An interview with Internet pioneer, Joel Comm.
I wanted to understand how the “big dogs” use networking, introductions and referrals to grow their companies. So I asked my friend, Internet pioneer and futurist, Joel Comm, about his approach. Rather than networking how-to’s, Joel’s pointers were uncommon, unexpected and grounding.
1. How do you use networking and asking for introductions and referrals to grow your various companies.
Joel Comm: I actually don’t look at networking as a means to new business. For me, networking is all about how you show up. You need to just put yourself out there, with no expectations. Some of my best opportunities came to me when I didn’t know exactly why I was showing up to a gathering, but I went anyway.
2. Then why do you network?
Joel Comm: You know, there are places I go and I’m not sure yet why I’m there. While I attend some events as a paid speaker, many time I attend even if I’m not speaking. The process is interesting to me, and I think it’s being comfortable and playful that opens me up to new opportunities. I go in with curiosity and openness, so things just materialize in a way that they wouldn’t have had I not gone and had I not been curious. Sure, I have expectations there’s something there… even though I don’t know what it is yet. So I just remain open and let conversations lead where they may, without forcing them in any direction.
3. What do you hope to get out of networking?
Joel Comm: I’m not going in with “what am I going to get out of this.” Sometimes, when you go into something thinking tactically, it closes you off. Go in open and good things happen.
So I expect two things when I network:
First… how I can help others and what needs do they have. I’m truly listening intently. When you think of how important something you say is to you, imagine the person you’re talking to and how important what they’re saying is to them. They’re sharing a piece of their heart. There’s a reason they do what they do and there’s a reason they’re telling me about it. And because this matters to them, I want it to matter to me. Treat the other person with the same amount of reverence and sacredness you give your own thoughts and words.
And second… trust the process, as showing up and seeking to bring value comes back to you. Maybe not in the way you think it will. I see it all the time. It’s the essence of my mantra, Do Good Stuff. Maybe it’s that mindset of expectation, of believing that “I don’t know why I’m going to this thing, but I have expectation that something’s there.” Worst case scenario, I got out for the night, met some great people, though no business came of it. Even in those situations, you might meet somebody who, five years later, remembers you for something and they introduce you to your five million dollar client. You never know so just go.
“Sometimes, when you go into something thinking tactically,
it closes you off. Go in open and good things happen.”
4. Can you share a story about a successful connection?
Joel Comm: About two months ago, I was thinking I needed to launch a product. I’d been thinking, “I can’t do this myself. I need a partner.” So I went to a friend and asked “Who do you think would make a good JV partner to do the operations stuff I’m not good at?” He gave a couple names. I knew both of these people and had a relationship with them. I just didn’t put two and two together that they would be a good partner. I called one of them and now I have a partner on my launch and he’s doing all the heavy lifting of the stuff I‘m not good at. The best part is that it’s not heavy lifting to him. Only to me. I now have a successful product launch coming up that’s running more smoothly than I thought it could… all because I asked a friend who he thought would be good.
Joel leaves us with 5 great ideas about our approach to networking:
- Network with curiosity and openness.
- Let things materialize as they may, not based on your own agenda
- Ask how you can help and listen intently to their response.
- Trust the process and, what’s meant to come back to you, will.
- Ask for help as things can materialize more easily and quickly in partnership.
What is your mindset when you network? Are you open and curious enough to let good things materialize?
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Joel Comm is NY Times bestselling author, professional keynote speaker, brand influencer and futurist. An expert on harnessing the power of the web, publishing, social media and mobile applications to expand reach and engage in active relationship marketing, Joel is a sought-after public speaker who leaves his audience inspired, entertained, and armed with strategic tools to create highly effective new media campaigns.