Episode 99

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David J.P. Fisher (D. Fish) is a speaker, coach, and best-selling author of 7 books including the best-selling “Hyper-Connected Selling: Winning More Business by Leveraging Digital Influence and Creating Human Connection” and “Networking in the 21st Century: Why Your Network Sucks and What to Do About It.” Building on 20 years of experience as an entrepreneur and sales professional, he combines nuanced strategy and real-world tactics to help professionals become more effective, efficient, and happy. He helps them understand the new landscape of Hyper-Connected Selling, where social media, networking, and old-school sales and communication skills are the key to providing value and staying relevant. He lives in Evanston, IL – next to a huge cemetery which helps him appreciate the value of every day.

 

 

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • Why you can’t rely on referrals for new business
  • Networking: why it’s relational — not transactional
  • How to build your network so it’s stronger and serves your business better
  • Why size matters in your network — and why not every connection has to be a strong one
  • Leveraging the social capital you create and making the ask at a time where you don’t come off as desperate
  • How to build and nurture relationships
  • Why young professionals really need to work on building their network
  • The power of the one-on-one and taking the opportunity to build deep relationships with people
  • Making sure social media is actually in service of your network building
  • Why the way we sell has to change in response to the change in the way people buy
  • How to sell by being the expert and guiding people through the information they already have
  • Using thought leadership to position yourself to be the one people turn to for help
  • Why you should aim to be a micro-influencer for a specific niche instead of trying to influence a broad topic (like marketing, PR, digital, etc.)

 

The Golden Nugget:

“Networking is not a linear process. It’s not transactional -- it’s relational.” – @dfishrockstar Click To Tweet

 

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Speaker 1:

If you’re going to take the risk of running an agency, shouldn’t you get the benefits too? Welcome to Agency Management Institute’s Build A Better Agency Podcast presented by HubSpot. We’ll show you how to build an agency that can scale and grow with better clients, invested employees and best of all more money to the bottom line. Bringing his 25 plus years of experience as both an agency owner and agency consultant to you, please welcome your host, Drew McClellan.

Drew McClellan:

Welcome to another episode of Build a Better Agency. This is Drew McLellan, your host. And I am excited to chat with our guest today. He is an expert on a topic that I promise you, you think about every single day. And so, we’re going to really dig into that. So let me tell you a little bit about him and what we’re going to talk about today. So, David J.P. Fisher or D Fish, as he is known to everyone except for his mother, has a passion for growth and development that has allowed him to influence thousands of others during his professional career. Today, he serves as a coach, speaker, author and president of RockStar Consulting.

And there, he continues to create a powerful impact on individuals and organizations as he works to help them become rock stars. So, he wrote a great book called Networking in the 21st Century, Why Your Network Sucks and What To Do About It. We’re going to really dig deep into that. In writing that book, he built on 20 years of experience as an entrepreneur and a sales professional. And he’s combined some nuanced strategies and real world tactics to help professionals become more effective, efficient and happy in creating networks and selling and just creating a circle around them.

He helps them understand the new landscape of the hyper-connected selling. So, we’re going to talk about that obviously, where social media networking, and old school sales and communication skills are the keys to building personal influence and creating human connections. He’s got a brand new book out called Hyper-Connected Selling, Winning More Business Through Personal Influence And Human Connection. So, we will chat about that as well. D Fish, welcome to the show.

David J.P. Fisher:

Thanks for having me, Drew.

Drew McClellan:

Happy to have you. This is a topic, as you can imagine, that agency owners are both very interested in and a little afraid of. So, most agency owners that I know don’t really love the selling. They typically grew up in the agency business so they’re really good at some aspect of agency life. And then, viola, they own an agency, and now all of a sudden they have mouths to feed. And so, they have to go out and sell so they struggle with it a little bit. Is that common when you come across folks that you’re working with?

