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Quotable Podcast Episode #91: You Don't Own Your Network, with David Burkus

Host: Kevin Micalizzi

Most salespeople see their networks the wrong way. So says David Burkus, author of Under New Management: How Leading Organizations Are Upending Business as Usual and the upcoming Friend of a Friend: Understanding the Hidden Networks That Can Transform Your Life and Your Career. Join him to learn a better mental model for looking at your networks. Rather than trying to build networks, consider how to strengthen the communities of shared interest that you are already in. Those organic hubs of connection are where you will naturally demonstrate your expertise, and will become a source of value that will lead to more sales.  


Give yourself a mission to never go to a networking event again. Reinvest that time in shared-activity groups. Take the time you would normally spend going to things like that and go to more useful activities.”

David Burkus | author of Under New Management: How Leading Organizations Are Upending Business as Usual and the upcoming Friend of a Friend: Understanding the Hidden Networks That Can Transform Your Life and Your Career.
How to Craft the Perfect Sales Pitch By Annie Simms,
Account Executive, Salesforce
The Simple Client Meeting Rules Every Salesperson Should Follow By Laura Stack,
President and CEO, Productivity Keynote Speaker and Author, The Productivity Pro, Inc.

Episode Transcript

Kevin Micalizzi: Welcome to the Quotable Podcast. I’m Kevin Micalizzi. Today, we’re speaking with David Burkus. He’s the author of Under New Management — How Leading Organizations Are Upending Business as Usual, and the author of the upcoming, Friend of a Friend — Understanding the Hidden Networks That Can Transform Your Life and Your Career.

Today, we’re going to be talking about how to get a better understanding of your networks. How to add more value and ultimately, how to extract value when you need it. Let’s jump in to it.

David, thank you for joining me today.

David Burkus: Oh, thank you so much for having me. Thank you for reaching out and inviting me.

Micalizzi: Totally, and it was actually an email I got from you that caught my attention. You were talking about the right way to introduce people, and the fact that you had introduced someone to someone else without confirming with that person first, and it ended up not being a very good scenario.

But before we jump in to that would you just share a quick picture of who you are for our listeners?

Burkus: Yeah, so who am I, and what do I do? I guess if you ask my 6-year-old son he’ll say that I make books, I give talks, and I take care of him, which is a great intro. Essentially, I do write books. I do make books. Where I really see my role in, I guess, the universe is: I’m an academic by training.

I call myself a recovering academic because my goal is more to take good ideas from research and help people put them in to practice. I’ve written three books now that are all about taking ideas from network science, and social science, and psychology, bringing them in to real-world, practical, applicable stuff.

I’ve been blessed to be able to do that for a long time now because people seem to enjoy it. I’m sure one day maybe they won’t, and that will be the end, but for now, I’ve been super blessed that it’s been resonating.

Micalizzi: I do want to start by talking about the right way to introduce people because I think, especially in the sales space and in our audiences, it’s really pretty evenly split between sales managers and leaders versus the reps who are out there selling day to day.

A lot of their trade is around who you know and who you’re introduced to, so I’m curious: Would you share your picture of the right way to introduce people?

Burkus: I guess we should start with the wrong way so I’ll tell a story, to my shame — the same one you were referencing earlier. When I was younger and dumber I got really excited about growing my network. It’s all of that “who you know” piece.

I was in a conversation with someone, and I realized, like you do — you realize, “Oh, they really need to meet this person.” And so, I did what a lot of us do. You get excited and you fire off an email introducing the two people, and you’re thinking, “This is going to be awesome.” But I made two really big mistakes which is — the first was, actually, the smaller mistake is that I didn’t make it clear who was supposed to respond next.

And so, the next email was from the first person. The person whom I wanted to introduce to, we’ll call [him] the VIP, and [the first] person just went right into the sales-pitch type stuff, which was really annoying. And then the other thing I got was a private email from the VIP that was like, “Dude, not cool. You can’t just give away my person information without asking,” etcetera. “I’m always happy to meet people you think I should meet, but next time you really need to give me a warning first so I know what’s up.”

