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Hello, and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is John Jantsch, and my guest today is Scott Gerber. He’s the co-founder and CEO of the Community Company. He’s also the founder of the Young Entrepreneur Council, YEC, and the Forbes Councils. He is a co-author of a book we’re gonna talk about today called, “Superconnector: Stop Networking and Start Building Business Relationships That Matter.” He wrote that book with Ryan Paugh. So Scott, thanks for joining me.
Scott Gerber: Thanks so much for having me John.
John Jantsch: So I always have to get a name out of the title and make sure that we define it. What is a superconnector?
Scott Gerber: Well, let’s unpack first the premise of why a superconnector needs to exist and that helps to understand it, the definition. Which is, the idea of networking is broken. I think you and I have many mutual friends who feel similarly, I’m sure you do in many ways too. Because it’s this one-sided transactional short-term thinking mentality that has lead to every level of noise in the world, social, in person, whatever you call your networking space, it has now been really a layer of crap and BS has been added to all of that. And so, what connectors are natural and authentic people who truly are looking to create valuable, deep relationships, and they do so by putting communities of great and amazing people around them. By constantly being habitually generous, being empathetic and by being very curious. And these are the people who have found ways to really be incredibly successful in life and business because of the relationships that they’ve selectively and methodically put around themselves.
John Jantsch: So, let me play a little devil’s advocate, that could just be a nice way to dress up networking and just give it a new approach.
Scott Gerber: Yep.
John Jantsch: But are you suggesting that … Because unfortunately, somebody could read your book and say, “Oh, okay. That’s how I have to act now if I want to be a networker.”
Scott Gerber: Yep.
John Jantsch: So how do … I mean the word authentic, sort of …
Scott Gerber: It’s the new t-shirt.
John Jantsch: Right. It’s the word that actually does distinguish, but it’s also sometimes easy to at least fake for a while, often.
Scott Gerber: Yeah. No, absolutely John. And I think … Look, at the end of the day I like to equate it this way in how these are actually different principles and not just word-play. I’m gonna ask your audience to do an audit of themselves, and this is something that I tell all of my friends when they determine whether or not they have more of a networking personality or a networker personality, or one of a connector. In the next five business conversations you have where you don’t know the other person, which way does your mind go? Does it go to, “I wanna learn more about this person and see where I may be able to play a role in their success?” Or does it lead to the direction of, “This person is not valuable to me, therefore I need to end this conversation.” And you don’t have to tell anybody the results. But those are the two fundamental truths. Are you someone that is genuinely curious to help others or are you really in every relationship to help yourself? And those are the fundamental differences.
So we say that networking has become tip and tactic orientated, right? Here’s the three best tips to do that. Here’s the four tactics you need to do this. Whereas what we’re promoting is an idea of an entire mindset shift. In the same way you’re not gonna lose weight in an authentic way by going and eating differently for a week or going to the gym once a week and having a Nutra Shake, you’re gonna change your lifestyle. That’s the same thing in how we talk about connection in that this is not a rethink of “Do this, not that.” It’s a fundamental rethinking of how you even go about building relationships in the first place and how you maintain those relationships ongoing. So it’s certainly not semantics here, and I would agree that that is what we fight against because the idea of networking is so ingrained in the vernacular of business. This is truly a mindset shift and it’s a way in which you have to rethink how you’re actually going about the practice of building the relationships in the first place.
John Jantsch: So how does … I mean, obviously, in the traditional world, networking or connecting even, went on a lot of times because you were physically in the same space with somebody. Obviously social media made it easy to connect in some way with people maybe you never meet. So how do we balance that? Because I mean, what it caused, which I think to great detriment in some cases, was I could go from having 100 connections to having 100,000 connections and how do I manage that?