David J.P. Fisher:

Absolutely. It’s the field of dreams syndrome. Everybody thinks that they can just build it and people will come, right? But that’s not how it works at all. And unfortunately, there’s just so many amazingly skilled, amazingly experienced masters at their crafts who are not finding the success in business because they’re just sitting there waiting for somebody to come and buy from them, versus feeling comfortable going out and getting people and making that sale. So no, that is a very normal experience.

Drew McClellan:

Yeah. When I meet an agency owner, often what they will tell me is when I say, “Well, tell me about your business development.” They’ll say, “Oh, you know what, we are completely based on referrals.” And what I remind them is, while referrals are awesome and they are a commentary on the work you do, it forces you to work with the people that walk in the door, who may or may not be the right fit for your business.

David J.P. Fisher:

Exactly. And just because you work by referrals, my next question is always, so what is your referral process? Right? What is your program to actually cultivate the referrals from the best customers, the ones that you want more of like them and as you said, maybe the referrals that you don’t want so much. Hope is not a business development strategy, right?

Drew McClellan:

Right. Absolutely. But I think a lot of agency owners struggle with, they know they need to do it but either they’re introverted, or they’re too busy working in the business, or whatever it is. But they don’t really know how to leverage a network and how to create connections that are planting seeds that may tee up sales later on. So, let’s talk a little bit about the networking side, I definitely want to dig into the selling side too obviously, and they’re awfully interwoven.

But let’s talk a little bit about the premise of the book, which is why your network sucks and what to do about it. So, give us a little bit of foundation around that idea.

David J.P. Fisher:

Absolutely. And you actually touched on, I think, one of the main challenges that we have with networking, when you were talking about this idea of planting seeds. The biggest challenge, I think, that we have with networking is that networking is not a linear process. Meaning, you don’t do X and get Y back automatically. And human beings really like that linear idea in our lives. We like the fact that we throw a ball so hard, it’ll go so far. But if we throw it twice as hard, it’ll go twice as far. And networking and building that web of relationships around you, it just doesn’t work like that.

And in fact, I think, that’s not really our fault. Our brains are not really wired for networking. One thing I always talk about is a number called Dunbar’s number. It’s a little bit of science because it makes me sound like I know what I’m talking about when I drop some names.

Drew McClellan:

Yeah.

David J.P. Fisher:

But Robin Dunbar was an anthropologist who studied human relationships. And he found that the average number of people we can maintain relationships with is 148. So, about 150 people, it’s really not that many if you think about how many people you have on your LinkedIn list or your Facebook list, right? But the problem is, there’s another guy who his name was Mark Granovetter, who did a study, very seminal study, that was called the strength of weak ties. And he found that most networking advantages, most opportunities, come through people that we don’t know well. What he called a weak connection.

Somebody you see between once a year, a week, excuse me, once a year. Because what happens is it’s not that we get networking opportunity from the people that really like us, it’s from the people that have the opportunity. And the way they have that opportunity is they’re in different spheres of knowledge and influence, right? It’s that person that you run into at a conference once a year or the Chamber of Commerce event in your area every couple months, who lives in a very different world than you do, and then goes, “Oh, hey, you know what? I have a friend I was talking to, I think they’re trying to do some PR work. You guys should talk.”

And because of that conflict, we can only maintain so many relationships. But the more we have, the more effective we’re going to be, there’s that conflict. And I think that’s why most of us really struggled historically with networking. And that’s why, I think, a lot of the “networking masters” were the people who were really out there hustling. Who are making all the phone calls and going to all the events and had all these points of contact and it was just exhausting. And so, I think, a lot of us just gave up. We’re like, “Well, it doesn’t even really work anyways, right, because I don’t see these linear benefits. And I don’t even know how to structure this.”

And everybody tells me to network. I mean, what I love is everybody goes, “You should network.” And nobody defines it.

Drew McClellan:

Right. Right. Yeah, I think most people translate that to exactly what you’re talking about, which is go to every chat chat, love your hat event, whether it’s a chamber event or whatever, in your community, right?

