Sean Johnson

Build an Intentional Life.

How to be a better networker

There are 3 primary ways to rapidly accelerate your career.

The first option is to be so damn good people can’t ignore you. This takes years of dedication, a passion for your craft, and probably at least some degree of natural ability.

The second option is to outwork everyone. This doesn’t have to mean hours. It’s more a function of intensity, consistently focusing on maximizing output and focus each hour of your workday.

The third option is to be way better than everyone else at building relationships.

This is the easiest to accomplish. Anyone can do it. When done correctly, it’s probably the most valuable. It makes everything your company needs to do easier?—?raising money, finding customers, attracting talent, partnering with great vendors and more.

And yet most people do it very poorly, if at all.

For them, networking means grabbing business cards at events, getting coffee to “pick people’s brains”, and seeing if there are immediate ways to get something from them.

The more talented ones realize that it’s largely about giving. Making introductions, offering to help, providing feedback and advice. Give, give, give. They avoid the tit-for-tat mentally and in the process build up so much goodwill that it comes back to them in waves.

This is great. But it can be so much better.

The Secret: 5/25/150.

I have a friend who is the best networker I’ve ever seen. They’re that person who can get you tickets to the impossible show, who is one degree away from anyone in town, who people go out of their way to help.

When you meet them, they’re not terribly impressive. They didn’t go to an amazing school. They didn’t build a rocketship startup. They would be the first to admit that they don’t really have any tangible skills.

Their secret is their system. They call it 5/25/150. The simplicity is incredible. But it blew me away when I heard about it.

They have a spreadsheet in Google Drive. It has three groups of people, organized based on the goals that are important to them and their business at that time. Each person is on a row, with their contact details and a notes field about their last conversation. (You can see an example here?—?feel free to make a copy.)

They live inside of that spreadsheet?—?literally their entire day. And this is what they do:

  • The 5 people they think are most critical in accomplishing those goals, they contact multiple times per week.
  • The next 25 people, they contact once per week.
  • The next 150 they contact once per month.

Why Does This Work?

That might sound bananas. My first question was how you can possibly contact people that often without driving them crazy?

But remember?—?the best networkers are givers. What the system does is force you to be a giver, and to do so in an extremely consistent way.

For their 5 most important contacts, they seek to understand exactly what they would need to make huge headway in their own goals. And then they go out of their way to help them get there. As a result, they have a regular stream of updates on the activity they’re doing.

The 25 and 150 are similar, in progressively smaller orders of magnitude. Although the level of activity is less than the 5, it’s certainly much more than the typical person those 25 interact with.

Imagine having someone willing to go that far to help you out. For most of us, there is a natural desire to want to reciprocate. And while this totally backfires if your goal is to track the favors owed to you or default back into a transactional way of thinking, don’t be surprised if over time a whole world of opportunities begin to open up to you.

What It Takes

This requires a tremendous amount of empathy?—?you have to genuinely love helping other people.

It requires patience, and a willingness to avoid a transactional mentality. Many of those people don’t respond in kind?—?there’s probably nobody that is as lavish with their generosity as this person is.

And it requires intense discipline (that candidly even I lack). After every conversation, this person updates their notes and scans the notes of every other person on the spreadsheet, looking for ways to make meaningful connections. It’s the only way to be sure they can consistently help at scale.

A Single Spreadsheet Can Change Your Life.

Because of one spreadsheet, this person’s career has been a straight up rocketship. I believe the same would be true for anybody with the empathy, patience and discipline to implement it.

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