Mastering the Art of Networking

Graham Kelly
InspireUs Solutions


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Episode Summary

Graham and I recently collaborated on a blog post concerning Networking and Best Practices. We feel far too many people don’t prioritize networking, they don’t understand the importance of networking. And quite frankly, they don’t really think of networking until they’re looking for a job, being laid off, etc.


Beau  0:09

Hey guys, Beau Billington here, of the Free Agent. Got Graham Kelly.

Graham and I recently collaborated on a blog post concerning Networking and Best Practices.

Graham, thanks for joining. Appreciate you coming on.

Graham 0:25

Appreciate it Beau, and Happy New Year.

Beau  0:27

Happy New Year to you. Hopefully 2021 is a lot different than 2020.

Graham  0:32

Yeah, I would hope so.

Beau  0:36

Thanks for joining, appreciate you taking the time.

One of the reasons I thought this was an interesting topic (networking and best practices) because I feel far too many people don’t prioritize networking, they don’t understand the importance of networking. And quite frankly, they don’t really think of networking until they’re looking for a job, being laid off, etc.

Honestly, networking has been one of the things that I’ve learned over the last five years. And I’ve never taken full advantage of it because I’ve always been plugged into an ecosystem of corporate America. Now that I’m off on my own, I’ve finally understood the importance of it. And I’ve really tried to continue to be better every day.

So again, thanks for coming. So in regards to networking, and some of the best practices, is there a best practice for establishing a relationship with somebody, you would like to add to your network?This individual is somebody that you could benefit from knowing how you could go about potentially attracting that person and bringing them into your sphere?

Graham  1:38

One of the first things that I try to remind myself and when I coach and train people to do this around networking, I tell them the same. It’s the two C words; CLARITY and CONTEXT.

Be really clear with your words. The need for detail orientation right now is completely futile that you’re just trying to get their attention. There’s always time for bladder conversations to go into detail.

Then provide CONTEXT.  What’s the WHY of the message?

Few people make context other than what’s in it for them and not what’s in it for the person that you’re trying to talk to. So you need to do enough research on the individual to provide some context on what’s in it for them. Those are two rules that I use.

That works every time because we’re human beings, and we want to help one another at our core. Give to someone as your first step, or first three steps before you start asking for something in return. Most people then immediately asked me, “Graham, what am I going to do to give them five free pieces of consulting or contact them and give them something 20 times?”

It won’t be that long. Human beings will always step up and return the favor. A lot of cases it will be unsolicited. Giving and getting, and collaboration, is what a thriving network is. So it’s really important to not be the guy or gal that reaches out when they need something.

Beau  3:15

That’s great. I love the two words; clarity and context.

Majority of the folks that I interact with reach out to me, it’s self serving. It’s pretty transparent. And we may go to three years without even having a conversation and then all of a sudden say, “Hey Beau, what are you up to? Let’s have coffee.” And that’s fine. I want to say yes and I will say yes.

But a lot of times it’s a little too transparent that they’ve gone this period of time without needing me and all of a sudden there’s something that I can do for them. I feel like it’s a misstep from go.

Graham  3:49

Use tools like Grammarly, which are universal and great tools to use. The other tool that I use a lot is a company called crystal knowledge. It is essentially a tool that looks at your speech or your words that you’re typing. And it actually has some background in the person that you’re contacting.

It’ll suggest how better to speak to that individual based on their personality, based on what they like to read, and the level of detail that they expect. You can really tailor your message to that individual person and their personality using crystal knowledge.

Beau  4:27

I appreciate the tips and also the software tools.

You mentioned a couple of things like to have clarity in context, and need to be altruistic. So I’m hearing for you that maybe it’s inappropriate, from your perspective to ask for a reference or ask or have an ask in that initial meeting. Is that factual?

There’s some situations where it’s okay to be direct and express your intentions. When you are in networking, a lot of times it’s self serving. That’s why you want this person in your network because they can do something to help you out.