David J.P. Fisher:

Yup, exactly. And to your point too, what if our personality isn’t really conducive to going out to those events? Some of us love them. Some of us don’t like them. I think what really happened is that we’ve got this very ossified idea of what networking is. It’s this Chamber of Commerce, the back of a restaurant, bad appetizers, getting a business card flung in our face. And that’s what networking is. And most of us don’t like that, right? We don’t want to be that person either throwing a business card in somebody’s face.

Drew McClellan:

Right.

David J.P. Fisher:

I think one of the mistakes we often make is that we view networking as transactional. And one of the points that I make is that networking is relational, networking happens over time. Networking happens with more than one contact. It doesn’t mean you’re going to become BFFs with everybody. But it does mean that it’s more than just, again, that business card exchange, that very superficial kind of smarmy feeling exchange for most of us.

Drew McClellan:

Yeah. Well, in fact, it’s what most people complain about at networking events that they go. And rather than decision makers being there, it’s basically all salespeople and A, that’s not their target, but B, that’s not who they want to be seen as.

David J.P. Fisher:

Exactly. What I would always suggest, though, is that one, it’s okay to be a salesperson. I’ve been in sales for my entire career. And I know some people think sales is a four letter word, but many of us are good people where, right, it’s okay. But the other thing is, if you walk into a room full of salespeople, great, that means that they work for an organization that is big enough that they have a sales team. So, when I look at this …

Drew McClellan:

They could be your conduit in.

David J.P. Fisher:

Yeah, exactly. And again, that’s this idea of not looking at it as simply as a linear process, like I have to run into that ideal prospect, that decision maker immediately. It’s, “Okay, this is the person I met. They’re salesperson. Let me get to know them. Let me find out some information about their company. Oh, hey, do you know the marketing director of your organization, could you introduce me?” Something like that.

Drew McClellan:

So, if what we’ve just talked about is the wrong way to build a network and it’s why our networks are not as strong or as effective. What should people do about it to build it properly so that it serves them and their business better?

David J.P. Fisher:

Well, do we have a couple days to dive into this?

Drew McClellan:

We do, yup. Yeah. You and I will take bio breaks and we will just keep talking.

David J.P. Fisher:

I love it.

Drew McClellan:

Okay.

David J.P. Fisher:

The first thing that I think people really need to do is what we were just addressing, which is just reconfigure how we approach it, right? I mean, it’s so important to have the right mental framework to what we’re doing. To approach your network and your networking activities long term to go, “Hey, my job today, and tomorrow, the next day, are to plant seeds, to cultivate relationships, to not necessarily get something for right now, although that would be great. But to make sure that I’m really, again, planting seeds that I can harvest down the line.”

I really think that a good network requires a couple things. It does require a web of connections, right? It’s not just one or two people. Size can be very helpful here. And so, one of the things that I think is important is that we do look to expand our network into those weak connections I was talking about earlier. You don’t have to become best friends with everybody. But again, you do have to have a broad reach, the broader your reach, the more opportunities are going to come your way. And the next thing that I would suggest is to look for ways to actually help your network before you’re looking for them to help you.

One of the biggest mistakes, I think, people make is that they wait to build a network until they need something, right? They’re “Oh, holy cow. We just looked at our numbers for last quarter and man, they’re low.”

Drew McClellan:

Exactly. Right. Then, it’s panic networking.

David J.P. Fisher:

Yeah.

Drew McClellan:

Yeah.

David J.P. Fisher:

And I say this all the time, but it’s true. We can smell desperation …

Drew McClellan:

Oh gosh, yeah. Yup.

David J.P. Fisher:

And it’s not sexy.

Drew McClellan:

No.

David J.P. Fisher:

It’s not good. So …

Drew McClellan:

It’s really like the Axe, I think, of smells, don’t you think? It’s like that spray that 14 year old boys wear.

David J.P. Fisher:

Pretty much. Pretty much. And it has pretty much the same effect.

Drew McClellan:

Yeah.

David J.P. Fisher:

So, I think that if you can kind of make the leap and go, “I’m going to invest in my network before I need something.” There’s a great old saying, “You should always dig the well before you get thirsty.”

