Networking. The mere mention of the word conjures up images of sweaty glad-handing at chamber meetings and networking events that are filled with salespeople rather than decision makers and just waste your time. Your biz dev plan can’t all be referrals. You have to have a path that will help you generate new business for your shop.
My podcast guest Judy Robinett shows you how to take networking to the next level with Power Connecting and why networking is important to business development in your agency. Judy uses three simple questions: How can I help you? Do you have any other ideas for me and who else should I talk to? These form the backbone of every successful networking opportunity. Let her show you how to develop a networking foundation that serves others and in the end, serves you too.
Judy and I show you how to get out of your own way, push aside your fear and take the networking risk with:
- Judy’s background
- Why networking is important for biz-dev (and why referrals alone is not a biz-dev strategy)
- The 5+50+100 Rule: why you need to target 50 people
- Why there is no lack of money keeping you from getting funded
- Positioning yourself to be invited to the right events (and which events you should target)
- Judy’s strategies for being a good networker and how she interacts with strangers
- How to deepen the relationships you already have
- Why you need to kick fear to the curb and just talk to people
- How to provide consistent value to your network so that you keep relationships fresh
- Why you should reach out to people you feel like are above you
- Judy’s Top Ten Power Connecting Tips
Judy Robinett has led both public and private companies as CEO and served in management positions at Fortune 500 companies. She is on the advisory boards of Illuminate VC, Pereg VC, and Springboard Enterprises. Judy previously served as a managing director of Golden Seeds Angel Network and as a member of the faculty of Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Small Business Program.
Judy’s book, “How to Be a Power Connector: the 5+50+100 Rule,” was named the #1 business book of 2014 by Inc. She has been profiled in Entrepreneur, Vogue, Fast Company, Forbes, CBS, Huffington Post, and Bloomberg Businessweek.
To listen – you can visit the Build A Better Agency site (https://agencymanagementinstitute.com/judy-robinett/) and grab either the iTunes or Stitcher files or just listen to it from the web.
If you’d rather just read the conversation, the transcript is below:
Table of Contents (Jump Straight to It!)
- How Networking Became an Important Topic to Judy
- The 5+50+100 Rule of Networking
- Better Defining Networking and Connecting in Business
- The Steps Business Owners Need to Take to Get Their Dream Clients
- What Network Behavior Should Look Like When You’re a Connector
- How to Grow and Nurture Your Existing Network
- Is Networking a Learned Skill or a Talent?
- How to Maintain Relationships Over Time
- Why Networking is Important to Business Development Success
- Immediate Action Steps for Strengthening Your Existing Network
If you’re going to take the risk of running an agency, shouldn’t you get the benefits too? Welcome to Build a Better Agency, where we 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+ years of expertise as both an agency owner and agency consultant to you, please welcome your host, Drew McLellan.
Drew McLellan: Hey everybody. Drew McLellan here with another episode of Build a Better Agency. I am glad you’re back. Thanks for joining us.
Today, we’re going to go at the new business topic, but we’re going to go at it in a different way. We’re going to go at it in terms of how do you build a network and how do you serve other people and how does that end up serving you.
Let me tell you a little bit about our guest. Judy Robinett is a business thought leader, powerful speaker and one of the nation’s leading experts in helping leaders develop strategic business relationships. Known as the woman with the titanium digital Rolodex, and for those of you under 30, that’s what LinkedIn used to be, and labeled by Forbes and the New York Times as the new breed of power connector.
Judy has served as the CEO of both public and private companies and executive roles at some of the top corporations in the world. She has helped many entrepreneurs and businesses to access millions of dollar in funding, which I am sure is tied back to the connections that she has.
She has written a book called How to Be a Power Connector: The 5+50+100 Rule, which we are going to dig into. That book will give all of us an opportunity to provide instant, effective strategies for meeting the people you need to know and bonding with them fast to further your goals and theirs. I suspect that’s an important part.
She’s also been profiled in Fast Company, Forbes, VentureBeat, Huffington Post and Bloomberg BusinessWeek as a sterling example of the new breed of super connectors. I suspect that’s something that we all want to aspire to.
Judy, welcome to the podcast.
Judy Robinett: Thank you. I’m excited to be here, Drew.
Drew McLellan: Now, I suspect one does not get to be CEO of all of these companies and executives in top corporations right out of high school, so tell us a little bit about the path that you took to get you to where you are today.
Judy Robinett: Oh my gosh, I would have never dreamed I would end up in business. I started life as a social worker, and was so heart sick over children that were abused that I went back and got a masters in labor economics and ended up working just for our state in an agency. Then one of my friends was working at a Fortune 300 company and said, “Send your resume over.” That was a lucky break for me. Then at one point, I was really sick of working for other people and decided I was going to take the leap and I did.
