Networking Lessons from Gene Simmons

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Do you watch Celebrity Apprentice? Well, if you missed the first week, you missed a great lesson in networking from rock star Gene Simmons. The celebrities were divided into two teams — men and women — and tasked with selling hot dogs on the street in New York to raise money for the charity of their choice.

Check out how Gene Simmons tackled the challenge (starts at about 0:40):

This brings to light a very important networking concept: the action threshold. The action threshold is simply this: how well does someone have to know you in order to take action on the request you’re making of them, or in order to proactively take action on your behalf when they see an opportunity?

You probably know at least one or two people, maybe more, who are capable of making a $10,000 donation to charity. Would they do it for you?

That may seem like an extreme example, but let’s bring it a little closer to home. How many people in your network would, say, promote your new book and help bump it to the best-seller list, with no direct benefit to them? That’s how Bob Burg and John David Mann got their latest book, The Go-Giver, to the top of the business bestseller list on Amazon. Sure, they have a mailing list of several thousand people, but the real power was in the several dozen people who went and promoted it to their lists, blogs and forums.

See, Bob and John build strong relationships, and that takes time and effort. Bob and John came through like a champ for me a few months ago, cranking out the introduction to Jason Alba’s I’m on LinkedIn — Now What?? on very short notice. They put hours into it, not seconds. And in the process they not only strengthened their relationship with me, but also forged new, instantly strong relationships with Jason and Mitchell Levy, the publisher.

So now, even though I’m up to my ears in client work, a new book and other commitments, there wasn’t even any question in my mind about promoting Bob’s book when it came out.

For our new book, The Emergence of The Relationship Economy, the legendary Doc Searls provided the foreword, even though we had just met him. I’m still a little bit amazed how quickly we were able to “go deep” with him, but we were, and it paid off. But I know that a big part of it is because Carter, Jay and I are willing to invest time in building relationships with the right people, rather than just building a big list.

“Light links”, i.e., people you’re connected to on LinkedIn but don’t really know, aren’t usually going to take action on your behalf. Heck, in many cases they won’t even respond to an email! I’ve lost track of the number of people on MyLinkedInPowerForum who have told stories of writing back to open networkers who have invited them, trying to start a conversation, and never receiving any reply. That’s not networking. Worse — it’s a complete, utter waste of time.

Who in your LinkedIn network would buy a $10,000 hot dog from you for charity? Write your book foreword in a weekend? Introduce you to their CEO personally? Pick you up at the airport personally? Let you stay at their house?

If the answer is “no one”, it’s time to change your networking strategy.

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7 Comments

  1. Gene, Bob, John, Jason, Doc et al – – get it. I have been an executive career advisor for years and networking is still the most profitable process for finding a new position. Now, thanks to the internet, and sites like LinkedIn – – it is easier, more fun and you can reach out to people throughout the world. It is a 2-way street, you must be willing to help others along the way, but the return on investment would make even Warren Buffett feel good.

  2. I didn’t think that today I’d read a blog where an exec career coach says that I get it, in the same sentence that Gene Simmons gets it (it was fun watching him get fired last week).

    Having Bob Burg forward my book was amazing. From the question “who should forward this?” (Vincent Wright answered that question for me) to getting a very comprehensive forward, along with suggestions for the rest of the book, really blew me away.

    It did happen because of “deep relationships.” And Scott is right, I’d do whatever Bob asks me to.

    To be honest, and not to sound sappy, what I saw was the American Dream (happening throughout the world). No bureaucracy, no red tape. It was very much givers gain, relationship stuff that allowed us to get amazing results. Huge thanks to Vincent Wright, and to you, Scott, for facilitating this. And of course, to Bob who proved to some unknown guy (me) that he is a very classy person.

    Jason Alba
    CEO, author

  3. Scott, to your point on “action threshold,” Gene Simmons says: “Some of us can knock on some doors and some doors will open because of who is knocking on the door.”

    But the light linkers you describe are also working a “quantity over quality threshold,” no?

    Luke 11:9 says: “And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.”

    If Gene’s wisdom roughly translates to trust in the person, doesn’t Luke’s proverb roughly translate as trust in the process? The door opens not because of who you are but because of what you do [seek, find, knock].

    The depth of relationship building that you describe is predicated on exclusivity. It’s who you know and how well you know ’em, and visa versa. You described it as deep.

    Light-linking is about indiscriminate inclusiveness and for a purpose altogether different from leveraging personal connections. Isn’t it about leveraging critical mass?

    I can’t imagine that anyone in their right mind systematically builds a 500 plus network on LinkedIn expecting to 499 people to say, “Hey, Ami, it’s you! Sorry I’m a bit light today, will you take nine grand instead, 86 the bun?” any more than I should upset if my howdy-doodies go unanswered.

    Somewhere between the Relationship Economy and Network Economy we have LinkedIn. It seems to me that the romantic notion persists that it should somehow reflect the qualities of both. I don’t see how it can.

    You say it might be time to re-evaluate LinkedIn, change our networking strategy. I’m afraid the days of LinkedIn being about networking — for the most connected users at least — are long gone. That said, it remains a strategic play which is why we [open networkers] keep banging it.

    In struggling to reconcile all of this for myself, my own networking and relationship building, I think the surrealist painter Mimi Parent said it best: “Knock hard, life is deaf.”

    Thanks for the post and leading me here.

  4. Actually, I do not believe in networking. But do not get me wrong, I have nothing against people who believe in it and practice it.

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