And so, there were multiple things wrong with that introduction. The biggest would be that it wasn’t really what I now refer to as a double opt-in introduction. Both parties had not agreed ahead of time that they need to meet that person. And in response, I put this VIP person in a very awkward scenario.

Not only because now — he’s got an intro and a sales pitch in his inbox before he knows what’s happening — he’s got to figure out a way to save face while also rejecting this person who is not really useful to them, etcetera.

It puts them in an incredibly awkward standpoint and really decreased my ability to bring value to that person and decreased my standing in their eyes. And really, it didn’t end up helping the other person, either, because they didn’t get the benefit of the introduction at all. Instead, they got rejected. Both scenarios are 100% my fault for not doing it the right way.

Micalizzi: Right, so you didn’t get their permission and then you didn’t really set expectations. You didn’t define what that next action is. I hear about that a lot in the conversations I have. People tend to know in their minds what they want the next step to be, but they don’t actually articulate it.

Burkus: Right, exactly, so now I’m really careful. My process goes above and beyond the double opt-in introduction. I’m not the first person to talk about that. There’s a bunch of people that do, but that’s the first step — so if I’m in a conversation with someone and the same thing happens: I’m talking to one person, we’ll call him person A, and I realize that, “Oh, they would really benefit from person B.” What I’ll say to them now isn’t, “I’ll introduce you.” What I’ll say is, “You would really benefit from getting to know person B. Let me see if I can connect you two.” And, “Let me see if I can connect you two,” is a promise to investigate something. It’s not a promise to do an introduction, so if nothing happens we know that it didn’t work.

“Let me see if I can connect you two,” and then I’ll go to person B and say, “Here is who is so-and-so who is person A. Here’s how you guys would benefit from knowing each other and why I think it’s a mutual connection. Okay to introduce?” And when they finally say, “Yes,” then it’s actually nice because it’s a much more brief email if you do the pre-work. It’s literally, “Person A, meet person B. Person B, meet person A.”

You both know about each other and then the last line is always very specific. I’ll say, “Person A, would you mind following up to figure out whatever it is?” Arrange a phone call, send them a package — whatever the call to action is. It’s not just that there is a call to action so it’s clear. It’s that it’s assigned to a specific person. So everyone, all three of us that are in this communication know what’s about to happen after this introduction. There’s not that vague, awkward, “How do I even respond?”

Micalizzi: Right, so relationships are really the currency of business nowadays, and I’m about halfway through your book, Friend of a Friend. What I’d love to do is transition to talking about how salespeople should be viewing their networks.

Burkus: Yeah, I think the biggest mistake in sales is that this happens off the introduction. You can’t just jump right in to the pitch, but it really is, I think, is that people view the purpose of networking [to be] finding clients. There’s all of these networking groups.

They’ll all remain nameless, but some of them are massive, and they’re all about bartering and who can connect to who and who can do the referrals, and they’re all about the sales thing. Truthfully, the best and the highest return on investment, let’s say, way to view a network is as a source of information.

Sometimes, that information will be a referral to an actual client, but other times it will be information you need to know about existing clients. Or information you need to know about how you need to position yourself in a certain niche to have the best effect.

Information sometimes leads to the sale, but the wrong way to do it is to view everyone in that network as a potential client or referral to a potential client. It’s far better to view it as a source of information. Sometimes, that information helps you get a sale. Other times, it helps you with existing clients. If you view it A) as information, two things happen. One, you get more information because now, you’re open to it.

But B) you start to do a better job really honing in and listening to people. Connecting with them and spreading out and building your network a little bit bigger and a little bit more diverse which ends up being useful to you even from the standpoint of just making the sale.

Micalizzi: Right, and I think one of the areas that a lot of people focus on now is around social selling in your networks and building your presence. I really like this approach, especially in [terms of] the diversity, because we tend to connect with people who are very similar to us only, to what I’d call our close connections, so folks we have worked with, folks we went to school with as opposed to broadening that network.

You’re saying that that broader network is what gives you — I don’t know if I’m throwing words at it here — but gives you a richer source of information.