How Networking Became an Important Topic to Judy
Drew McLellan: What’s fascinating to me is that agency owners often have that same sort of crooked path to business ownership that a lot of them actually have the same kind of background you do, kind of social services, psychology and then find their way into owning a business.
How did networking become a topic that was so important to you? What about that really spoke to you?
Judy Robinett: Well, initially, it didn’t, Drew. So I was bullied and teased in junior high, was terribly shy, and I can remember in the corporate world, if I had an event I had to go to, I’d go late and leave early and I would hang out in the corners. I noticed a really interesting thing at work that people who … I didn’t see as necessarily smarter or working harder we’re getting promoted.
I started seeing that there was this underlying network of powerful influencers in the corporation. I picked up a book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, and oh my gosh, I can remember first talking to people and deciding maybe they did like me, I was okay. I was perceived it to be I was very shy, but I think the truth was it was a self-worth issue.
Then the more that I developed a little gravitas, the more I could see it was just a critical skill. It certainly is as an agency owner and those who are really good at finding clients, doing customer acquisition. You know in your heart and you know personally that warm introductions are more likely to turn into clients than anything else. I could see that networking was just a very important skill to have.
Drew McLellan: Actually, you’re absolutely right. When I talk to a lot of agency owners about their Biz Dev program or efforts, what I hear a lot is, “You know what? We don’t go out and find new clients. We get a lot of our business through referrals.”
The logic is obviously if you have more connections and those connections are a little deeper and a little tighter and they know a little better about how you work and what you do, in theory, those referrals would get even better and stronger and more plentiful, right?
Judy Robinett: Yeah, but you do have to have both sides of the coin, Drew. You can’t just not do Biz Dev, because I see this pattern. So, often the people who are not necessarily good networkers or they feel they’re not good networkers often don’t have any kind of Biz Dev. Then they struggle paying the bills, and so it’s absolutely critical.
I teach people how important it is to talk to strangers and I’ve met billionaires hiking on a trail out of Park City, Utah, and just important to just have that two-fold. You focused on getting the warm relationships, which come from relationships you’ve already developed, who at one time were probably strangers, and making sure that you have that funnel.
The 5+50+100 Rule of Networking
Drew McLellan: Oh, Judy, I love hearing you say that, because I harp on that all the time, that referrals alone are not a new business strategy. I swear to God, listeners, I did not ask her to say that. That was completely unprompted, but amen to that. I agree.
Talk to us a little bit about this idea … Well, first I’m intrigued by the title of the book. Help us understand the 5+50+100 rule. What’s that based on?
Judy Robinett: Well, it’s based on some research that I discovered and that is that groups fall apart at 150, so these people who are trying to do massive LinkedIn or Facebook and send Christmas cards to 40,000 people doesn’t really work with your own personal, professional network.
Then research shows that that first circle around you of five people tends to be your close friends and family and they already know everybody you know, so they’re not going to be real good at building your business either. It’s kind of that in between group. I tell people to target 50 people, because that’s kind of where the magic starts happening for your business.
By the way, the reason the book is titled Power Connecting is I was going to write a different book on how to get funded. I raised millions of dollars for companies. In the proposal, I had 50 people I was going to interview for the book, Mark Burnett, various people that I know. My agent called me and she said, “Jeez, I thought you only lived in Utah and Idaho. How do you know these billionaires and celebrities?”
I told her and she goes, “Oh, we’re going to do a book on networking.” I said, “Oh, not me. I think that’s icky and manipulative and I don’t really believe in it.” She said, “You know, we’ll come up with a better word.” That was the word they chose to use.
Drew McLellan: Was your role in a lot of the companies you worked for, was your role a fund development role?
Judy Robinett: No, not at all. I started, I made the leap, I said about social work and so into employer relations was my first. Slowly, I worked my way up and became vice president of the hospital. Then I was CEO of a small public biotech company, and then a couple of other smaller companies.
Drew McLellan: Because I think the only thing that would scare an agency owner more than Biz Dev would be if they had to go ask people for money for fundraising. The reason I am asking the question because if you can use your techniques to do that, which I think for a lot of people is the most daunting of tasks, then certainly telling people about the work you do and how you can help them should be less frightening.
Judy Robinett: Yes, and that’s true. Drew, you absolutely hit it on the nail. Most of the things that we fail to do like get funding to get our company to the next level are founded on faulty assumptions. I really have people rethink their assumptions and big ones are there’s no money or no one will help me.