Scott Gerber: Well, it’s funny, you just took the words right out of my mouth. I think we’ve gone through this shift of authentic, meaningful, deep relationships to vanity metrics, and even in what you just said, John, and I don’t mean to call you out on this at all because I know this is not how your intention was, but this is how we’ve changed the world from humans meeting humans to how do you think about interacting online versus offline. Or shouldn’t you be able to interact as a human in both environments ’cause, in theory, it’s one world, it’s one daily life? So I think that we’re trying to segment … Again, based on tips, practices, tool sets, guru logic, platforms, all these third party stimula that are basically putting noise in the way of what was once very simple.
If you want to build a relationship with someone, you invest time. You invest time in them. You invest time in real conversation, in curiosity, in empathy of their position. And I think that what we’ve done is gone from a position of humanity being amplified by various tools, to the tools and platforms becoming the reason for trying to hack humanity. Instead of amplifying humanity, we’re amplifying message and personal brand. And so I think that we’re just in this moment right now where we almost have to take a step back and actually start to determine who we are so that we can put whatever our best proverbial foot forward, I hate using those kind of terminologies, but really just be ourselves again. But do so in a way that does have a point. You know, you don’t wanna just waste time, we’re not just using words like habitual generosity to sound smart. We’re using it because these kind of methodologies is really a framework that helps people to just be able to have deeper conversations and longer term systems that can help them help others. And those are really just key attributes of what I think strong connectors do.
John Jantsch: All right. So if we’re gonna throw the traditional networking habits out the door, what are the new habits we need to adopt?
Scott Gerber: Sure. So I think first and foremost, sort of what I alluded to earlier, you gotta have a bit of self awareness here, and that audit that I mentioned is sort of the first step. And it’s this idea that are you not only self aware of yourself, but are you self aware of what others think of you? I think connectors have the unique ability to be very transparent with themselves and be able to say very clearly, “This is how the world views me, and this is how I view me. These are my strengths and weaknesses. These are the areas by which I run my life, my professional world and so forth.” So that’s one.
Two, you do need to see what is your level of emotional intelligence. Do you care about other people? I mean, I’ll be honest John, I’ve met a lot of people that don’t. And you probably shouldn’t be a connector. And that’s the thing, I’ve met many sales people, you will never change their ways. They are out to make the sale, hell or high water. And I just fundamentally think that, you know what? They’re okay with 99 people out of 100 thinking they’re horrible, terrible people, but they’re gonna sell the one out of 100, and you can’t change that. You should, you can’t change it. So you gotta have emotional intelligence, you gotta be an empathetic person.
And lastly, you have to start looking at how curious you are. Do you genuinely care about the conversations you’re in? Do you follow up? Do you dive deep or stay surface level? I like to give this as the test for that one. How many times have you heard the question, “How can I help you?” All right? So I used to be guilty of this myself. I would, after the end of a conversation, say, “How can I help you?” But when you actually dissect that for a minute, what it means is, number one, you were either not been listening or not asked the right number of questions to actually offer where you might be helpful, who you might know, what resource you might have, versus this sort of social script that is the lazy way out. Or the, “Oh, I know if I say how can I help you right now at the right moment, they’ll ask me the same thing, and my true need of getting something from them, all of a sudden I become the good guy, but I get what I need.”
So it all starts with great questions. An example, instead of asking something like, “How can I help you?”, starting conversations with things like, “What makes you excited to wake up in the morning that you’re working on right now?” “What does success look like right now or a year from now, based on the thing you’re passionate about?” Those kinds of questions that really help people to talk more. And I always say a connector’s job, fundamentally, whether it’s social media, whether it’s in person, is you need to be the Sherlock Holmes of discourse. You need to pull context, you need to solve the puzzle because most people don’t know how to ask for help, or the help they’re asking for is wrong, or the things that they’re working on have a certain lens or framework, and you need to be able to solve for them what they’re either not seeing or not capable of asking. And that comes by naturally, whether it’s online, in text or in person, it’s about finding ways to extract that great context, to see what’s really there and where you really can make an impact.