Drew McClellan:

Yeah.

David J.P. Fisher:

Or the other version, “The best time to fix the roof is when the sun is shining.” It’s the same thing. So, you might be sitting there going, “Well, gosh, I’m not in panic mode right now. Business is good. Things are going okay. I don’t have to work on networking now.” I’ll be like, “That’s exactly when you should be diving into it.” And I think the place to start is to go, “I am going to start building relationships,” we can talk about some specific ways to do that in a moment.

But I’m going to build these relationships and instead of going, “How can I get something from them,” I’m going to start putting some positive chi into this process. I call it networking karma. So, if I’m going to walk into a room full of those salespeople, hey, you know what? How can I help them? Are there people that I know that I can introduce them to that are prospects for them. Can I find ways to make connections? Because then, when I do need something, and we’re all going to need something at some point, that’s fine. It’s not going to be tough to ask, right?

And I think that’s the other thing that most people don’t do is they actually don’t ask for help in a meaningful way. They just think that they can sit there and that their network will give them a call and say, “Hey, are you looking for more business?” And in fact, I do come from the sales world and one of the best things I learned as a very young salesperson was, it never hurts to ask, right? You ask with a smile. There’s the right way of doing it and giving people an out. But there’s nothing wrong with saying, “Hey, I know you work over at company XYZ. I’d love to see if there’s some way for me to be of service to them. I love the work they do. Could you introduce me to this decision maker?”

Or, “Do you know anybody who’s in their marketing department or in their PR department or working with digital communication over there? I’d love an introduction.” That ask is so huge.

Drew McClellan:

I was just thinking about the whole concept of A, don’t start when you’re desperate. B, go in with a giving heart, if you will. And I think people, just like they can smell the Axe version of desperation. I think when you walk in with a sense of abundance and a sense of being helpful, I think, they also smell that. And that’s the attitude most agencies want to give off to their prospects and clients is that we’re here to serve and we’re here to help. So, if you show up that way from the very beginning, then it becomes very authentic and real is to that’s who you are.

And when I think across the landscape of agency owners I know, it’s kind of how they’re wired is how they got into the business to begin with is because they want to help business people grow their business. And, yes, they want to be successful themselves, but they really do come from a very generous place. So, that would probably make networking more comfortable as well.

David J.P. Fisher:

Right on. And that idea of authenticity, of alignment between what your company is doing and who you are, I think, is so critical.

Drew McClellan:

Yeah.

David J.P. Fisher:

What one of the things I often point out to people is, networking is something we do naturally, right? Every business relationship does start as a relationship, as a human relationship. But unless you live in a cave and a hermit, you have these relationships already. The trick I find to making that leap to being a great “networker” is simply to add some intention to it, to maybe be more intentional about, again, broadening your network. To be a little more intentional about helping people and finding ways of connecting them and then, to be a little more intentional about asking for help.

I think something you’ve probably found is that when you have people who are really comfortable with helping and are very service oriented, which is great, sometimes we feel a little uncomfortable making the ask, right, making it about us a little bit.

Drew McClellan:

Right.

David J.P. Fisher:

But one of the things I always point out, I’ll ask a group of people if I’m speaking, for example, I’ll say, “Who in here likes to help people.” And everybody raises their hand. And I go, “Who likes it when somebody asks them for help?” And everybody raises their hand. I’m like, “Well, you have to give people that opportunity, right?”

Drew McClellan:

Absolutely. Right.

David J.P. Fisher:

I love helping people out as much as I can, but I’m not psychic, right? I can’t be like, “Hey, you know what, I think that you’re running an event for a great organization, you’d love to have a networking speaker, you don’t really have the budget for it. And I think you’d like me to discount my services so that I can come and really provide impact for your group.” Yeah, I don’t know that psychically. You have to call me and ask.

Drew McClellan:

Right. Absolutely.