There’s $369 trillion of private, global wealth in the world. There’s no lack of money. I generally find out people are in the wrong room and they’ve not figured out how the funding ecosystem works or figured out how to package themselves and get themselves positioned. You can create luck and people will say to me, “No, you can’t.” I’ll say, “Really? Go stand on the train tracks. Tell me if you got bad luck.”
You very much can position yourself and so it’s important to get in the right room and really understand the ecosystem. There’s no lack of money. There’s no lack of information. There’s no lack of anything out there. All the resources are there.
After you kind of get that in your head, then you start … It’s good to get yourself educated and understand family offices fund people, corporate VCs, many agencies that have gone from small to middle, that next step up, usually includes some kind of a J-O-B with a bigger partner and some of the big players in the VC world are certainly in media.
Better Defining Networking and Connecting in Business
Drew McLellan: When you use the word network, let’s define that for a folks so they’re sure about what we’re talking about. Then I want to dig into how, the recipe of how it gets done. When you explain why networking is important and you’re talking about connecting, what do you mean by that?
Judy Robinett: A lot of people waste time at chamber meetings and various kind of networking groups and most of those don’t have the kind of clients that you would like or the people that could help fund you. I always say to people, “Make sure that there’s people in the room that are smarter than you or have the resources you need.”
The way that I start with networking is very strategic and as Covey would say, we begin with the end in mind. What is it that you need? It can be growing your business to the next level. It could be funding. It could be finding customers. That will determine how to get in the right room.
For instance, with funding, everybody’s got a problem, but for every problem, there’s an answer. Investors are frantically trying to find good businesses to invest in. They typically hang out together. I start with what is your goal? What is your goal? Then think about where do those people hang out that will help you get in the right room?
The Steps Business Owners Need to Take to Get Their Dream Clients
Drew McLellan: As we’re thinking about that as goals, so if an agency owner, the goal is to increase the client roster of their agency and let’s say they’ve got a targeted list of 25 or 30 companies that they believe they’d be a great fit for and really be able to help with.
What are the steps they take? They’re looking at this list of companies. They don’t know anybody at any of those companies, let’s just say, which is probably not likely, but let’s just assume they don’t know them.
What are the steps they should take to begin to develop that network?
Judy Robinett: One of the things that I suggest, Drew, is that people position themselves so they’re invited to these highly private curated events. Dabose is probably the best known. There’s many others, but there’s professional organizations that many people haven’t heard of because they go to events in their own industry.
One that I often tell people to go to is the Association of Corporate Growth, ACG. They have chapters in most cities. Even Salt Lake has one. They’re all over the world, actually. This is CXO level executives in mid-tier companies. Most of the companies that you’re specifically targeting you’ll find that they go to these kind of an organization. They welcome new folks.
You can attend a meeting and go to a lunch and they make it a point for new members to get to stand up and talk a little bit about their company and who they are. They have networking after the meeting. Those can profoundly affect your business because it would be hard to find a group of 50 to 100 CXO level business owners that are across different industries at one meeting. That’s an example.
Another thing, and I’ll give you an idea. A friend of mine was recruited by a wealth management firm in Salt Lake to come develop a book of business, a big book of business. He’s black and he’s gay and he doesn’t know anybody in Salt Lake.
Within two years, he has a tremendous book of business. He’s outdone everybody locally. I said to him, “How did you do that?” He said, “I joined the symphony.” I said, “What?” He said, “Well, I paid a little extra so I could go ahead of time and network, break bread, drink a little wine with the people before the event started. That’s where my customers hang out.” I tell people to get creative and think about organizations that maybe they haven’t thought of.
Organizations are powerful just because it’s not one on one. There you’ve got a group of likely prospects and specific that would fit your target. It’s a big enough company. They can pay your bills. If they’re at these kind of meetings, then they tend to be much more optimistic and open about having new relationships.
What Network Behavior Should Look Like When You’re a Connector
Drew McLellan: As agency owners, most of the listeners are agency leaders, most of them probably have a decent Rolodex or a decent LinkedIn profile in terms of connections they’ve made. I want to get back to the comment you made about it being a two way street.
Let’s talk a little bit about network behavior and what that looks like when you are a connector. My assumption is that where we’re headed is that all the connections you make and seek can’t be for your own gain and that you also have to be helpful to other people. Can you talk us through pragmatically what that looks like?
Judy Robinett: Yeah, so you don’t want to be perceived as a taker. Adam Grant wrote a really good book on that, Givers and Takers. On the other hand, you don’t want to give, give, give until you’re drained, but yes. Everybody’s got a problem and everybody’s got a solution.
Ideally, you want to find people who really need your services and then you want to show them that you have the level of competence and the level of warmth that they would want to work with you. It’s absolutely critical to build the relationship. I tell people that it’s just like with fundraising, nobody will write a check the size that would buy a house, unless they know you, like you, and trust you. Research shows when you meet a stranger, the first thing you look at is warmth, are these people safe?
