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Andrey Novikov: How to improve networking efficiency?

Andrey Novikov is an expert in the field of digital marketing, CEO & Founder of the Affect group of companies, which counts PepsiCo, MasterCard, Lego, Unilever, and other top-100 global advertisers among its clients. He is also a business mentor and a member of the San Francisco Innovation Hub community.

In this article, Andrey wrote for the readers of our blog about a new approach to effective networking for entrepreneurs, as well as shared what helps to build trustful relationships with clients and secure orders with larger amounts.

There are many types and formats of networking: online, business, speed networking, thematic/emotional/private groups, chatbots, business clubs, associations, and more. In this article, we won’t delve into them, but rather think about how to make this tool even more effective for business.

What does networking efficiency mean? It’s when you can bring maximum results to your business in minimal time. For instance, making a 15-minute call and getting a new lead that others couldn’t secure, even if they networked for three years, attended all conferences, and joined all communities. Remember, “efficiency” is often measured over the long haul. It’s not about instant results, especially when it comes to networking.

If you drive a car always at 6,000 RPM, you might outpace everyone, but after an hour, the engine will overheat, and you’ll lose the race. Something similar happens when, at any networking event, people try to “sell” right away and start “blatantly pitching.” Or when they get disappointed the next day after a conference because no contracts were signed. This might be less relevant for simple B2B products and small businesses. However, the larger the business and the longer the deals, the more relevant this comparison becomes.

Networking is most relevant in B2B sales, and B2B is always about trust. It’s fundamentally the trust of one person in another. The more trust, the higher the budgets. For example, if I’m looking for a contractor for a $1,000 project, I can find one online since my risks aren’t that great. But if I have a $1,000,000 project, I don’t want to make a mistake – I want to minimize my risks, even if it means overpaying. The main thing is that I trust the company, or more likely, a specific person. I need someone who can assure me that nothing bad will happen to my money. That’s why networking works best in B2B, as it’s the most trust-influencing tool. Yes, ratings, expert articles, portfolios, conferences, and everything else that drives trust also work, but networking is the leader in this aspect.

I even have a humorous formula:

Project budget = Trust level * Project scale

Trust has always been an important and rare element of society, and now this parameter is globally decreasing. For example, the Edelman Trust Barometer published a report in 2023, stating that only 30% of people believe they will receive help when needed, and this indicator has been worsening over the last three years. Imagine how crucial this parameter is overall, not to mention in B2B. In the future, this will only deteriorate due to the development of AI, particularly the spread of Deepfake, and the whole idea of Web3 was born, broadly speaking, from distrust.

Therefore, it’s easy to understand a person’s feelings if you start “selling” your services to them from the first minutes of the conversation. The higher a person’s position and the size of their business, the wiser they are. Such a person can easily recognize the “level of people,” and such “sales” – every second person tries to “sell” them something. Therefore, the “sales networking” method only works at certain business scales and does not work in really large projects.

This raises the question – how to increase trust?

Without hesitation, give everything a person needs – your time, knowledge, and experience, valuable contacts you’ve developed over the years, and so on. Of course, it’s important to feel the balance. I’m not suggesting working at a loss or giving all your money to a stranger, but often people only think of their own benefit, and this hinders the growth of trust.

Openness and sincerity
When a person sees that you sincerely tell them everything as it is, without exaggerating and even admitting to your mistakes, when the interlocutor understands that you are an “open book,” fear disappears, and they want to open up in return.

Genuine interest in the person
When you communicate not for your own benefit but because you are genuinely interested in how the person lives and thinks, then conversations become deeper, and trust grows. Later, business cooperation emerges as a consequence.

Never lie, even in small matters. This kills trust.

Good intentions
Whatever you do or say, you always have good motivation, and other people can feel it. When I go to events, my main motivation is not to sell but to learn something new from people and help them with what I can. Then, sales happen on their own as a result of trustful dialogues, sometimes years later when you least expect it.

These are the 5 most important points, in my opinion. Of course, for trustful relationships, a hundred other qualities are important too, such as empathy, the ability to listen, patience, respect, and much more.

I also think that for many, these qualities might sound like “fluff.” However, one of the differences between a wise person and a smart one is that the former understands that these qualities are the pinnacle of efficiency in human relationships and business networking. Cultivating these qualities within oneself and applying them effortlessly is a very challenging task, which many books attempt to describe.

By starting to live according to these qualities, initially forcing yourself and then getting used to them, you’ll start to conduct meetings differently, make different decisions, and attract new people with similar qualities around you. About three years later, as if “by accident,” your circle will include successful businessmen whom you never thought of selling anything to but sincerely helped, and they “somehow” recommend you to their friends because they trust you. And who else but you to entrust that $1,000,000 project? Surely not the guy who was pitching at the meeting yesterday. Why, when there’s a reliable person recommended to them?

The goal of this article is singular — to assist those who haven’t pondered this, to demonstrate that there are alternative ways to enhance the quality of networking — longer, more complex, but more effective routes. And from there, you’ll find the necessary information, books, people, advice on your own. It all starts with the right thought.

If there’s anything else I can help you with, I’ll do so gladly and, of course, without expecting anything in return. Such is the path to efficiency.”

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