John Jantsch: Now, those are conversation starter kind of questions. You know, people have been preaching that for years, and that’s … I’ll go to a networking event and somebody I’ll just meet for the first time will ask me what I’m excited about. And I have to tell you, maybe I’m not a connector, but my first reaction is, “I don’t know you well enough to tell you what I’m excited about. It’s none of your damn business.”
Scott Gerber: I think, John, you hit on an excellent point. The argument here also is we’re not saying that you should be meeting every person under the sun.
John Jantsch: No.
Scott Gerber: We’re also … You know, connectors live their life, what we’ve found, by really a couple of key principles. One of those is what we call the art of selectivity. So, they put themselves in circles of intimate gatherings or very well thought through curation or convened experiences, to ensure that they are setting up their own environments. Right? Connectors are not people who wanna go meet 5,000 people a week, they’re not. It’s a misconception. The best connectors are people that are setting the stage for the kinds of folks that they wanna surround themselves with, the communities they wanna build around themselves. They extract people from pre-existing real estate as we call it, or other communities, or other areas, to be the center of a sphere of influence amongst a group they’re creating on their own.
And so, I agree with you. If you’re in a room and you’re just like, “Hey. I’m an extrovert.” And you wanna go meet everybody and the sun, that’s great, but that doesn’t mean you’re a great connector. It means that you’re not necessarily being as thoughtful of how you’re thinking about the way in which you’re gonna methodically value your time and build real impact with people that matter, and that people that could be really of value add community member of yours. So I agree with you. I don’t think people should just put themselves out there any given which way, I think you have to be very, very careful and very, very curated in the way you think about relationship building and where you dedicate your time and who you invest in.
John Jantsch: Now I know there’s no hard and fast number in this, but if we’re talking about investing time, resources, care, there’s probably only so many you can do that with. I mean, and again, like I said, there’s no hard and fast number, but shouldn’t we be trying to make our universe maybe smaller in that regard?
Scott Gerber: Absolutely. You know, I often say the best connectors know how to say no better than anyone else. And there’s a reason for that. Unfortunately the reality is time is the one resource we can’t get back. And so we’re in this moment because social media has made connections, and I say that with the air quotes around me, made it so easy, we think that that is a relationship or a connection or a direct link, and it’s not. It’s sort of, “Oh, they liked a piece of content I wrote.” Well, are you gonna call them if your mother’s dying? Probably not, right? It’s just the reality.
And so, there’s a couple of things here. First, there is no hard and fast number, but there are ways to cheat the human brain and still build meaningful connections with say, a few hundred people, let’s just say. You might have your inner circle which might be a dozen, but the idea of deeper connections being larger just by nature of, in business, that happens, that’s fine. But this is where the connectors really shine, they are productivity and efficiency hackers that really think about how to get the most out of systems they’ve built to, again, show off their humanity and be human, but remove all of the remedial work out of the equation.
Few examples. So we have some connectors that are hard-core about creating spreadsheets that are easily searchable with keywords that they’ve taken from conversations, context that they’ve mined from one on one interactions, and so when they need something or when they wanna help someone else, they have an easy Rolodex and a system that’s curated for them, that they can use as their cheat sheet, if you will. Now do people care that they’re using a system to end up in a better conversation or help to make an introduction? Of course not. But it’s the idea that they’ve populated it with that context that’s so rich and valuable that makes the system worth note. Same thing goes for when you follow up with people. You know, there’s a lot of people that use things like Boomerang or use things like … Excuse me. A Follow-up.CC. So these are different kinds of tools you can use, but it’s all about the humanity you’re putting through them.
One last point, it’s also about how do you bring together collision so you are not necessarily always one on one, but really seem as a sphere of influence. I mean, as an example John, you’ve known me for years through things like YEC. I’m the first one to say that while I have direct access to YECers, I’ve gained indirect access by nature of being in the center of that sphere, and people I trust that have brought in other stakeholders that have seen value as a result of this overall community, I have indirect access to should I need it. That doesn’t necessarily mean I’m gonna have deep relationships with thousands of people, it’s impossible, but the idea that you’ve created an ethos of value, a mission driven community, where you’re that center, allows you to have the kinds of access or inbound or outbound that is more valuable than simply having a Rolodex. Right?
