Do you want to build your network?

Andy Lopata is a professional speaker, author, and master networker.  He has spent the last 14 years of his life helping people get connected.  In fact, he has andy lopatabecome so good at it that he is now referred to as Mr. Network in the UK.  Today he will share with us some key tips to help each of us become better connected.

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Do you want to build your network?

In today’s interview I had the opportunity of talking with Andy Lopata.  He has spent the last 14 years of his life helping people get connected.  In fact, he has become so good at it that he is now referred to as Mr. Network in the UK.  His got started in networking when his father started what became the largest networking group in the UK and has never looked back.  Even after his father sold the company, Andy retained his passion for networking and has continued to help thousands of people get connected.

In fact, Andy says he was actually glad when his father sold the company because it got him out of the day-to-day responsibilities of managing the company so he could focus 100% on what it is he loves, which is connecting other people.

This is something I can relate to very easily, because I had the same story in my own life.  When I left college my goal was to build the largest CPA firm in Vegas and my partners and I almost did that.  We actually grew from a small start up to being the second largest local firm within a 15 year period.  The only problem was once I reached my goal, it wasn’t what I thought it would be.  My days were filled with meetings and managing employees, rather than being out helping the clients like I always enjoyed doing.

As a result, in my own life, I sold my practice and started going back to meeting with clients on a daily basis, which I continue to do to this day.

As we talked about this, Andy reminded the listeners that for most of them they will start their business because they have a product or service they are passionate about.  To keep this passion, you need to make sure you surround yourself with other people who can do the things you don’t want to do, so you can spend your time on those things you really enjoy.  By doing this, you will find your business will have a lot better chance of long-term success.

As we transitioned into talking about the key things someone should consider in learning how to become a better networker, I asked Andy how you get started in picking a network to join.  He said the most important thing is to make sure you start with an objective of what you want to accomplish by joining a networking group.  He said to make sure you never just join a networking group because you have been invited.  You need to make sure you do some research on the group and make sure it will help you meet your goals.  A simple way to analyze most groups is to look at how long after the meeting people stay.  The longer they stay the better connected the members are becoming.

For most people Andy says they need to have three main objectives, but admits that based on individual circumstances you might have other objectives as well.  These three main objectives are to become better know, to become better equipped and to become better connected.

As you look at any group you are going to join, you need to look at how it is going to help you reach these objectives.  Once you have found a group that you believe will help you reach your objectives, you then need to ask yourself what you are going to do in the group to help you reach your goals.  Networking is as much about your involvement as anything.

Andy also recommends that before you join a networking group that you make sure you have already taken the time to get to know your current contacts and make sure they are aware you are trying to build your business.

I asked Andy where trust comes in when networking.  He said that trust comes right at the top of any relationship.  He said networking is about supporting and helping each other and we won’t do this if we don’t trust each other.  We build trust as we get to really know others.  The way you do this is by being patient.  You don’t go to a meeting and immediately ask how others can help you.  You have got to go to the meetings and let people get to know you and then they will be willing to help you.

Andy says that in order to be successful in any networking group you need to make sure you remember three things.  Visibility, Credibility, and Profitability.  First you need to be visible.  People need to see you, which means you need to get out and involved.  Then you need credibility.  This will come as others get to know who you really are, your goals and your passions.  Then the last thing you have is profitability.  This happens when you have truly accomplished the other two things.

To prove his point Andy shared an experience he had with an insurance salesman who on his first day at a networking event stood up and offered everyone at the meeting a free insurance quote if they would just give him their card.  He said nobody gave him their card.  As a result, this individual said this is a waste of time that networking groups don’t work.

Andy said his father then took him aside and explained to him the importance of visibility, credibility and profitability.  He told the gentlemen he needed to not only stay, but get involved in the group and then he could try it again in six months.  This individual stayed and in six months he once again offered a free quote if others would give him their business card.  By this time he had established credibility and as a result, he got cards from everyone in the room.

As I listed to this story it reminded me of a situation I had just had in my own life where I had been with a bunch of CPA’s and attorneys who offer financial planning services, but they were all very reluctant to make referrals to the financial planners they were working with.  I saw this as a prime example of what Andy had been talking about.  The reason these people were so reluctant to give the referral is because they did not yet trust the financial advisor enough to know he wouldn’t end up causing him problems latter on down the road.

If you have relationships where you are reluctant to send referrals to, you need to strengthen the relationship, because most times it goes both ways.  If you are reluctant to send a referral, the other person is also going to be reluctant to send a referral to you.

I asked any how much time someone should spend on networking.  He said it is different for everyone.  He said the best thing is to figure out how much time you have and then make sure you are committed to giving that amount of time each week to networking activities.

Andy went on to share a story of someone who he knew who was attending about 10 networking meetings a week.  He went to five breakfast meetings, three lunch meetings and a few dinners a week.  Andy said if you looked at this on the surface, you would assume this guy would be getting a lot of referrals, but he said this wasn’t the case at all.  He said because the guy was meeting so many people he was building a very wide network group, but it had no depth.  This guy had no time to follow up and therefore, he wasn’t building enough trust to get him referrals.

Andy recommends that instead of the above, you actually start with two or three people you know, but not as well as you would like and invite them to breakfast or lunch.  He says you will be able to accomplish far more than the above guy who was spending his day networking.

I asked Andy about the importance of listening when meeting with others.  He said it is critical part of building relationships.  In fact, he gave us some great advice.  He says when someone else begins to talk you need to ask yourself, why is this person saying what they are saying and why is it important to them?  Unfortunately, he says most of us don’t do this. Most of us spend the time we are listening trying to come up with our own response, which shows we don’t really care about what the other person is saying.

As we closed the podcast he gave us two other great tips for helping us build our networks.  The first is to take time to learn what our connections are interested in.  By doing this, it will give us the opportunity to build deeper relationships; because we can try to send them information or get them involved in activities they have a passion for.

Second he said it is critical you build a system for following up.  His recommendation is to follow the 24/7/30 rule.  This is that you follow up within 24 hours, again in a week and then again in 30 days.  If you will do this he says you will be able to build the trust needed to form a strong connection.

You can get a hold of Andy at to learn more about how you can improve your networking.  You can also follow him on twitter at andylopata.

Listen to the full interview with Andy Lopata on iTunes

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