Graham  5:02

It is always better to be direct.

There’s a difference between being assertive, arrogant, and how you’re being direct. Being assertive gets the attention of someone that you’re serious, you’re being clear, and you bring context. And they appreciate the directness.

The other thing you should ask them, at some point, “Beau, I would really like a reference from you because you have these people in your network. Generally you have expertise that I really would like to get into and get referrals.” “What are your requirements for being a reference for me or for anyone else?”

Most people really haven’t thought about answering that question. You’ve already earned credibility just by asking them to articulate what it will take.

Beau  6:07

That’s a great point. I think that it does and it also plants seeds for the future because you’re saying, “Hey, I expect a reference from you at some point. And I want to know what I can look out for but it’s not it’s not today.” And I think it’s a very subtle way of setting the parameters, or the precedent for the relationship.

One of the things that I also add at the end of the discussion, I found this is highly effective, and I’d love to get your thoughts. But I always ask somebody, “hey, what can I do for you for the next two, three weeks? It’s a pretty direct question.

A lot of times similar to the question you just mentioned, people are taken aback in a good way. And  it’s something they haven’t thought about. But it really leads to a good tie off to the conversation.

Graham  6:54

It’s back to that altruism point that we initially discussed.

Just give before you want to get something in return. And I think you’ll get a return in spades. It will come back to you much more than you give ultimately if you stay dedicated to that.

Beau  7:09


So a lot of the questions probably go through some folks minds in regards to cadence. How do you stay connected to your networking partners? How many folks should you try to introduce them to? How often should you reach out to them?

Obviously, there’s overkill and there’s underkill. You got to be president enough where they remember you and you’re top of mind. But again, you don’t want to reach out to them two years from now because you’ve forgotten and you need something.

So what’s a good rule of thumb when you’re trying to stay top of mind with somebody that’s recently been added to your network?

Graham  7:40

I hate to be repetitive but I’d asked him. When I was working with SAP, one of the comments that Bill McDermott, who was our CEO at the time, “as leaders, when you want to talk to someone at a C level, you really need to try to understand the situation that they’re in or just came out of.”

So Mondays and Fridays are probably bad coming out of a forecast call, probably bad coming out of a board meeting or preparing for a board meeting. Even if they said they had time, you’re probably not going to get their best. They’re not in a situation to be open.

So I would just ask them like, “what are good days of the week or times in the week without saying it this way that your brains are most open to sharing ideas, collaborating and making them tell you?”

They’ll tell you and if not, give them a chance to reflect and think and get back to you.

Beau  8:38

That’s a good point.

Honestly, for myself personally, it’s Monday and Fridays that I’m more open to having discussions. Tuesdays and Thursdays, I’m just in the weeds and timing is tight.

Graham  8:48

I’m the same way. If someone asked me that question, I would say Sunday nights only because that’s when I plan my week. And if you’re not going to get on it either as a priority or something to schedule, then  it’s not a nuisance, that’s not fair. It’s going to be deprioritized.

So I don’t think that’s like every 90 days or 30 days. I really  think it’s just the timing that makes most sense for that person you’re trying to contact.

Beau  9:14

What would you say the best mediums for networking are? Is it networking events? Is it LinkedIn? Is it email? Or is it a warm referral? How can somebody who’s trying to expand their sphere of influence effectively?


The warm referral is always the best. The second one that I’ve found to be very good is more of a message than a platform like LinkedIn. LinkedIn is awesome.

Find something that person is interested in outside of work; a charity, a hobby, and find something in common. Don’t start talking to them about skiing if you’re a snowboarder. You just got to find something that’s genuine like fishing. Things like that really make the conversation mutual.

LinkedIn is outstanding. I’ve seen some new platforms called alignable. And they almost like a next door. It’s very community specific for collaboration. I think those are great platforms and I’m sure there’s more coming.