The second, do they have a level of confidence? I always add the third and that’s a level of generosity because just because someone can help you, doesn’t necessarily mean they will. The Law of Reciprocity teaches, and it’s absolutely true, that if you help others, they help you.
The big mistake that I see people, with their network is they don’t know who the people that they know know. Research shows your influence is limited to a friend of a friend of a friend, but most people don’t really tell their story with the people who are already in the network or discuss their goals.
An example of this is my agent said to me one day, “You need to meet Mike Muhney. He sold ACT software for $45 million. He’s got a new software platform.” I flew to Salt Lake and I said, “Jeez, you’ve got this top rated app and I’ve never heard of it and I’m a pretty voracious reader.” He looked really sad and of course, he didn’t have one of your great agencies, Drew, and-
Drew McLellan: That’s right. He needed a little PR.
Judy Robinett: He said, “If I could just get in SUCCESS Magazine.” I said, “I want you to call my agent, who I’ve known less than six months, who you’ve known for years.” Her best friend, one of her good friends, is Darren Hardy, publisher of SUCCESS Magazine. He almost fell off the chair. I find this over and over and over.
The people in your network, professionally or personally, you’ve not sat down, shared a bit about your story, and then a very good thing for you to do is to ask and it’s my three golden questions. I often say to people, “How can I help you?” After you’ve provided help and that can be an introduction, it can be an article you found or recommendation of a book, a client who’s not a good fit for you, you can send to somebody else, then I have, tell them your story or what your goal is.
Then say, “Number one, what other ideas do you have for me?” People love to share advice and they will. Number two, who else do you know I should talk to? This is the way that I literally networked myself to Mark Burnett, it’s how I know Geena Davis, got on events with Mark Cuban, all of this kind of stuff.
I was a nobody from a little town in Idaho. If you saw the movie, Napoleon Dynamite, I went to that high school. If I can do it, you can do it. I finally sat down one day and I thought, “What is it I’m doing?” When I meet a stranger, two things: I either will comment on their clothes, something appropriate. You think about how tickled you are if somebody says, “Boy, what a great pair of shoes, Drew, you’ve got. Where did you get those?” I pay attention to people’s clothes.
Also, the second thing you can do with a stranger is ask a question. Where do I go here or what do you recommend? It’s amazing. It’s like pulling the cork out of the wine bottle. Usually after you’ve got through that first uncomfortable first comment, then you’re home free.
Drew McLellan: I think we got two of the three golden questions, so do you have any other ideas for me and who else should I talk to, right? Those are the first two?
Judy Robinett: Yeah, the first one is how can I help you? For instance, in my emails, I’ll say, “Happy to help.” I want people to know that I will help them and not only will I help them, I can help them. I’ll say to people, “Drew, where were you going next?” or “Do you need any help with your cat?” I know vets. I know people all over the world, and so I make it a point of trying to find out … I love to do this.
I just love to make a difference in people’s lives. I’ve got a critical mass of people that people can ask me about anything and I’ve got a connection. That’s what happens when you get 25 to 50 people that you know that you can reach out to. By the way, in your networking efforts, a big thing that you can do is write down who those 25 to 50 people are right now and reach out to them and engage and say, “This is where I’m going with my agency.
What other ideas do you have for me? Who else do you know I should talk to?” You’ll be stunned. A matter of fact, people write to me and tell me your stories. It’s amazing what happens when you do that.
Well, the second one, when you say who else do you know I should talk to, you make sure that you go meet those people and then you ask them the same thing. Pretty soon, you’ll have a much stronger network and make sure that your network has people who have money, have gravitas, influence, they’re powerful enough that they can make things happen for you, and they are across different sectors, whether you already know everybody in media, probably.
But if I looked at your 25 to 50 people, how many of them could you call on the phone and they could write you a check or they could connect you to someone that could write you a check, or across different industries that are important to you.
How to Grow and Nurture Your Existing Network
Drew McLellan: Yeah, great advice. I want to dig into how to nurture and grow your existing network. First, let’s take a quick break and then we’ll come back in and dive into that.
I hope you’re finding this content really helpful. I just wanted to take a quick pause and remind you that on top of the podcast, we also do a lot of live workshops for agency owners, agency leaders and account service staff. If you’re interested in the schedule, check it out at agencymanagementinstitute.com/live. Let’s get back to the show.
Okay, we are back with Judy Robinett and we are talking about being a power connector and what that looks like. Again, Judy, I’m guessing most people have what they believe to be a decent network or they know a fair amount of folks. If this isn’t about finding strangers that they don’t know, but instead it’s really about how do they nurture the relationships they have.
