Peter Kozodoy is an author, speaker, serial entrepreneur and the Chief Strategy Officer of GEM Advertising. Follow him @peterkozodoy.
Recently, YEC spoke with Peter about his experiences networking and his advice for others aspiring to improve their own experience. His best advice is below.
Be Persistent and Specific
Treat every new contact as a goldmine. Insist on a second meeting, even if it’s just for coffee. Ask them the top three things they need, and strive to help them achieve those three priorities. In return, they’ll ask you the same (hopefully!). You’ll be shocked at how quickly you can spread a network by swapping priorities with people you meet, and working with one person at a time. Just be specific about who you need to meet or what you want to achieve.
Never Underestimate the Power of Just One Introduction
A few years ago, a friend I had made years earlier (through networking) offered to introduce me to his retired colleague. I honestly thought it would be a waste of time, but I don’t turn down an opportunity to meet new people. Well, this gentleman turned me on to Entrepreneur’s Organization (EO), which in turn led me to YEC. Fast forward a few years and I’m shopping my new book, launching a speaking career and growing my business, all through connections I could have never made without those organizations. All it takes is one person to open up an entire world to you. That’s the power of networking.
Never Judge an Event by its Cover
I’ve made incredible connections at posh events and backyard mixers. You never know who you’ll meet. That said, we built our business through chambers of commerce, so I always highly recommend joining your local chamber and becoming active if you’re starting a business. Then, work your way up into invite-only groups and higher-level organizations as your business grows.
Organize Your Connections
We use Bullhorn as a CRM, but before that we used Google Sheets. My business partner used a coded stack of business cards for years, so tracking your network all depends on your personal preferences — as long as you don’t forget which stack stands for what. Now that I’m more seasoned, I make it a point to connect with everyone on LinkedIn, add them to our mailing list, look them up on Twitter, etc. Although these activities are time-consuming, the opportunity cost of losing sight of a new acquaintance can be massive.
My friend Dave Kerpen has a great concept with his orange shoes, and I have a similar strategy by wearing bow ties to most events. Dressing memorably will make you more memorable, and will make people in the crowd gravitate towards you. Beyond that, I lead with my passion and then follow up with my offer, like this: “I’m passionate about growing business empires and inspiring entrepreneurs. How can I help you get inspired? What do you need?” Most times, they’ll say, “Wow, tell me about growing empires and inspiring entrepreneurs!” Eventually, they’ll get to their needs. Then, 99 percent of the time they’ll ask you what YOU need. So make sure you have specific asks prepared.
Don’t Be Selective
When I was starting out, I was much more selective about who I spoke with. I would try to single out people in the crowd who I could do business with, or who I wanted to meet because of research I had done. I’m sure I missed a lot of opportunities by being selective. Now, I speak to everyone I can get to and I make it a point to make everyone feel special. That way, everyone leaves the event as my advocate, and I’m always surprised at how many people have deep connections that I would never have known if I had passed over them.