Ep. 46: How Networking Can Help You Build and Grow Your Business

Leverage your network to grow your business.

Having a solid network can help you meet the right people that will help you grow your business. Just ask Robbie Samuels, a networking expert who got his first few clients by tapping into his network. Robbie shares all his networking secrets so you can know how to get the most out of any networking event and break away from the transactional feeling that comes with it. “I believe that our network is an untapped resource,” he says. “And if we're trying to find people for our programs and to pilot new things – 80 percent of the people that we need to sell to or connect with, we already know. It's a matter of reaching out to that network.”Learn what a successful networking event looks like and what you should be doing before and after to ensure that you’re taking advantage of everything that networking has to offer.

In this episode you’ll hear:

(02:00) Why networking can be uncomfortable and how to overcome that by reframing your mindset.

(04:28) Bagel vs Croissant: How body language can make networking easier.

(06:41) How to prepare for a networking event.

(07:55) How committing can help you stand out.

(08:52) How to use your network to grow your business.


1 - Reframe your mindset. Instead of thinking of networking as something that’s transactional, think of what you bring to the table. Robbie says that if you’re looking for clients, a way to reframe your mindset is to remember that you’re trying to help people and if you avoid telling people about your business, then you’re limiting your impact.

2 - Be prepared. Before going to a networking event, make sure you know what you're trying to achieve and who you're hoping to talk to. And write a draft of your follow up email, it’ll make following up on the intentions you set easier.

3 - Body language is important. When you’re at networking events try to look for the croissants – groups of people that leave an opening for someone else to join in. And make sure you leave room for other people to come into the groups you’re in too.

4 - Commit to an event. If you’re new to entrepreneurship and are trying to build a network of business savvy people, try consistently going to a networking event. This will help you be more memorable to the organizers and you’ll feel less like a newcomer in that space.

5 - Categorize your network. After you’ve connected with a few people, pull up the list of people you’ve networked with and ask yourself two questions: would they remember my name and would I be happy to hear from them out of the blue? If the answer is yes to both questions, then you rank them out of three for these three categories: how they rate their connection to you, their influence on this topic, and their interest in this topic. If someone scores below a 4 out of 9, then they might not be worth reaching out to.

6 - Make sure to keep following up with your network – even when you don’t need them. Robbies says that your network is like an insurance policy – you’re paying for it in the hopes that you don’t end up using it. And don’t forget to give back to your network, too.

Episode Transcript


Andrea Marquez: Whatever stage you're at in your business journey, whether you're about to start or already have some entrepreneurial experience, you'll want, and probably need, a solid network to rely on. But how do you build that? Networking events can be awkward. Breaking into groups of people who look like age-old friends is hard. No one wants to interrupt a conversation, but hovering in the background feels almost as bad. If you've ever ended a networking event back to the wall, alone, with no new contacts, it's tempting to write the whole process off and never try it again.But don't worry, there's hope.

I am Andrea Marquez, and This Is Small Business, a podcast brought to you by Amazon. Today we'll be talking about networking, why it's important, and how to do it well.


Robbie Samuels: I believe that our network is an untapped resource, and if we're trying to find people for our programs and to pilot new things, 80% of the people that we need to sell to or connect with, we already know it's a matter of reaching out to that network.


Andrea Marquez: That's Robbie Samuels. He's recognized as a networking expert by NPR, Forbes, and Harvard Business Review, among others.


Robbie Samuels: So it's about going and discovering who's on your LinkedIn, or maybe your phone contacts, or whatever list you might have near you and figuring out who to prioritize reaching out to, and then actually reaching out to them. They already know you, they trust you. They don't need to see it on your website. My first programs in 2020, I think I sold 30 people into a program with no mention of it on my website. So that's where I think networking is so key, because that trust is already built in.


Andrea Marquez: Going into my career, I've seen how networking correctly can change your life. And even though I still struggled a bit with networking before COVID, I at least felt like I had a grasp on it. But now it's been very difficult for me to get back into it. So before we start talking about how you can network successfully, I think it's important to understand why we find it so uncomfortable and scary.