So these are some of the different ways in which connectors look at the world and find ways to, again, show their humanity by cheating the one element that they can’t reproduce, which is time.
John Jantsch: So there are instances of course as you’re trying to build a business, that you might identify somebody that you would like to connect with, you don’t have a relationship with, maybe you don’t even have any great ways to connect with. What is some advice that you would, a connector in this case, would approach to try to get on that person’s radar, try to start a relationship, when in fact that person’s connections are full, so to speak?
Scott Gerber: Yeah, absolutely.
John Jantsch: Does that make sense?
Scott Gerber: Yep. No, 100%. And John, I’m the first person to say, sometimes it’s not gonna happen.
John Jantsch: Right.
Scott Gerber: The reality is that I think we … I call it like the Richard Branson effect, right? Everybody wants to talk to Richard Branson, thinking like he’s gonna be the one that’s investing in your company and you’re gonna be a billionaire one day as a result. Right? That’s sort of the logic. And the reality is is that Richard Branson, or people like him, are basically … And I say this very respectfully of what he’s built, but at this point in this lives have basically become the figureheads of a much larger organization that really have key stakeholders that are the actual people you should meet. And so we first say, assess the person you’re trying to actually connect with because the reality is, nine times out of 10 from my experience, you’re going with ego or again vanity or headlines you’ve seen online, versus the people in the trenches every day that are actually the most valuable. So are you connecting, or trying to connect, with the right person? Chances are, if they’re very public, probably not. So that’s number one.
Number two is we call [inaudible 00:16:44] of influence. Keith Ferrazzi is the example we use where, back in the day, Keith was looking to meet Hillary Clinton. He didn’t know her, but he was big into the democratic politics and really wanted to meet her, but he didn’t try to connect with Hillary, he instead found ways to connect with key members of her team, and it would be years before those members of the team had trusted and befriended Keith well enough to then let him in the inner circle. And while it wasn’t his goal to get something from Hillary Clinton, he makes that very clear, it’s the idea that he did well and provided as much value as he could to the people around her, so when the time was right, if they felt it was right, that value would be exchanged in an introduction, which at some point it was. So I think it’s taking care of the people that take care of the person you wanna meet as well, and finding unique ways to get in the door with them.
We profile another person in Superconnector, named John Ruhlin. John has a book called Giftology and that’s his methodology, of how he does smart gifting to make gifts that are highly personalized, non-promo, non, you know, wanting something back in nature, but very, very personalized gifts that leave artifacts for people to really love and respect. And you know, he can give like anything from a knife set to something special that’s specific for your family heirlooms, let’s say, and years later get phone calls about these gifts because people just always remember how thoughtful it was. And I always got the joke that he never gives gifts between Thanksgiving and Christmas because that’s what everybody does. He sort of makes it planned randomness, right? This idea that he’s gonna do it in moments where it’s unexpected, so serendipity is at its maximum altitude.
But the same thing goes here. If you’re doing things or giving to people, give to the right people or the people around the people. That’s what a lot of connectors do. The way in is often not direct. And I think also, if you’re trying to do something like, I call it the sales thinking, right? “Oh, I want to meet this person by Q2”. Okay, well maybe that’ll happen, but the reality is no one person should ever be on a timeline to try to be introduced or meet. Because then you’re gonna make dumb mistakes or you’re gonna potentially close that door for good if you’re not ready or not making the right inroads. And when the time would present itself where it’s the right moment, you can lose it. And so I think it’s just … Again, I go back to the mantra, “You can’t cheat real time, and relationships take real time.” But you can be smarter on the investment up front.
