Invest in your Network to Build Sustainable Business

grow sales by growing your network

In a world where business people and sellers are working to stand out and make a difference, there are a lot more people telling then showing exactly how to do so.

It must have been fate that got me in front of new author Porter Gale at the IBM Smarter Commerce Global Summit held recently in Nashville. She gave a wonderful keynote talk on the main stage and then I listened to her talk at the IBM Superwomen's Group Luncheon where she was a panelist. Later in the day, I was able to interview her one-on-one, and found that the three conversations - keynote, smaller group, and then direct gave a great overview of this important storyteller who is a beacon in a sea of business people needing help understanding the care, value, and potential of their networks.

Porter Gale just released Your Network is Your Net Worth - Unlock the Hidden Power of Connections for Wealth, Success, and Happiness in the Digital Age. The book is endorsed by Sir Richard Branson (her former boss) and the foreword was written by Guy Kawasaki, which definitely caught my attention. Since the value of connection has been the foundation of  my business life, I was captivated by the book, the topic, and all the side conversations about networking since then.

From 2007 until 2011 Porter was VP of Marketing at Virgin America - which has to be anyone's favorite airline if you've flown on a Virgin flight. In addition, she is an international speaker and successful business consultant.

Helping Others and Being Authentic Can Change Your Life - Porter Gale

A main takeaway from hearing Porter speak was her passion for the power of your connections - literally the subtitle of her book shares the benefits of how nurturing and adding value to your network offers you so much more than business. She asks if you really invest in your network, and how rich your life can be when you do. I fully agree with her and was thrilled to receive one of her first copies of the must-read book to dive into on the trip home.

Porter reminded us that everyone is just FOUR degrees of separation away - something I hadn't thought about even though Facebook had sponsored research back in 2011 to see just how many degrees we are separated by now was in the digital age.  I was still focused on six degrees - so that was a reminder just how powerful connections have become.  She mentions PeopleBrowser research shows that within a niche, we are just THREE degrees apart. Think about that for a minute.

The new book is a must read for anyone who values business building or who needs to grow business because of the examples and stories which prove out Porter's ideas. A long time Dale Carnegie fan, I loved how this book is described as a fresh take on the Carnegie classic, "How to Win Friends and Influence People."  This mindset is about creating a foundation of success built on quality relationships. How refreshing in a world where a recent study showed that adults are making eye contact half as much as they should to build trust and build relationships. Although I write about revenue growth and mid-market business, the personal implications of being in certain networks in life, as told in story after story in the book is truly uplifting.

Porter Gale divides up the networking journey into three parts in her new book:

Develop a Transformational Attitude

Of the dozens of networking books I've read and programs I've been to, never have I seen so much on building your inner foundation to really figure out what is holding you back. most networking programs assume you are "OK" and it is wonderful to read something that says if you are not feeling OK, here are some ideas before you reach out to your network. From there, Porter shares that it is the passions and purpose that fuel you and are the basis for growing the environment around you, which includes your connections.

Build a Values-Based Team

Connecting with collaborators for mutual innovation, inspiration, and support is the new way to build your business and life.  Utilize digital tools to find your community, build your brand, and connect with others.

Porter shares a wonderful story about how six high school students in an under-served area in Los Angeles ended up meeting Sir Richard Branson through clear messaging and connecting to influencers. That story, which Porter told me in our interview, was so inspiring that it caused me to think of all the small business owners and sales professionals who doubt the power of social in building their visibility and connections.

Cultivate Fields of Creativity

If you want to have authentic relationships, says Porter, you need to add value. This is particularly an area where marketers and sellers in SMB and mid-sized companies can go step-by-step to learn how to create content that shares your purpose and grows your reach. It takes an unconventional idea sometimes to grow beyond your line of sight. In other words, it takes a village.  This is where your network - the partners, collaborators and recipients of your support can be of support to you.

Porter talks about the Give, Give, Get philosophy: before you ask for something, make sure you have given of value to that person or community. In my experience it is quite often that the "get" often comes from somewhere other than where you "gave gave". Those people keeping score are the ones losing out. This blog has talked in the past about people who say they referred someone to a person in their network, and that person did not reciprocate, so they are really down on the idea of referrals. Porter's book will clear up this silly notion and much more, with exercises throughout which cause one to really think about the "why" of what you are doing.

Take Porter's Funnel Test, go through the questions, and stretch your reach to build the network and connections of your dreams.

How is your network?

Have you thought about aligning your values, skills, and interests as you grow connections?

Comments on this topic greatly appreciated. Also, I love Porter Gale's 13 Steps for Transformational Networking which you can download in return for giving your email on her site.

IBMThis post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I've been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

Lori Richardson - Score More SalesLori Richardson is recognized as one of the "Top 25 Sales Influencers for 2012" and one of "20 Women to Watch in Sales Lead Management for 2012 and 2013". Lori speaks, writes, trains, and consults with inside and outbound sellers in technology and services companies. Subscribe to the award-winning blog and the “Sales Ideas In A Minute” newsletter for sales strategies, tactics, and tips. Increase Opportunities. Expand Your Pipeline. Close More Deals.

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