Robbie Samuels: There was actually a study by Harvard and a few other schools that looked into this. And they really found that people felt that networking makes people feel dirty and icky. And I think it's because most people think of networking as transactional.  

So the people in the study who didn't feel that networking was icky, were the more senior executives in a company. Because when they go into a room, they're not going into a room looking for anything. They have things to offer. So they have a budget, they have advice, they have connections, they can make introductions. And so they feel really good about that. And that's the reframe. The reframe is to think about what you bring.

So if you think, “Okay, here's all the experience that I bring, this is the enthusiasm that I have, and if it's a good fit, it's going to be fantastic for this organization as well.” And if you walk into a room with that as opposed to, “All right, I'm looking for a job,” then you make a connection. And as someone who's had to hire people, I can tell you if I you and we hit it off and you submit a qualified resume and you follow through with all the steps that we ask in the hiring process, you've just saved me a huge headache.

And so it is a gift. And so I just think that we have to reframe. It's not that we're looking for clients, it's that we have something of value that would help people. And if we don't tell people, well, then we're limiting our impact in the world. We do this work because we believe we can help people. But if we're not willing to talk about our services, if we're shy about it, then there are people who need us who don't know. They don't even know this is a skill that's out there that can help them. So it's about really reframing what you're walking into the room, and not just that you need something, but that you're there to offer something of real value. Without that, we're all stuck feeling transactional and icky about the experience of networking.


Andrea Marquez: I love the idea of reframing your thought process. Instead of feeling like the interaction is transactional, think about what you offer to the people you want to talk to. As Robbie mentioned, even if you're looking for a job, you still bring something to the table. Don't shy away from talking about your services and yourself. So step one to making networking easier: Reframe your mindset to think about what you have to offer. And another way that can help you get approached by people is body language.


Robbie Samuels: So if you picture walking into a networking event, people are standing in those tight clusters, those shoulder- to- shoulder huddles that are impossible to break into. If you have someone in that group turn their body open a bit and make space for others to join, now it goes from being a closed bagel to being more of a croissant.

And so I teach people how to stand so that they're more approachable. And this is a physical reminder of why you went to the event in the first place. You go to these events to meet people, so don't go there and then stand in the corner with your arms crossed. Because someone like me, who's very outgoing and talks with my hands, is going to stand in front of you and you're going to feel locked there. But also look at the room and see how people are standing and go for the natural openings.  

So look for where people are leaving space, and then make sure you do the same. If I train 8 to 10 people out of a room of a hundred, the whole experience of the room will change. Because if you feel welcomed into a room, you're more likely to welcome others. If your first attempts to join a conversation, you feel rebuffed, well, you're probably going to put your walls up and then it's going to be harder for others to approach you as well. So that ripple effect can be really positive if we train folks to do this.

So it's like if you walk into a room and you don't see any openings, the next thing to do is to get in line, get in line for food, and get in line for a drink. It's a natural space where people aren't usually standing with all their besties. Talk about the food and the buffet line. Talk about the drink you're about to order. Ask people's opinion about things.


Andrea Marquez: Body language is really important. At some networking events, I forced myself into those bagels and made some great connections, but doing that isn't always easy. It's intimidating when you can tell that the people talking already know each other. I recently went to a networking event where I decided to stick to being a wallflower. I ended up talking to another wallflower and nothing really came out of it. We just ended up being wallflowers together. But if I knew about the croissants versus bagel strategy, I might've tried looking for the croissants.

So far we've discussed what you can do to make networking a little easier. So now let's take a few steps back and talk about what you can do to prepare yourself for an upcoming networking event.


Robbie Samuels: If you go into the event really being clear about what you're trying to achieve, and who you're hoping to talk to, and you've done some research, and this is where I think being an introvert is better because you'll be more methodical and less haphazard off the cuff. And so if you're going to go well, then why are you going? Why this event? And who are you hoping to meet? Who specifically might be there?