John Jantsch: All right. So here’s the money question, and I’m actually gonna talk about money, so sorry if that was just …
Scott Gerber: No, no of course. Gotta make a living.
John Jantsch: A little clumsy. But the … You’re putting in time, you’re investing, you’re building these connections, should you have at least … And again, I know you can’t keep perfect score, but should you at least have some over-riding business objectives that are driving who you connect and how you connect?
Scott Gerber: Oh, absolutely. I think, again, I wanna take back to where we started the conversation, John. The end of the day, I’m just simply telling people, don’t be transactional in every relationship, it’s not a score card like, “Okay, I helped John. John needs to help me.” You need to think more worldly, right? And so, if you are strong with 100 people … I’m making this up. 100 people, you’re basically giving value to a network of amazing people that you’ve identified that can help you to establish inbound opportunity and help you achieve outbound opportunity. But the key is, you’ve not invested in any one of them on a tit for tat, on a quid pro quo level.
So invested smart, it’s just like a VC fund for lack of a better example. A VC is not gonna invest in 100 companies and hope to win 100 companies. They’re hoping that a certain percentage of the portfolio is gonna pay off the ROI. The same thing sort of applies here, but in a more human way, which is if you are a great curator of amazing people and you’ve done very well by them and you’ve gone the extra mile and you’ve listened to them and you’ve befriended them, you shouldn’t expect any one of them to give you something because that’s wrong, but that doesn’t mean they’re not gonna have your back in bad times, it doesn’t mean they’re not gonna help you out when you need something for good times. But it’s just about the mindset of how you transact that business.
At the same time, no-one wants to hang out with a non-successful person in business. You have to be successful in your own right, which is why people say no so often because opportunities can be wolves in sheep’s clothing. So I think it’s about assessing your network to ensure that you are being that selective body. We have a mutual friend, and I believe he’s been on your show before, Derek Coburn …
John Jantsch: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah.
Scott Gerber: Yeah? And he talks about ways of how he is making an engine that’s much smarter for referrals, but in a very meaningful way. And so what does he do? He does these wine events, right? And in those wine events, he asks real connoisseurs from his wealth management’s client base. They have to really love the wine ’cause that’s what the event is about. He asks them to come to an event and what does he say? “Please bring someone from your network that you think really enjoys this fine wine as well.” So what has he done? He’s established criteria, you have to like the wine. But at this level of wine, that likely means that it’s gonna be peers of the people he wants to bring. So you’re talking about another high net worth individual that Derek might not have a direct relationship with. Then, they’re coming to an exclusive curated event around an idea, a topic, and a series of peers that they know are gonna be highly vetted. So what’s gonna happen? Do you think that anybody in that room that Derek didn’t know by the end of the night, is not only gonna know what Derek did and how good he is, but get a direct introduction of a referral basis from that person that introduced the two parties? Of course not. He’s gonna walk out, but never have to say what he does unless he’s asked a question that’s personalized in nature.
So you could set yourself up with your community for success. I think anybody that says you shouldn’t look at a profit motive in your whole business life, is lying. But you can do it in a smart way and you could do it in a more human way. And I think that’s the key. Just don’t be that poachy guy that’s at the networking event, shaking your hand with one hand, handing you the business card with the other, talking all about himself and looking over your shoulder to see who’s next in line. That’s the guy we’re saying, don’t be that guy.
John Jantsch: Visiting with Scott Gerber, the author of Superconnector. Scott, tell people where they can find more about this work, this book and anything else that you wanna share.
Scott Gerber: Absolutely. So you can go and buy the book online, everywhere books are sold, or check out SuperconnectorBook.com. You can also follow me on Twitter, @ScottGerber, or my co-author and partner in crime, Ryan Paugh, @RyanPaugh. We love to connect with you and happy to answer any other questions you might have.
John Jantsch: Awesome. Thanks Scott and hopefully we’ll run in to you out there on the road soon.
Scott Gerber: Thanks John.