Let’s say I’ve known somebody for a few years sort of tangentially. We bump into each other at industry events or we know enough to nod and we probably know each other’s name. How do I deepen that connection?
It’s not me introducing myself to a stranger, but it’s me, somebody who may be in my Rolodex or my LinkedIn connections, but I don’t really know them very well and I certainly wouldn’t be able to pick up the phone and call them and assume that they would call me back. How do I deepen the relationships that I already have some sort of connection to?
Judy Robinett: I would write an email and reach out to them and see if you can schedule a phone call or schedule a lunch. You can look for a small gift. I’ve had people send me … I often will say when I’m afraid, I go to my cave with dark chocolate when I’m talking about how to overcome your fears.
Many people have just sent me a little thing of dark chocolate. It is powerful if you send a little thoughtful gift of something that you maybe know that they like. First, I would start with sending an email or picking up the phone and calling them and just saying, “I’d like to catch up.”
Drew McLellan: That’s kind of a crazy idea, isn’t it? Picking up the phone?
Judy Robinett: Yeah. Pick up the phone and call, because most of us are actually pleased to talk to people that we know. If you get out of your head and again, fear really held me back, Drew. I’m 63 and if I looked back on my life, if I could’ve just kicked fear to the curb earlier and realized what it was doing, holding me back, it was me that held me back and held my early business back.
I at one point had started my first company, franchise restaurant. Stupid me, and I went to a bankruptcy attorney just so scared and he … I wasn’t sleeping nights and I was terrified about meeting payroll. He looks at my financials and he said, “Well, you’re not even close.” I said, “But I’m broke.” He said, “They can break you, but they can’t eat you.” That was just a great lesson for me. I kind of went, “Okay, let’s figure this out.”
I reached out, got some help, found out almost every business had gone through this at one point and if you dig down, get some help, you’ll get through it. If you don’t, you shut the doors and you think you’re a failure. The reality is you’re not anyway.
Hopefully, that helps. The fear is important to get over. If you’re kind and you’re generous, I would just find an article, recommend a book, do something that adds value. Start thinking about how you can add value to people. Think about who is this person? What would be of interest to them? But, be brave, pick up the phone, make the phone call.
Drew McLellan: Okay, let’s say you pick up the phone and they actually answer their phone or you set up a lunch or a coffee or a drink or whatever that looks like. What does that conversation look like when you actually get to have it?
Judy Robinett: Well, it needs to be focused personally. Relationships are built first personally before business. Catch up on the kids, catch up on the pets. We all love our pets. Drew, you talked about your cat. I talked about mine and my horse.
We adore our family members and so Michael Milken once said that the three things that people care more about are their family, their finances and their health. You make sure that it’s a personal relationship. You’re catching up, you’re finding out how they’re doing, how the kids are, how’s business. Keep it personal, even your interests: golfing, hiking, whatever.
Drew McLellan: What I’m hearing you say is, I suspect a lot of agency owners, when they finally get up the gumption to reach out to somebody or to connect with somebody, they probably go right at the professional stuff first, because that’s their intention. They want to create a professional connection with this person.
But what you’re saying is you have to go slower and softer than that and you have to first get … Whether it’s a stranger or someone you already know, connecting on a personal level about things that you have perhaps in common or things that are important to them, that’s the first step. That then eventually leads into a more professional connection, right?
Judy Robinett: Absolutely, you have to date first before you hop in bed.
Drew McLellan: Right. I use that same analogy. I say a lot of times people walk up to … Agencies approach new business like they walk up to someone in a bar and say, “Hey, it’s nice to meet you. My name is Drew. Do you want to get married?” As opposed to easing into that a little bit.
Judy Robinett: Yeah, and the reality is you want to make sure there’s chemistry, that you like this person. You don’t want somebody you’re going to hate working with and later wish you would’ve found out a little bit about them and what their level of emotional IQ is.
Is Networking a Learned Skill or a Talent?
Drew McLellan: Tell me how you assess or how you … My guess is you’ve been doing this long enough now that you’re a pretty good read on people, that you get a sense of folks right away. Is that a learned skill and if so, how does one learn it?
Judy Robinett: I think you learn it by just starting to pay attention. When I was younger, I can remember I’d have employees and I would think I didn’t communicate enough or they need more training. I’d wait another six months and end up firing them because what I first initially saw was the truth.
Oprah once said that Maya Angelou had taught her when someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time. Everything a person does says who they are. The common one most people know is if they treat a waiter or waitress, are disrespectful, they’ll eventually do it to you.