Burkus: Yeah, no, exactly right. The other thing is there’s a mental model around your network. A lot of times, people have a mental model that your network is the collection of contacts on your phone. And that this feeds into the idea that the purpose of networking is to always getting the sale.

The truth is, the better mentality is that you don’t actually own a network. It’s not something that you own. It’s not your contacts on your phone. You exist inside of a network already. And so,  your best approach is to understand that network that you’re already in the most because that’s going to be the broader, more diverse one that you need.

There’s a bunch of reasons this is beneficial. The first is that diversity of network connections leads to diversity of information. This is useful not just in referrals from a sale, but just in making decisions and thinking about what you need to know.

This is useful in your own career if that job at that company is not the only thing that you want to do — especially if you want to go to work for another company. You’re not going to find good referrals to it if you’re just sticking to those close contacts because the chances are they work in the same company as you.

But the broader thing is that a broader, wider, and more diverse network leads to more and better information to make decisions. To learn about potential clients, etcetera. And so, it’s a better mentality to have, not that it’s my contacts on my phone, but that it is, “I exist inside of a network, and my job is to map it out and respond accordingly.”

Micalizzi: Now, I know along the same lines that we tend to always reach out to those we’re closest to, I found it fascinating that you talk about how your dormant connections and your weaker connections are actually really important and usually a source of better information.

Burkus: Yeah, so in the subtitle of the book is one of the phrases, “Understanding the Hidden Networks.” When I say hidden networks I mean that stuff we all skip. Most of us think about our close connections, and then when those are tapped out in terms of the information that we need — whether it’s to find a new job, make a sale, or get information about something, whatever — then we tend to just skip to total strangers.

Maybe we go to one of those networking events. Network things that, again, will remain nameless. Maybe we’re just reaching out to random people on Twitter if it’s a job-type thing. Maybe we’re just applying blind on CareerBuilder. Maybe we’re doing that thing I hate where we’re making new connections on LinkedIn and then immediately sending a message with our sales pitch — you know, whatever.

Micalizzi: I got a new one this morning. I’m with you.

Burkus: The worst is when you get a connection on LinkedIn and, suddenly, they add you to their email list — but that’s a whole other monologue.

Micalizzi: Oh, yes.

Burkus: The hidden networks again. If our mentality is that your network is not a list of contacts on your phone but you exist inside a network, then you’re actually ignoring incredibly potent sources of information.

As you said, you’re weak in your dormant ties which are people that you’re connected to, but not that well. Your weak ties are people that, okay, you know them and maybe you know their name and their job, but you don’t really know a lot more information about them.

And then your dormant ties are people that maybe you knew really closely, but you haven’t talked to in a while. These are things like former colleagues, friends from a different city when you used to live on the other side of the country, whatever it is.

And because both of these communities — weak ties and dormant ties — are running around in a different part of the network because, if they were in the same part of the network as you, they’d be your close friends. They have access to different information. They have access to new potential introductions. They just have that more diverse information than do your close network.

And so these are, well, I call them hidden because we tend to ignore them. We tend to skip over them and go to total strangers. There’s a third category, and this is where the name of the book comes from which is your friend of a friend — the people that are one degree of separation out from you. They’re the easiest introductions to make because you’re connected via a friend, but we often ignore them a lot because they’re not immediately available on our phone, or in our news feed, or whatever it is. And so these are that hidden network that are really, the research shows, your most potent sources of what you need to grow your career. — to get information, to close the sale, whatever it is, but skip them. We stick with our close friends and then, when that doesn’t work, we jump into the total stranger category that we all hate and makes us feel sleazy.

And then we go, “Oh, networking doesn’t work. I’ve tried this before. Blah, blah, -blah.” Well, of course it doesn’t work. If you have the wrong mentality you’re ignoring the network that you already exist in. You’re not feeling it out and mapping it properly.

Micalizzi: So now, let’s say I’m trying to sell into a company. Is the recommendation then or is the best use of my network to reach out to someone I know to try and get that introduction to the friend of a friend? To that person who is one degree away who may be at that company or may be able to give me more insight towards the company and the folks there? We’re still going the referral path, though, right?