David J.P. Fisher:

And it’s the same thing with if you’re running an agency and you love what you do, you love helping people, you know that you do great work, you know that there are some opportunities for you to work with an organization with a company. You’ve got a way in that conduit until you leverage that conduit, you’re just stuck right back where you started. So, I think, that’s actually a big thing that it’s a little switch. But having that mentality of, “Hey, it’s okay for me to now to ask, to leverage this social capital that I’ve created.” So powerful.

Drew McClellan:

Well, and again, when you are not in desperate need, the ask can come off more gently and it doesn’t sound like, “I’ve got to have business tomorrow or I’m going to shut my doors.” It is more off hand, if you will, even though you’re intentional about it. And it feels different and it’s easier to ask, I think, because it’s like, “Hey, I’d love to meet him some time,” as opposed to, “Hey, do you think he has any room on his calendar tomorrow?”

David J.P. Fisher:

Right, right.

Drew McClellan:

Right.

David J.P. Fisher:

And one thing that can be really challenging for people and just call it as it is, if you’re really looking to make this transition to being successful at networking and business development, which by the way, I think, is going to be the way you’re going to have to be successful in the future. I don’t think there’s going to be a lot of other options available. But it can be really tough to make that transition because what if you … You might be listening going, “Well, yeah, but I do need that meeting tomorrow.”

Drew McClellan:

Right. Right, right.

David J.P. Fisher:

In some ways, it’s just a matter of going, “Okay, I’m going to have to put a little trust, a little faith in this. I’m going to have to take a long term view,” still working hard. What I found is that if the harder you work to build these relationships, and to have that long term view, stuff does naturally come in earlier, right? You’re going to have that person go, “Actually, you called at the right time. Let’s have a conversation.” But yeah, you got to take away some of that desperation and fear because ironically, it’s the best way of pushing someone away right when you need it.

Drew McClellan:

Yeah. So, let’s talk a little bit about how do you build and nurture your relationship. What’s the best way to do that? Whether it’s 150 people or you’ve got a wider web of those weak connections that you were talking about. In the world as busy as everybody is, how do I actually genuinely nurture and grow those relationships?

David J.P. Fisher:

Sure. I think that there’s a number of different approaches. And one of the things to keep in mind is that all of us are different, right? And I don’t think that there’s actually a cookie cutter this is how you do networking, right?

Drew McClellan:

Right. On Mondays do this, on Wednesdays do that, right?

David J.P. Fisher:

Because we’re all different. I think, though, that it’s about finding some activities that you feel comfortable with and performing those activities regularly, consistently. And there’s no magic to this. I often use the analogy of Mr. Miyagi from the Karate Kid. And the first Karate Kid, not the second one, that was atrocious. You know what I’m talking about.

Drew McClellan:

Yup.

David J.P. Fisher:

In teaching Daniel to do karate, he was like, paint the fence, wax the car, really simple basic activities, but done over and over and repeated and done with, again, intention, they were very successful. So I do think that for the professionals looking to build their network and really started to get some value and benefit from it, and give some benefit from it. It’s about figuring out activities that you can fit in your schedule, that you do feel comfortable with, that do align with who you are, and doing them regularly.

So, to give you an example, if you’re kind of younger in your professional career, that might be age wise or maybe you’re just kind of entering into a new industry, I think, your time really needs to be spent building the web, right, bringing more people into your sphere of influence. So in that case, it could be as simple as saying, “I’m going to go to a networking event once a month or every other week.” The kind of what I call the singles bars of the networking world, which is those large events. And no, you’re not going to find somebody and get married at that event. But you are going to make those first initial contacts, which could be very valuable.

Some people feel really comfortable online. This is where you could use a LinkedIn group, a Facebook group, using some sort of online community to make those first contacts. Then I think the next part is, really, taking the opportunity to build some deeper relationships with people. And again, deeper relationships does not mean I’m going to see this person every week or talk to them all the time. I am, and always have been, a huge fan of the one-on-one cup of coffee. There’s just so much that can be done in a 45-minute conversation. And I do a lot of these virtual cups of coffee, right, if I meet somebody who’s more nationally based.

But I started my career when I started my consul