Email would be important, but it would be my last resort, because people are getting so many emails from everybody that it would be difficult to differentiate yours versus others.

Beau  10:40

So ultimately, more referral, and find some common theme that maybe the two of you can connect over to establish rapport?

Graham  10:49

I used to be big fans of the networking events, but just recently, Mr. COVID completely introduced something totally different. But, pre COVID, these networking events for accountants, insurance agents and real estate agents to come and solicit business. And it’s just not nearly as open info sharing than it used to be.


I’ve also spent a good amount of money on these networking events, with zero return. So quite frankly, I am very reluctant to join them. And I want to make sure that my due diligence is forced at any time because they’re not all created equal. There are good ones, but you really need to ensure that you’re judicious about which ones you join.

Beau  11:40

How do you actually effectively say, No, when getting introduced to a new contact, when you don’t have the time? Are you in the mindset that there’s no such thing as a bad referral for you? How do you suggest somebody maybe handles that objection? Or pushes through it? 

Graham  12:02

I don’t really believe in people not having time because we’re all in that same boat, we all don’t have time. And because of that, it doesn’t really matter. There’s physical limitations if you’re on a call or something, and you’re trying to grab someone’s attention.

But in general, I think everyone’s got time. The real point in that question is, whether you’re being prioritized or  deprioritized.

So what is it in your message? Was it clear and contextual? Was it a give versus get that would want that person to prioritize you over other conversations that they’re having?

It’s refining what you want from that person. And I also think that being mindful of when you talk to them will help a lot.

Beau  12:55

That’s a good point, we can talk about this prior to calling about the messaging is important as well. So when you’re done tee up a referral, a lot of times,  being able to tie why the referral makes sense for both parties is critical to actually making the match.

If you’re ineffective in doing that, then the person you’re trying to introduce may be reluctant to actually take that call. So the onus could be on you theoretically to make sure that you tee this up properly.

Graham  13:20

Yeah, and it’s hard because we’ve been trained to go from this mass email mentality to networking’s highly personal slow down being meticulous, less is more, rewrite the message in Grammarly. It’s just you gotta be more deliberate and methodical about the networking.

Actually, I had a mentor tell me this one time. He carves out a couple hours every week on his calendar just to follow up with people that were reaching out to him. Sometimes just to be cordial and nice to say, “Look, there’s really nothing in common between the two of us to understand your desire to network, but if you’d be a little bit more articulate about what you’d like, I would be more open to have a conversation”.

But he literally never doesn’t get back to anybody. Every single week, no matter who contacts him, he makes a point to even if it’s a no to get back to them and tell them why which is highly admirable. I don’t know that I could do that. But it’s just another thing I’ve seen work.

Beau  14:35

I think authenticity is a word that we haven’t used, but I think that’s critical in networking. Be authentic on  what you’re trying to accomplish in the messaging. On LinkedIn, I get 10s, 20, 30 a day of people trying to sell me something and I make it a point to respond to every single person. I don’t take the meetings generally, but I say “hey, glad to be connected. Glad to be in your network“.

May not work for some people but for me, I actually do enjoy opening the lines of communication because you never know what will transpire. And it also gives them an opportunity to refine their messaging on what they’re trying to get from me, which could end up being a sale or relationship down the road.

Graham  15:17

Yeah. And there’s nothing wrong with asking them to be more clear or to bribe context. I think most people aren’t afraid to be given feedback, and they just need to get better at that.

And do it politely.

Beau  15:32

Exactly. Polite, That’s a key.

Well, thanks for joining Graham. Really appreciate it. Take care. We’ll talk soon.

Graham  15:39

All right. Thanks, Beau.

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About Beau


Beau spent over 14 years in enterprise-level software sales and was exposed to high-level talent by working alongside companies such as Apple, AT&T, Amazon, Coca-Cola, and more. 

In this podcast, Beau aims to interview high performing business leaders in the hope that their insights will bring about real change positive change the businesses of his listeners.

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