It Isn’t Who You Know, It’s How You Know Them

September 30, 2015

And so the old adage goes: it isn't what you know, it's who you know.

Without a doubt, there's a very big, very prominent vein of truth in that statement – any one of us in small business will attest to our connections being the cornerstone of our enterprise.

In fact, to quote the marvellous Judy Robinett: “your network is your net worth“; a startlingly accurate representation of the old adage applied to real life.

Yet, we all operate in this world of social media; this world of speed; this world of dwindling attention.

For many of us, this results in rapid fire conversations, knee jerk responses to social chatter and an overall lack of attention to the conversations going on around us.

Perhaps more worrying though is the manner in which social influence has become a currency of sorts, becoming sought after quicker and quicker rather than earned like the currency we're so used to doing business with traditionally.

In a world of influencers it's very easy for anyone in small business, especially those starting to build their personal brand and to embrace their own online potential, to “chase influencers” in the hopes of achieving some kind of halo effect by being associated with these people.

This approach isn't just limited to chasing influencers online. It notoriously raises its head at networking events, when often we're spoken “at” by someone there to try to generate sales. If we're not careful, we end up doing the same – when in Rome!

Of course, anyone with influence in the small business sphere and anyone at a business networking event is, by definition, a business-person. And business-people want to connect with likeminded people.

After all, our network is our net worth.

But, as so eloquently delivered by Albert Einstein, we must “Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.”.

Simply chasing influencers or hunting sales whilst networking and “connecting” with them isn't enough. If we're to develop meaningful relationships with anyone at all in life, we must add value to their lives.

Never is this more true than when building connections in small business.

In fact, the word “connections” in itself, implies a sense of distance; a disparity between our “working” and “real” lives that alludes to these “connections” merely being made to serve a business purpose.

Rather, we should think of business connections as friends, as valued and nascent relationships that we have consciously chosen to grow positively and with a distinctly genuine approach.

People are people, regardless of their “status” and beginning a business relationship with a business card and stalling, sometimes ending that relationship with a failed sales call is, frankly, Draconian.

The approach with which we undertake growing these relationships says a lot about our intent as human beings: are we simply connecting because we believe that we can make a sale or gain something from the person with whom we connect, or is our intent altruistic, long-term and genuine?

And here's the kicker: the excuse that we all use, we're just “too busy” to make that “hey, just saying hi” phone call, the reasoning that we “just never got around to it” is complete and utter rubbish.

After all, we make time for the things that matter to us. We make time for our family, our friends and the things that we're passionate about.

If the only time we call a new “connection” is with the subtext of gaining something, then this relationship really doesn't matter to us.

But THAT is how we're taught to sell. THAT is how we're taught to network – hey, gotta follow up!

We all have that one friend who only calls when they need something. How do you feel when that happens to you?

I challenge that, I challenge you and I challenge myself.

We all need to be better

I want us all to get to know the people with whom we feel a connection and develop a genuine, mutually beneficial relationship with no agenda, no “long game”; nothing but a slow, steady and honest path to understanding what makes someone's life their life.

What matters to them? What do they love? What can we help with?

When we consider receiving the sales call, we think of it in a very specific way: negatively.

But, how much do we value that out-of-the-blue phone call from someone, just to say hi or ask about a specific life event we've just gone through?

And hey, if we aren't good at that, at least we can be honest.

I met a fantastic conversion optimisation specialist at a recent conference and was immediately struck by his knowledge, wisdom and professionalism.

I could immediately see where our two companies could add value to each other and I simply stated that directly after a few minutes of conversation:

“Hey, I really enjoyed your session, I think we can work together you know.”

And that was it – nothing more. We continued to chat and have continued to do so since the conference, rarely about “work”.

What's the result?

The result is that without trying, he has gained my full trust and I would have no fear whatsoever in referring any of my clients to him.

And we have barely even touched upon “work” during our chats.

Be The Person, Know The Person

Cliff Ravenscraft, the Podcast Answer Man, delivers a superb tip as part of his keynote speeches that allows us all to completely eradicate the “I'm too busy” excuse.

Cliff runs a spreadsheet that contains a list of everyone he knows, along with what they do for a living and a few specific personal details about them: perhaps favourite sports teams, important dates, life events, kids' names.

You get the picture.

It's a beautifully simple way of maintaining a genuinely personal relationship with our “connections” (ok, let's stop saying that) without telling ourselves we just don't have time for it.

The real beauty of this is in its simplicity: it is not hard to do.

In fact, since seeing Cliff speak the last time, I've created a private Trello board to run this very thing for myself.

Honestly, try it – it'll change the way you interact with people and it'll pull back that blanket of “busy-ness” and allow you to become a person with whom people really connect.

Truly: it's not who you know, it's how you know them.

Now, don't forget: the more you expect from yourself, the more you WILL excel.

Mark Asquith

That British podcast guy, Mark is co-founder of, the world's only growth-oriented podcast host. A Harvard, TEDx, Podcast Movement and Podfest speaker (amongst many more!), he's a wildly approachable Brit and Star Wars/DC Comics geek.

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