I Don’t Have a Network, I Have Friends.
Becoming a Better Sales Rep — Post #31
This blog post is slightly different than the others. It’s about my understanding of social capital and networking rather than about giving you concrete advice on what to do. I hope that some people will get away with the feeling of having learned a new perspective rather than with concrete things about what to do.
Or, that people will challenge me in my understanding and help me learn and incorporate new perspectives.
The reason that I’m writing this post is that people often tell me that I’m such a great networker. But I disagree, strongly. On the other hand, they’re still right, somehow. Well, that’s confusing. So, what do I mean?
The disagreement comes from my understanding of networking and my clear differentiation between networking and social capital. So, this blog post is very clearly not about networking. I might write one in the future but I doubt it because I don’t like networking.
Okay, enough of all the confusion. Let’s get some clarity about what my understanding of social capital and networking is.
What is Networking?
I always like googling things for definitions. It’s a great reality check to see if my understanding of something is aligned with the general societal perception. Sometimes it helps to see that I’m wrong. Sometimes it gives me peace of mind that I’m right, but sometimes I happily disagree with it knowing that I have a different concept of it.
Merriam-Webster was so generous to even give me two definitions:
- The exchange of information or services among individuals, groups, or institutions specifically, or
- The cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business
So, based on this and on my understanding, networking has three major components:
- Relationships between individuals or groups,
- A focus on outcomes, and
- A specific context to the interaction.
Okay, before reflecting on this, let’s get an understanding of what the general society might understand as social capital.
What Is Social Capital?
Let me start with quoting a passage from an OECD paper:
- “Social capital” may first have appeared in a book published in 1916 in the United States that discussed how neighbors could work together to oversee schools.
- Author Lyda Hanifan referred to social capital as “those tangible assets [that] count for most in the daily lives of people: namely goodwill, fellowship, sympathy, and social intercourse among the individuals and families who make up a social unit.”
Well, 1916 was certainly a few years ago and the definition is a little verbose. So, let’s break it down to its core. Social capital is based on:
- Relationships between individuals and groups.
And, that’s it.
You certainly noticed that it’s the same definition as networking but it lacks two points: outcomes focus and specific context for the interaction.
Social capital is all about your friends. About people who deeply appreciate you and whom you deeply appreciate. It’s about the people you have great memories with, whom you wish well from the deepest of your heart. It’s about the people who do things for you for no reason and for whom you’d drop everything if they needed your help.
Why I Don’t Believe in Networking
So, taking these definitions into account, it makes sense to assume that networking is a sub-concept within the realm of social capital. It’s kind of a tactic on how to use social capital.
However, networking became more than just a sub-concept in the general understanding of society, especially in business.
Networking became so heavily focused on outcomes that the underlying relationships are oftentimes only viewed and utilized when a specific context requires it. Your network became a resource.
And, I simply don’t like this. I don’t want to be a resource and I don’t want to treat other people like resources.
And I’ve been noticing that there’s been a shift of mind in sales (and business in general) that many people agree with me. Networking turned into this thing where people just ask each other for favors because they need something.
And, I don’t judge others if they want to engage in such relationships. And, don’t get me wrong, I also engage in outcomes-focused interactions. But I much rather prefer those relationships that go beyond this.
How Do I Build My Social Capital?
So, if I don’t cultivate networks for specific purposes, how am I successful in a world that does? Don’t the people around me who do network have a huge advantage?
Well, maybe they do. But my approach also has its advantages. And, I never need to feel dirty about it. And, I really, really like that.
In essence, there are three concepts in my approach:
- I’m not strategic about my relationships: Sure, I do reach out to certain people if I need their help. But I don’t try to build fake relationships with the premise of using these relationships at some point in the future. I just get to know people.
- I don’t focus on outcomes when I get to know people: When I’m at parties, dinners, or conferences, I never think that I need to get to know the most valuable person around. No, I just look for the people I find kind, nice, and great to get along with. I want to enjoy myself. And, I want the other person to do the same. In some sense, I’m process- and not outcomes-focused when I meet new people.
- I’m interested in people: I’m really curious. I really wanna know about your road trip, your family, or what happened last weekend. I don’t pretend like I’m interested in you to get your attention or hope for some advantage in the future. No, I want to get to know you for who you are.
I make friends rather than business partners. And, it’s served me incredibly well.
Some people might say that it’s just a luck game. But I disagree because I’ve met so many great people and kept in touch with them. To consider this just luck wouldn’t make sense. It’s not that one in a hundred turns to be out to be very helpful in the future. No, almost everybody I stay in touch with has — at some point — helped me or I helped them. Most of the time both. But we never kept score.
- I met my co-founder while we were helping each other out preparing for job interviews a few years ago when we were little nobodies who had just graduated from college.
- I went on a road trip with a friend who later turned out to become a high-ranking official at the United Nations.
- I invited my elderly neighbor for dinner during the lockdown because they seemed a little lonely; they turned out to be a former corporate lawyer and helped me to prepare for a legal battle.
- Most of our early-stage customers at my startup were long-term friends of my co-founders and me.
- A potential investor of ours is a friend from grad school who has seen me drunk too many times.
You get it.
Conclusion: It’s Better to Have Friends Than a Network.
You can see that my social capital is certainly above average. But I don’t consider myself to have a great network.
However, I’m extremely lucky to have great friends whom I can always count on and who can always count on me. Friends who know that I value them and that I don’t only call them when I need something.
And, I can only urge you to do the same. Invest in your friendships, treat people well, don’t strategize about people. Just be kind.
There is no return on investment to my approach because it’d defy the underlying philosophy. However, if there was one, it would be infinite.
So, Do Me A Favor and Only Use Resonaid If It’s Useful to You.
I don’t want to waste your time. I want you to be my friend. So, I much rather have you not use Resonaid if it’s not useful to you. But if it is, I’d value it if you could take a look at it.
Resonaid is a tool that writes personalized messages for your sales outreach. It identifies unique and personal hooks that you can use to send out messages that are customized for every single lead.
Make sure to give it a try, if you haven’t already!
Access Resonaid via the Chrome Web Store.
Resonaid is a tool that helps sales professionals with writing personalized messages for their sales outreach.
We recently released the first version of our product as a Chrome extension in the Chrome Web Store.
As we just went live this summer, you can currently test Resonaid for free and get large discounts by being an early user.
About the Author.
Teddy Lange is a co-founder at Resonaid and is responsible for business development and customer experience. Before joining Resonaid, he’s been a Sales Rep and Junior Sales Manager, and co-founded various companies. He’s currently finishing his graduate degree in Public Policy with a focus on communication at Harvard University. Feel free to reach out to him at email@example.com.