If you have access to a list or maybe you know the sponsors or the speaker or the exhibitors, or who generally, who's the archetype of the person you want to meet? And then my suggestion is that you actually write a draft of your follow-up email. You're not sending it. You're just drafting a message based on the person or the kind of person you're hoping to meet. And if you do that, that really sets your intentions super clear. And now it's a question of following through on your intentions. But you're more likely to have a serendipitous moment if you know what you're looking for.


Andrea Marquez: That sounds like you're manifesting, I've done this for projects, but never for networking. And I think it's such a valuable tip. And now let's get into another tip to make sure your networking experience is successful: Committing.


Robbie Samuels: You just have to put in enough upfront effort to not be a newcomer every time. If you go really sporadically, every four or five months, you're really a newcomer every single time and you have to break in every single time. You want to be memorable and you want to add value. And so that's one way to step into a new space. So it's planting seeds for the future. But that concentrated effort upfront makes the difference versus sort of haphazardly deciding to go to things. For the beginning from January to March, just commit to really being super present in a new space, and do that every quarter and still stay engaged, but you don't have to be as intense the rest of the year.


Andrea Marquez: So now that we have a better understanding of how to prepare and utilize a networking experience, what comes after a successful networking event? How can you utilize the contacts that you've collected to grow your business?


Robbie Samuels: So in my second book, Small List, Big Results, I discuss this in some detail. So I have this process. Let's say you take your LinkedIn, you download your LinkedIn list, and you go through, and the first two questions people have to pass in order to do further consideration is, “Would they remember my name?” And, “Would I be happy to hear from them out of the blue?”  

So if the answer is yes to both those questions, I put a little X in that little column. And when I've got a bunch of people in that category, then I say, “Okay, now the question is, I want to know how they rate around their connection to me, their influence on this topic, their interest in this topic.” And for each of those categories, you put a one, a two or a three, three being highest, no half points, no zeros. And the total point value here is nine. If someone scores a four or below, then don't bother reaching out. I mean, don't delete them, but this is not the thing that they're interested in.

Follow-up sounds like something you do after, but if you write that draft follow-up message before you go, you'll be more likely to know what you're looking for. If during the event you track the cards that are higher priority, and you either put them in a separate pocket or you turn down the corner or write a little note on them. And so you have to also plan ahead for how are you keeping track of all these cards. And then if you pre-schedule an hour within a day or two of the event to do follow-up messages, and when you sit down, you've got your draft message, you've identified your priority cards, the likelihood that you're going to follow through with that follow up is very high.  

And that's really the success of networking. It isn't the first point of contact. It's when that conversation that you had with one person at one event becomes a relationship because you both schedule time to meet each other again, and then meet each other again, and meet each other again. So this is where I think the virtual and the in-person work so well together.


Andrea Marquez: We used to have to wait up to a year before we'd run into people again at the next conference. But now with video calls part of people's day-to-day, it's easier to reach out and suggest catching up, nurturing new relationships can be simple and unforced. It's also important. Robbie says to think of it as an insurance policy.


Robbie Samuels: I think too often we ignore our network until we need them. When we need a job, or when we suddenly are in a crisis and we need to get another client. And if you pay in every month, in an insurance policy, and you don't really want to need your insurance policy, right, the hope is that you'll never use it, but it's there if you need it. And that's the same thing with our network. You want to give back regularly to your community, whether that's one-on-one conversations, supporting and sharing, making referrals, making introductions. So make sure you're giving back so that if you need something, they're there for you. And if you don't, you're there for a lot of other people and that feels good too.


Andrea Marquez: That was Robbie Samuels, a networking expert and an award-winning author. What a great reminder to end on. I'm sure that'll help reduce the transactional icky feeling you get sometimes when thinking about networking. Let me know if you'll use some of the tips he mentioned in your next networking event. I know I will.

We covered a lot in this episode. If you missed anything, don't worry. We've taken notes for you. You can find them at smallbusiness. amazon/ podcasts. That's it for this episode of This Is Small Business, brought to you by Amazon.

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Until next time, This Is Small Business. I'm your host, Andrea Marquez.

Hasta Luego, and thanks for listening.This Is Small Business is brought to you by Amazon with technical and story production by Jar Audio.



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