Before you really want to have someone as a client, I would suggest that you do a little due diligence and ask, find out how they work, what happens when conflict occurs, because you want to avoid the dark triad and that is the narcissist, sociopath, machiavellian kind of people. There’s a few people out there, they’re just prone to suing people every time they turn around.
The good news is that’s only less than 5% of the population, but I pay attention. I got hit over the head once, not literally, but I raised $10 million for a guy in 10 days that was frantic about getting it and I trusted him. He was going to give me a consult fee. Then he said we’d never had that discussion. I was shocked. I was absolutely shocked.
Well, I found out from two of my other friends that they knew that this was his history. While he came across as very professional and dressed well and was charming and appeared to have a great deal of money, that underbelly, that dark side of him, was dangerous. If I would’ve just asked a couple of people, I would have learned that. I think most of us are pretty good because we’ve met a couple of these people in our life. You kind of watch, I say, for the yellow flags instead of the red ones.
Another thing that Oprah said was learn to feel the feather on the cheek. If you don’t get that, you get the brick to the head and if you don’t get the brick to the head, the wall falls in on you. You start really paying attention.
Drew McLellan: I know for me personally, sometimes it’s like, “Oh man, I saw that coming and I ignored it or I didn’t believe myself and now I’m lying under a pile of bricks.” The universe has a way of letting you know sooner or later, so it’s better to be more attuned to it, so you avoid the disasters.
Judy Robinett: Absolutely.
How to Maintain Relationships Over Time
Drew McLellan: You’ve been doing this for a while. You obviously have become quite proficient at it. How do you maintain relationships? Let’s say somebody came across your path a few years ago and you’ve had some interactions with them to the point that you could shoot them an email or pick up the phone, but you haven’t talked to them for a while.
How do you maintain that? Because it seems to me that relationships require some care and maintenance. You can’t just every time, can’t be a once every five years time, so how do you do that?
Judy Robinett: I collect information that I think is valuable. For instance, I have about three different organizations. McKinsey sends me great reports. I have ports.com that’s kind of a global news deal that has curated information that often at the bottom will have five to 10 of the best articles out there. I will send that to people and often, I’ll send the same one to about 15 people.
I just make sure that at least once every month or so, that I’m keeping my eyes open that I might be able to find something that would be valuable to that person. I don’t keep an exhaustive database. I don’t send out Christmas cards and do all of that kind of stuff. I just really try to find value.
Last week, one of my friends called me and said, “I’m sick and I’ve got two tickets to one of the premiere Sundance films on Syria. Do you want to attend?” Well, I couldn’t attend, but I could think of three people right off the bat who would want to.
When those situations come up, I do that. Now, I sit on the board of Illuminate VC and Silicon Valley. Cindy, who is the founder and we now have a unicorn in the portfolio, will often through the years say, “Hey, somebody who’s one of our advisors has two tickets from the US open tennis that they can’t attend. First person that calls me, gets them.”
Just think about little things that you can do. It’s amazing. Those things come up. Look at places like Renaissance Weekend, for instance, The Aspen Institute, McKinsey. I will often send people invites. If I’m invited to something, like I can get people into Renaissance Weekend or into different things, I’ll invite somebody.
Why Networking is Important to Business Development Success
Drew McLellan: About how many people? Because before you talked about the magic 50. Is that the list that you’re nurturing or is that the I’m sending articles to other people and things like that, is that a bigger list?
Judy Robinett: It’s probably 25, honestly. It’s probably 25, because when you’ve got friends that run MGM and are the secretary of treasurer. My friend, Linda McMahon just go put in as head of the SPA by Trump. If you’ve got those kind of people, then their network is so powerful.
That’s the importance of having a strong network anyway. If I just meet someone, I do have a good memory, and someone will call me or send something, and I’ll make sure if someone pops up, I’ll just send it to them and just say, “Hey, I thought of this since we talked. You may want to look at it.” Your network changes. Some people get married, get divorced, change, retire, whatever. It’s almost constantly in flow. Some people are leaving and there’s a new person that’s popped up that you want to take a little bit of time to nurture.
This isn’t something that I spend an hour a day doing. It’s just a little bit of my routine. I open up McKinsey, ports.com, a few highly curated things that have really good information, so I’m not wasting people’s time, and then if I see something that I think is really good, I will forward it.
When I give keynote speeches or I talk to people that are in the funding realm, I will talk about Illuminate VC that I’m on or if I’m doing interviews and that is something that really makes Cindy happy because one of her goals is to get the word out on her VC. If you find out what other people’s problems are, what is it they’re attempting to do, then you can provide value.