Burkus: Yeah, so yes, but a little bit differently. The first thing to do is really just map out the network you already have and incorporate your weak and dormant ties. Set up a system where you’re checking in with them. Interacting with them, etcetera. You’re bringing that back in to what’s on your radar.

When you do need those referrals though here’s what I also think is really interesting. Especially, in a social media era. We tend to go right for the referral and ask very direct, “I know you know this person. Would you introduce me to them?” Which is very weird. It’s weird for two reasons.

It puts the other person in a really weird spot. Not unlike the one I was in. I had volunteered the introduction, but if you’re asked anytime you’re making an introduction, making a referral, you are vouching for that person. You might not say the words, “I recommend so-and-so,” but because you introduce two people you are recommending those two people to each other. So when you ask for the direct referral you’re also asking for a recommendation that that person may or may not want to make.

Especially, because they might not know what you want to get out of it. The other thing is that, sometimes the reality is the person you want to be referred to, the person you want to meet, maybe they can’t help you as much as you think.

Micalizzi: That’s right.

Burkus: The better question — I actually encourage a lot of people to start with this. Start with the question, “Who do you know in blank?”  Because it could be, “Who do you know in this company? Who do you know in this industry? Who do you know in this city?”

Whatever it is, and this allows you to feel out that one degree of separation out through your current contacts who is available for an introduction, but you’re not asking for an introduction yet. You’re just looking for that information.

I coach and encourage people to regularly be doing that just to get a feel for who is there and don’t ask for the introduction right away. The thing that this will do is two-fold. It lets you map that network out because, and this is the second piece, people will usually give you a list, not a single person, right?

Micalizzi: Right.

Burkus: And whoever they give you. whether it’s one person or a list of people, they’ll usually all be people that they would be comfortable introducing you to ahead of time. Think about how you would respond to that question if I asked you, “Who do you know in a certain company?” You’re probably only going to tell me the list of names that you would be comfortable connecting me to, so the comfort piece is already there.

And then again, if you’re broadening out, and you’re asking, “Who do you know in blank?” — then you’re getting more potential connections which increases the chances that you’re going to get connected to the right person, which is not always the person you wanted to be referred to.

Micalizzi: Right. Now, I’m assuming when you reach out to ask that question we’re still applying the same rule we talked about at the beginning, which is, you’re setting the expectations of what you’re looking for first.

Burkus: Right — right, right, right. I’ll give you an example of how I’ve been using this recently. I’m not actively fishing to get optioned for a television show or something like that, but it’s an area of media that I don’t know a lot about. I don’t know a lot about how it functions, etcetera, but it’s an area of media that I need to know more about to grow my own career.

I’m regularly asking the question, “Who do you know that works in television?” — a production company, television studio, whatever it is. I’m not looking for an introduction. Sometimes, it’s offered to me and I’ll say, “Great, I would love to chat with that person.

“Would you be comfortable introducing me?” — which is basically, my version of doing what I’m going to do on the other end. Or sometimes, I’ll literally, even say, “Would you ask them if they would take an introduction?” Which is again, asking for the double opt-in. Now I’m person A instead of the connection, but I’m still opting for that. Yeah, again, it follows those same principles. I like to call those principles being a good human being.

Micalizzi: That’s so true.

Burkus: Because it’s not like this weird sales tactic from some book. I’m treating people the way I would want to be treated because I have a recognition that it’s not about the number of contacts I have on LinkedIn. It’s not about the contacts I have on my phone. If I’m in a network, and that network is built as other humans then I’m going to get the best result by treating everybody like a human. Not someone who is supposed to like my post.

Micalizzi: I want to go back to what we talked about a little bit earlier or at least mentioned around those people with the almost-cold contact — let’s say, a LinkedIn connect — and then immediately followed with the sales pitch, that kind of thing. I see a lot of people and, especially, doing this podcast. As I’m sharing things and getting tagged on, let’s say, LinkedIn, I find I get a lot more connect requests from folks that I don’t know, but they like the show. They want to connect.  

