In the spring of 1999, when I was halfway through my Master's degree, I started sending out my resume in an attempt to land my dream job. At that time in my life, it meant writing to the General Manager of every single team in the National Hockey League (NHL) because my number one career goal was to become an NHL Strength and Conditioning Coach.
I scoured the Internet for their mailing addresses, made a list of the GM's I had contacted, and sent out twenty-eight resumes along with a follow-up letter four weeks later. Months went by and, miraculously, some of the GM's even replied. Each time they did I would mark off the communication in a spreadsheet. That was my first experience with building a contact list and while I never did get a shot at working in the big leagues, I discovered the value of having this simple little networking tool.
This is the list you need in your life. It's almost as important as your to-do list. In fact, we'll call it your, "To contact list", and you're going to discover how to build and nurture it by giving value to the people on this list.
The premise of the list is simple. You'll identify the people you want to contact and you'll do so methodically and relentlessly. Keep track of when you last contacted them and identify areas where you can help them. This short set of networking rules has served me well as I've built my online business.
After deciding to focus my ambition on a web-based health and fitness business, I began contacting other experts in my industry. They had great information to share and I had built up a small, but passionate list of online readers. It was the perfect match. I could help these experts by providing them a forum to new readers and potential clients, and the experts would be able to help me by providing content. Voila. We built a working relationship based on adding value to each other.
At the time I had no idea this act of networking would turn out to be a huge component of my online success. I just had a natural inclination to contact and connect with as many experts in my industry as possible. There might even have been a genetic component to it, as my father was fond of making several phone calls to other farmers everyday at lunchtime. He did his power networking by phone, and I've gone on to do mine by email. Perhaps my kids will do theirs by text, and my grandchildren by hologram. Who knows what the future will bring to the Ballantyne Networking system?
What I do know is that the email interview connection process had two big impacts in my business. First, a relationship was built with the 'movers and shakers' of my industry. These experts now knew me, liked me, and trusted me, and therefore were willing to recommend my email newsletter to their readers. As a result, my email list grew and more readers began contacting me for workouts.
Second, by being associated with these other experts, some of their credibility rubbed off on me. My readers now elevated my status in their opinion because I knew all these other great experts. This increased the level of trust that my readers had in my work and therefore became more likely to purchase my products.
All the time I was doing this I began building up an epic contact spreadsheet. In one column was the expert's name, in a second column was the date they were last contacted, and in a third column was information I wanted to share with them. This third column is important and featured content that would add value to the expert. It wasn't about helping me. It was about helping them.
Read those three steps again. Step three contains a big lesson because today most experts almost exclusively receive requests for help, such as an appeal to promote a product they aren't familiar with. Rarely does an expert receive any offers of help, and so when you contact someone with information that adds value to their life without trying to extract value, your communication will be appreciated and it is much easier to build a relationship.
Start building your contact list today. Write the names of all the important people in your life in one column. In the second column, note the last time you contacted them. And in that third column, build a list of tips and information that will add value to their lives. Try not to let a month go by without adding value to the people who are important in your life and business. Of course, if you find something time-sensitive that can help someone immediately, then contact that person as soon as you can.
In fact, by using this system, you can double your income. That's what happened for Vince Palko, copywriter and ad toon artist, when he implemented a similar system. At one point, Vince was struggling to get business, but after reading Brian Tracy's book called "Goals", he came across this simple piece of advice, "If you want to double your income, then double the amount of people that you're either on the phone with or in front of every day."
Vince realized he had only been contacting one person each day, so he immediately doubled his efforts. He also started tracking his contacts by printing out the calendar on his computer and writing down everything he did. If he called a prospect named Joe that day, he would write that down. Vince also added a unique third step to his system where he rewarded himself for implementation. It's something so simple you might even want to dismiss it. But I warn you not to. It could be the missing step in your networking plan.
What Vince did was put a little sticker beside every contact that led to a business deal. As he continued his increased networking, he noticed that more and more stickers started getting added to his calendar. As Vince said, "There was something magical about these stickers. It was a great way to track my progress. At the end of the month I could look back and see where I had success and it was a great momentum builder and motivation to keep going."
That's the power of keeping track of your contact list and connecting action with accomplishment.
This system also works for connecting with people you don't know. Simply make a list of the people you want to meet, identify something of value that you can add to their lives, and then find out how to contact them. Don't be afraid of using this thing called "regular mail" or even Fed-Ex. Sometimes that's the only to breakthrough and contact people who don't know you yet. But always remember to provide value. The best way to start a relationship with someone is by showing up with a helping hand, not looking for a hand out.
My little spreadsheet has served me well over time. Of course, I can only imagine there's an 'app' for this today, but I'll stick to my million dollar excel Rolodex. No matter how you keep your list, I guarantee that if you start this habit today and add value to the people in your network, this will get you on the fast track to living the life of your dreams.
To get something you've never had, you have to do something you've never done.