Drew McLellan: My guess is that for most listeners, their network may or may not ever contain somebody who is a presidential appointee, but for everyone, the message is … Let’s say an agency is deep in the Ag sector and so really what they want to do is they want to be connected to the thought leaders in that industry.
Now let’s assume that they want to get a hold of somebody or they want to connect with somebody who has some amount of fame or gravitas that seems out of reach. It might an author. It might a thought leader. Any recommendations on how they reach … What’s a cold reach out to those folks to make a connection that actually has some meaning that’s beyond a “hey, I like your book,” or something like that?
Judy Robinett: Well, let me tell you. Authors and most people of influence are happy if someone reaches out to them, because very few people do. My book was published in Spanish and I’ve just had probably ten people write to me from Colombia, Mexico, Spain, and I write back to every single one of them.
Every once in awhile, one of those people will send me an invite on LinkedIn and say, “I’d love to talk to you.” Well, I do that. I find it very gratifying if somebody reaches out to me and other authors do that. I discovered this before I ever did a book. I read a chapter in a book that was a compilation on trust.
The chapter, I was just so amazed, was written by Laura Rittenhouse, who I discovered had a book out called Reading Between the Lines. I reached out to her and ended up becoming very good friends. Every time I go to New York, Laura and I go to dinner. Warren Buffett endorsed her book.
It actually is easier than think. If you write a kind letter to someone on LinkedIn and said, “I admire your work or what you’re doing. I’d love the opportunity to talk to you for a few moments.” I’ve never had anybody turn me down. Even people that you think are at a higher level than you, when you get to know them, they’ve all get their problems. Mark Burnett and his wife, I didn’t know them, and I had been on a panel with Mark Cuban and thought, “Wouldn’t it be great if Mark endorsed my book?”
Mark didn’t have time, and so I just thought to myself, “Well, fine, I’ll go to your boss.” Well, I didn’t know him and so I just thought, “Well, for fun, I’m just going to see if I can do this.” I sent an email out to some of those 25 people and sure enough, somebody knew someone who had been to this meeting with Mark Burnett.
I reached out and said, “What does Mark need?” Well, he and his wife had spent $15 – $16 million of their own money on the Son of God movie and they were concerned about media and what it would cost to get that going, the marketing, because they didn’t have that kind of money for it. I did a little research online and I find out the Baptists and the Lutherans are behind it.
Well, I live in Salt Lake, Park City area, and there’s 16 million really well organized Mormons who also believe in the story of Christ. I happen to know somebody who works in media for the church and I call and say, “Hey, would you guys be interested in interviewing Roma Downey or Mark?”
They’re just ecstatic and they say, “We can get you to ABC. We can do this. We can do that.” I have my friend get a hold of Mark Burnett’s handler and the next thing I know is I have a phone call from this gentleman saying I’m scheduled for a lunch in Park City with Mark Burnett.
I start that meeting very, “Pleased to meet you, love the movie.” I had done some research. I had watched a bit of the series. It was on PBS. I said, “Mark, if I were you, I would do this and this and this.” About ten minutes into it, he said, “Who are you?” I gave him the contacts and I made those things happen, but even then, at lunch, he said, “Is there anything I could do to help you?”
I said, “Well, I’ve got this new book coming out. Would you take a look at it?” He said, “Done, and by the way, one of my good friends is Oprah. I can get a copy of the book to Oprah.” Now, there was me in the background, didn’t know this guy, reached out to someone. Part of it is being scrappy.
Always in life and in business, there’s something missing. You’ve got A and B. You don’t have C or D, but you’re trying frantically to get to E. It can be money. It can be connections. It can be anything. Well, there’s always a way. There’s never a time that there aren’t obstacles. I mean scrappy is going around it, over it, under it or through it.
There’s a way to do it, but guess what? Every one of those answers is connected to a human being. People write the checks. People know of potential clients for you. It’s all people. People have the best ideas. They have the information. They’ve got the connections, so it really does come back to that critical, strategic network that you have and that you can develop. If someone’s really in a … Feels like they can’t move forward, Drew, send them to me. I can make a connection for them.
Drew McLellan: As you’re telling this story, I’m thinking, “That shy little girl from high school sure has changed.”
Judy Robinett: Yeah. It took me a while and part of it is I really do care about people and I’m curious and I like to learn and so the learning and the having good information to share with other people … I found out a lot of people don’t read like I do. Then after I finally, finally got over my fear of failure and fear of strangers and just fear and quit going to the dark cave with my dark chocolate, I found out other people are happy to help. They’re happy to help.