I think some people see that as building their networks, and my gut feeling is, they’re missing the point since they’re essentially just connecting with me electronically. There’s no value provided. There’s nothing exchanged. I’m curious, in your thinking and from the research you’ve done, what is the best way for me to build my network?

Burkus: There’s a couple of things here. The first is this online–offline network. It’s connections. First, everybody has to have different rules for using social media. In particularly, on LinkedIn we’ll use it because you brought it up. My personal rule is, I’ll say yes to any connection because it doesn’t mean we’re a real connection, but as soon as you spam me, I’ll go back and unconnect you and unlink you.

That hasn’t been overwhelming so I don’t mind that rule too much. I might have to change that rule one day, but that would be a good problem to have. The other thing is that most of the research points to the fact that these tools — whether it be Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Vero, Snap, Face, whatever the other ones are — they’re not all that useful unless they either help you map on to your existing offline network or help you grow that existing offline network.

So just running up the tally on LinkedIn connections isn’t all that valuable. There’s not really a point to be making those connections. The interesting thing is what you described to me is also, a huge missed opportunity for the online tools. Facebook and LinkedIn, in particular — Twitter to some extent — are really valuable mediums to have the conversation that becomes the first connection point.

You’ve got to go somewhere else off that, but the fact that you’re tagged in something, if that person sees you’re tagged, and they just send you a connection request, they’re wasting a huge opportunity which is to engage you in a conversation that might be valuable to both of you. That leads to having a real offline connection to each other.

There really isn’t a purpose to being a part of any of these networks if it isn’t to either map your existing offline network or grow it through having those conversations and then taking it deeper to the people that are worth taking it deeper to.

But the rest is just vanity metrics, etcetera, so that’s the answer to your question in terms of an online social media space. Offline, the right way to, if you want to use the term, “build your network” is — really I’m not a big fan of the term because it implies that you’re trying to run up the followers you have; I think the better approach is to — and we can use “build your network” to describe it — but it’s really to get a better map of the network that you’re already in.

That’s the weak- and dormant-ties piece. That’s the referrals piece. That might be meeting strangers and adding new people into your network that didn’t come from a referral. Usually, though the wrong place to go to those is the networking mixers and events and that sort of stuff.

But the right thing to do is jump in to certain activities, jump in to trade groups where there’s a shared focus and, really, actually, in my own personal life — and this supports the research — a lot of times groups that exist for totally other reasons than meeting new people — whether that be a fitness class or a pickup like a softball league or volunteering for a nonprofit. Anything where there’s actually a cause bigger than meeting new people tends to draw a more diverse set of people, and you tend to build stronger connections than you would if the goal was just to connect with people. So skip mixers. Skip the networking events. They might seem like the right idea especially, if you’re trying to find new clients, etcetera, but you’re usually going to get a better return on investment when it comes to adding new strangers to get connected with if you’re going to these shared activities that draw a diverse set of people and some things that stake more than just meeting people. But again, all of these stem from this mentality that the best approach is that you already exist inside a network, and your goal is to get the best map of that network as you can.

Micalizzi: Yeah, I found that volunteer events, for me, they’ve been a great opportunity to meet new folks and especially ones that were organized around a particular industry or group. I don’t know, it’s been really helpful to make that connection in that way.

Let me ask you, though. On LinkedIn and Twitter and those other social networks — what’s your feeling on that kind of creating your professional image, and trying to add value, and share things out so you’re building that follower base? Does that help you in terms of your network or is it really more, “Okay, that’s a marketing function,” and it’s really not helping you, to use your term, map your network better?

Burkus: It’s a marketing function so it’s not that it’s totally unuseful. To me, on Facebook and LinkedIn, the most valuable feature of the whole system are groups because it’s not just like you posting links from something that you read or even worse, something you got from a newsletter, and you just re-shared it to look like you’re that expert. That’s great, and I call that being Google-proof. Really, all it does is, when someone Googles you they find that you at least pretend to be an expert in the field which is better than finding nothing.

But the truth is, the most useful resource for both of these are in the groups where people are in groups around a shared function. A shared industry or something like that because that’s the place where you can have an ongoing conversation with enough people to actually, prove your expertise in a certain area — to actually give value to those people, etcetera.

