbed in the face.

Phil Jones: Right. When we are playing in a world where confidence is key, what we want to have is the ability to have free flowing confident conversations, without necessarily having a pre-agreed agenda. The byproduct of doing good things with good people happens to be good business.

Where and when it makes sense. Not with all on the people, all the time.

David Burkus: Totally. Totally.

Phil Jones: I’ve got three more questions for you, my friend.

David Burkus: Okay. Three is a very precise number.

Phil Jones: That’s my polite way of saying that we’re going to be finishing, soon.

David Burkus: So it’s three questions, and it’s a lightning round. Got you.

Phil Jones: Not necessarily lightning round, but the first question is, is this is “Words with Friends”. I love words. Everybody in this Season 2 gets the same question. The question is, if a word was used to describe you by others that made you feel happy, content, joyful, in some way, what would that word be? Ideal word that you would overhear in conversations, somebody using to describe you.

David Burkus: Probably, “thinker”, believe it or not. I mean, I make money with ideas. That’s’ writing, but that’s also speaking. That’s doing lots of other stuff. My goal really is to translate a lot of really good, academic, science-based research, to something that we put handles on and we turn it into a tool and make it usable.

I think the word that often gets referred to in that is probably something like “thinker”. That would-

Phil Jones: … And you like that word? That’s the word that you would be happy to hear?

David Burkus: I prefer to have more words, but if I had to pick one, let’s go with that one.

Phil Jones: One. I give you one. Next question in the three that I have for you, is if you had a question you wanted to ask me about this subject, something you want to do to reverse the interview around and throw something in my direction, what would that be?

David Burkus: I think to some extent we already kind of got there with this idea of the 10, 3, 2, and where, if we’re doing … I was actually planning on kind of pitching this idea of, well, how do you feel in that whole sort of, what is the law of large numbers or law of averages? That that curriculum. I was ready to sort of throw that on you and go, what do you think, sales guy? You were ready to just throw it on the ground with me.

We kind of already did it.

Phil Jones: Another thing into it that doesn’t normally come out into these kind of interviews-

David Burkus: … I got more. This is perfect.

Phil Jones: Is a principle that I have on prospecting, where I talk to audiences about how they can be devilishly productive in their prospecting activity. It’s about identifying the user groups. I think it can play quite nicely into this exploring the fringes of your network, etc. The reason I call it devilishly productive is I don’t believe anybody can prospect any more than 18 people at one time.

I think if you’re got 18 people on the spin in some way that you’re looking to have meaningful, ongoing communication with, towards exploring possibilities and outcomes, that’s enough. More than that, than what you are, as a marketer, and you’re wishing, hoping, and praying. But 18 sets of conversation tracks, you can probably explore.

I found that that’s been the magic number, but I break 18 to 3 groups of 6. That’s why I call it devilishly productive, because it’s 6, 6, 6.

David Burkus: I like it. I like it.

Phil Jones: The model is thus, that you should always have six people that you’re looking to work the conversation on, that are perhaps your low hanging fruit. In a speaking business, that may well be, inbound inquiries, or people that you’ve worked with in the past that you have recurring dates on, where you’re looking to be able to do is to get the next gig closed, the next gig closed, the next gig closed.

Your lower hanging fruit, easy, quick transacting business. The second group of six that you are looking to be able to work, is your core business, i.e., your many people would call it your target market. The group of people that you’re looking to explore. Say, for example, I said I wanted to do more with pharmaceutical, like what we talked about in this chat, earlier on.

Then what I might do is I have six heads of events within the pharmaceutical space, or VPs of sales, or six leaders within pharmaceutical space that I’m progressing conversations with about their next set of events, or how I might be able to help. Then my top six is my dream clients. So this is like if today was my birthday and I landed that gig, that would make all of my dreams come true. I could probably fly to my next event without the airplane. That kind of hallelujah type moment.

By working six individual people, within each of those categories, what it allows me to do is to explore conversation, through to a point of decision. But if I run out of next steps for that person, well, they drop off the list and I bring somebody else into play.

All I’m ever doing is working groups of six people, through very much this exploration of, fringes of networks. It kind of lays across quite nicely, and it means that I can get exponential reach. I can get huge compounding of big numbers. But only ever working with something that feels tangible and manageable at any one period of time.

It may well be that I have reached out to a few hundred people through the year. But I’ve never focused on more than 18.

David Burkus: Yeah. I like that. It goes back to our idea that you don’t scale by spamming 100 people all at once, with “Hi, I haven’t talked to you in a while. How you doing?” You get it by having authentic conversations and then working the, “who do you know in (blank)”, and that’s how you scale.

Phil Jones: Well, yeah. You sent that email to 100 people, saying, “I haven’t seen you in a while. What’s up?” You get 100 responses. You’re in a mess.

David Burkus: Yeah. Totally. Totally. I like, because I said 3 to 5 a day, or 4 to 5 a day. That’s’ pretty close to 18. I like that.

Phil Jones: Right. Similar kind of thing. I guess I use it like we both like to use models sometimes just so other people can see it. But if 6 was 7, 6 was 5, 6 was 9, depends on people’s time and availability. But I found 18 works for many, and they can see it. They like it, and they like the movement of coming on and off the list.

David Burkus: Yeah. I like it.

Phil Jones: Final question I guess, is how can people find out more about you? What might they find, if they come looking?

David Burkus: Probably the single best place would be DavidBurkus.com. It’s B-U-R-K-U-S, dot com. It’s a weird last name, I know. Really, that’s the best place for me, but the absolute best place is to go through my friend Phil, who’s, if you’re watching this or listening to this, I’m your friend of a friend. Go through him.

Go to the show notes for the podcast. Click down in this little description. He already knows how to get in touch, so you already, I’m already a friend of a friend to everybody who’s listening. It’s pretty easy to do.

Phil Jones: There you go. There you go. Be happy to recommend and share some things about what you do. If people want to get closer to David Burkus in some way, I might happen to have cell phone number and a email address that could open that door, if I think that you might be credible.

David Burkus: See? There you go.

Phil Jones: David, thanks for being on the show. Thanks for being a friend. Thanks for taking some time to be able to talk to me and the audience today, about the word networking.

David Burkus: Thank you so much for having me.

Season 1

Season 2

Your host:
Phil M Jones

Phil M Jones has made it his life’s work to demystify the sales process, reframe what it means to “sell,” and help his audiences to learn new skills that empower confdence, overcome fears and instantaneously impact their results.