All of us have got problems. If we can help someone, it makes us feel better and it makes them feel better. We’re really wired for that. We really are. We’re social creatures. People love to help and give advice. It’s part learning the art of the ask. You don’t walk up and go, “Hey, don’t you want to put a million and a half into my business?” You start with the easy ask and the easy ask is, “What other ideas do you have for me?” People love to share advice, and “Who else do you know I should talk to?” Those are easy asks.
Drew McLellan: As I’m listening to you describe yourself, “I’m a caring. I’m a naturally curious. I like to help people,” my experience is that’s how most agency folks are wired. Whether they take it to the heights that you have in terms of the level of people you’ve connected with or they do it locally or inside their industry, this is well within everyone’s wheelhouse if they just get out of their own way and open themselves up to this a little bit.
Judy Robinett: Yeah, and I don’t know whether you know of Cheryl Snapp Conner, PR agency out of Salt Lake, but Cheryl has done a terrific job and she found out the number one source now for news is LinkedIn. She write a short column on LinkedIn. She’s had four to seven million hits and has really grown her agency.
Another thing I would tell you to do is to look at people who may be one level above you and say, “Dude, how did you do that?” The world’s big enough. There’s more than enough clients. I tell people if someone says no, you just say next. You know, next.
Drew McLellan: Well, and I find most genuinely successful people are pretty open to telling you exactly what they did because they have an abundance mentality rather than a scarcity mentality.
Judy Robinett: Exactly. The world’s so big. There’s so many clients, new people showing up all the time. There’s enough for everybody. If that person doesn’t help you, you do not want them in your network.
Drew McLellan: Yeah, it’s a good point. It’s a good litmus test, isn’t it?
Judy Robinett: Yeah.
Immediate Action Steps for Strengthening Your Existing Network
Drew McLellan: Judy, boy, I could talking to you about this forever, but I need to wrap up the episode. If people have been listening to us and they’re like, “I can do this. I can do this. I don’t have to be the shy kid or I don’t have to be the one who’s too busy or I don’t have to be …” whatever they’ve put in front of themselves to say they can’t do this, what are some very practical, tangible next steps for someone who wants to strengthen their existing network and/or wants to connect with somebody who feels unreachable to them?
Judy Robinett: I’m going to share with you just a simple one-pager of top tips that you can put in the show notes for people.
Drew McLellan: That’d be awesome.
Judy Robinett: Number one would be get brave and invite somebody, pick up the phone, call somebody, do that. Meet with somebody. Number two, make it a point to talk to a couple of strangers this week. Number three, make a couple of introductions to people that you know that don’t know each other.
Drew McLellan: Yeah, those are all very doable, aren’t they?
Judy Robinett: Then I want you sit down and write down who are the top ten people in your network and look at do they have money, influence, are they in government, can they help me with regulatory issues, and look at who’s currently in your network and what gaps you need to fill, what gaps you need to fill.
That’s a great start. If you just focus on meeting with a couple people and asking what other ideas do you have, who else do you know I should talk to, the doors will open for you. I promise.
Drew McLellan: Yeah, great advice. Judy, thank you so much for your time. Thanks for sharing all of your hard-earned wisdom. I know that this is going to be an episode that people listen to over and over again. Thank you very much.
Drew McLellan: Yeah, I was just going to ask you how folks can find you. I know you’ve also got another book in the works. If they want to find out more about your work and to connect with you, is there a website you would drive them to? What’s the best place for them to go?
Judy Robinett: Yeah, my website is just judyrobinett.com and you can certainly Google. I think about 15 pages comes up of interviews I’ve done and speeches and such, but you can find me on LinkedIn or @judyrobinett is Twitter.
Drew McLellan: Okay, awesome. Thank you so much again for this. This was really helpful and as soon as we get off this interview, I have some networking to do.
Judy Robinett: Okay, thank you.
Drew McLellan: All right, gang, this wraps up another episode of Build a Better Agency. This is so important. What Judy talked about this last 45 minutes or so can absolutely change the trajectory of your agency. As you’re thinking about Biz Dev and you’re thinking about deepening your own network.
Also, by the way, if you don’t normally share episodes with your team, this is an episode to share with your team, because you don’t want to be the only one building a network inside your agency. You want your entire team to be skilled and good at this.
What I love about Judy’s methodology on why networking is important to biz dev is it starts by being helpful and it starts by being curious and it starts by caring about people. I know that that’s how you guys are wired, so this’ll be easy for you, if you get out of your own way, if you push aside your fear and you take the risk.
Go do all of this and in the meantime, I will be back next week with another episode, with another great guest. If you haven’t subscribed, make sure you do so you don’t miss an episode. As always, I am grateful for ratings and reviews.
If there’s anything I can do to be helpful, you know you can reach me at [email protected] and if I don’t hear from you from there, I will talk to you next week with another great guest. Thanks so much.
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