LinkedIn has actually made it a little bit harder as of late to find where the groups are, which means that Facebook might actually be the dominant place to find groups, and these are useful for multiple reasons. Really, people should be in a couple different groups: a group in the industry that you serve — so, for example, you’re in sales; what industry are you selling in? But then there’s also this community as a practice, groups that are about getting better at your trade, so are you in groups that are actually helping you learn how to be a better sales rep, etcetera?

Truthfully, in my own personal life ,the only reason I still have a Facebook profile versus a page is that there are two groups. One about writing and one about professional speaking that had been hugely valuable to me over the last two years.

And those two little clusters, those two little siloes on that service are the only reason I stay connected — that, and to see pictures of my friends from college kids. That’s really it, but if you think about it, that’s a huge amount of value that these two can be had. So it’s far better rather than what you’re posting, etcetera, it’s far better to jump into those two groups: one is the group that serves your industry where you can provide proof of your expertise and develop relations with people that see you as the source for something that will lead to eventual sales, and the second is that community of practice that will help you get better at what you’re doing.

Micalizzi: Right. What I want to make sure we do is, let’s translate this in to action. We’ve got a rep listening right now. What’s the first thing they need to do to start mapping their network and really, taking advantage of the network they’re already in?

Burkus: Yeah, so the first two big steps, and not to beat a dead metaphor or beat a dead horse, is re-engaging with weak and dormant ties and exploring those fringes through questions like, “Who do you know in blank?” The second-best thing to do is give yourself permission to never go to a networking event again, but reinvest that time in those shared activity groups, whether it be a volunteer group, whether it be a trade association, etcetera. But take the time you would normally spend going to things like that and go to more useful activities. So basically, all three of those strategies together will help you re-engage your weak ties, explore who is one or two degrees of separation out from you.

And then even make better new stranger connections. That encompasses the big things you can do to get a better sense of that map and even grow that map over time. All of them work way better than just hanging out on LinkedIn and sharing random articles.

Micalizzi: Right, so you keep talking about mapping your network. Is there a formal way that you recommend doing it or is it more just getting a mental feel for your connections? Who has gone dormant over the years and things like that?

Burkus: Yeah, certainly, if you wanted to take a giant piece of paper and a pen and map them all out, that would be helpful. There is software that can help with this — Salesforce being one that’s hugely valuable for that — but the truth is, a lot of it is that mental feel of who are in these concentric circles? Close friends, weak ties? Who is one or two degrees of separation out?

Do I have multiple people that all know that same person that I want to get an introduction to? These are all things that you have to feel. It’s really more about having these ongoing conversations with re-engaging weak ties, asking, “Who do you know in blank?” etcetera, that help you develop that intuitive feel.

The other thing is when you’re having all of these conversations [ongoing] with no pressure, no agenda, and no nothing like that — when there is pressure and agenda, when there is actually, “I want to ask this for an instrumental reason,” like getting a sale — it’s a whole lot less awkward because it’s just one more conversation in a series of the polite, human-based conversations you’re having every day.

Micalizzi: So you’re really going back to some of those old connections, and I’m thinking maybe you do it a couple times a week and just reach out to folks you’ve lost touch with. If I remember right, it used to be called keeping your network warm.

Burkus: Yeah, yeah, yeah, or digging your well before you’re thirsty if you want to go way back to Harvey MacKay. Yeah, I try and make this a regular practice. I missed one other useful thing about Facebook.

And so, I should probably mention this because this is probably the way that I use this tool most often is I check in with the news feed at least once a day. I scroll through, and I look for things from people I haven’t talked to in a while. Usually, people share their lives, and it’s great. They’ll share that they have a new baby or a new puppy, I don’t know, whichever, or they’re going on a vacation, or they’re really excited because they got promoted.

These are amazing pieces of information that can provide the reason to reconnect with a weak or dormant tie. But most of us just click like or may we comment, and we comment with the words, “Congratulations,” so that little balloons thing pops up, and it looks all cool. The truth is, if you’ve ever had a birthday on Facebook or celebrate a work anniversary on LinkedIn you know that the responses come in so frequently, it’s like a flood, and none of it has any meaning.

So I’ll see that, “Oh, we’re vacationing in Hawaii,” and then I’ll use that as a reason to reach out to them on a personal medium — an email, a phone call, a text message, whatever the relationship would be — the best direct system.

And then usually I’ll say, “Hey, I just saw that you’re going on vacation in Hawaii. Congratulations.” “Are you in Maui or which city are you going to?” “We just went there a couple of years ago, and I would love to give you some restaurant recommendations if that would be of value to you.” Little things like that.

So they’re actually, useful tools not just for the groups, but as a way to see what’s going on in those weak and dormant ties’ lives so that you have a reason to reach back out to them other than that super-awkward, “Hey, we haven’t talked in a while. Let’s go get coffee,” which no one wants to have coffee with you.

I hate to break this to you, but especially, in the afternoon: But, unless they’re a friend from college you haven’t seen in a while, nobody wants to have coffee and pick your brain. They might be open to a 15-minute phone call, but the truth is you’ve got to find a better reason to reconnect to those people.

And once you start making it a habit, it becomes actually, really, really easy. So I make it my goal to do one of those a week and also, ask that, “Who do you know in blank?” question about once a week so that I can get that.

And then the third and final piece is, I try and introduce two people in my network at least once a week. These aren’t hard and fast goals like I get an alert on my phone or whatever if it doesn’t happen, but it’s the process of making it a regular habit so that you’re, like you said, keeping your network warm.

Micalizzi: I love that because you’re using what we’d call a trigger event if you are prospecting. But you’re just using it in a personal sense to make sure you’re keeping that connection or in many cases probably reviving that connection to someone you used to know.

Burkus: No, exactly right. On the client side, how awesome is it if there’s a trigger event and then you just get a warm fuzzy instead of a sales pitch? And so, we’re doing that on a regular basis so that for some people there will eventually be a sales pitch.

Or there won’t even be a pitch. It will probably be a response with an invitation to buy from you if you do it right. Like I said, you’re being a good human being.

Micalizzi: For our sales leaders listening what can they be doing to help their reps better take advantage of their networks? Maybe expand their networks or map larger networks? What can they be doing to help?

Burkus: Yeah, so the biggest thing will be this mental model flip from, it’s not a list of contacts, it’s not about connections, etcetera — it’s about getting an understanding of the network you’re in. But then the second thing is really giving them space to do that.

This is a hard thing to measure, and especially in 2018 we love to measure everything: contacts per day, how many things you’re closing every month, all of that sort of stuff. But this is really the kind of thing you’ve got to make a regular habit. It’s going to take a little bit of time.

If people are spending 40 hours of their week just doing this, and they’re not bringing any sales or going on any sales calls, that’s a whole other issue that we have to take care of. But if they’re spending an hour or two every doing this, and you can’t see a direct return on it, and it’s really [hard] to measure, that’s okay — as long as everything else is getting met, that’s okay. It’s really beneficial.

So really, the biggest thing is again, teaching them that mental model switch and then giving them the space to do these practices, because they do take time, and that time doesn’t lead to an immediate ROI in that sales cycle.

Micalizzi: Right, but you’re really building a great foundation. I like it. Great advice. So let me ask you our lightning-round question. If you could take all the knowledge and experience you have now, go back to the beginning of your career, and give yourself one piece of advice ,what would you tell yourself?

Burkus: Wow, I don’t really think it would be a piece of information that would be useful — like a, “Hey, here’s the trick for figuring out how to do whatever?” Really, I would probably tell myself that, “It’s okay. It’s a slow build. You’ve got a really long runway. Don’t worry about it. Don’t be in such a rush to close everything now, to be everything now, to have a New York Times bestseller now,” etcetera.

“It’s a slow build. You’re going to be doing this for a really long time, and it works way better if you just pace yourself and you forgive yourself and give yourself a longer runway than you probably have for yourself.”

Micalizzi: Awesome. David, thank you so much for joining me today.

Burkus: Oh, thank you again so much for having me.




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