Every deal begins with a relationship. Whether you’re a consumer brand, B2B software as a service (SaaS) company, investment firm, or anything in between, the people you connect with are the ones you conduct business with.
Companies and industries including venture capital, private equity, investment banking, or consulting whose relationships are collaborative and unstructured function in a relationship economy. The most successful people build long-lasting relationships throughout their careers, and often those with broader networks and easier access to those networks are more successful still.
These twenty quotes are from some of the world’s most prominent networkers. Their networking prowess and strategies have allowed them to effectively tap into that network as a resource. Learn how these networking experts have grown their careers and how leading relationship-driven professionals combine that advice with new technologies to achieve their own success.
Networking is key to success
- “The richest people in the world look for and build networks, everyone else looks for work. Marinate on that for a minute." —Robert Kiyosaki
Robert Kiyosaki, author and founder of Rich Global LLC and the Rich Dad Company, is adamant that networking is key to success. The most successful of these networkers know exactly how and where to look for the data within their network.
- “Your network is your net worth.” —Porter Gale
Porter Gale—internationally renowned public speaker, networker, and entrepreneur—also believes in the unparalleled strength of networking. The title of her bestselling book, Your Network is Your Net Worth, echoes her beliefs and a common theme among world-class investors. Professionals who depend on their business network to find new deals have to learn how best to leverage the connections in their existing collective networks.
- “Networking is an essential part of building wealth.” —Armstrong Williams
American political commentator, entrepreneur, author, and talk show host, Armstrong Williams, is another firm believer in networking as a cornerstone of monetary success.
Be a giver
- “The currency of real networking is not greed but generosity.” — Keith Ferrazzi
American entrepreneur and recognized global thought leader in the relational and collaborative sciences, Keith Ferrazzi, has emphasized the importance of being a “giver” when building your network. Positive business relationships are reciprocal. By offering to support portfolio companies or proactively reach out to connections, you can be top of mind when they’re also ready to give back.
Like Ferrazzi, Adam Grant, an award-winning researcher and author of the best-selling Give and Take has documented the importance of giving to one’s network.
- “If we create networks with the sole intention of getting something, we won’t succeed. We can’t pursue the benefits of networks; the benefits ensue from investments in meaningful activities and relationships.” —Adam Grant
Taking time to build meaningful relationships is what drives value from our business relationships. As networks continue to expand, it becomes impossible to effectively manage all of that relationship data without the proper tools. Without effectively capturing data related to these relationships, your professional network becomes invisible.
When you can effectively keep up with your entire network, you can focus even more on giving. Deepak Chopra—named TIME magazine’s “top 100 heroes and icons of the century”—believes this power of giving is what creates truly deep connections.
- “Giving connects two people, the giver and the receiver, and this connection gives birth to a new sense of belonging.” —Deepak Chopra
Nurture authentic relationships with your network
It’s not enough just to be a giver. According to Adam Grant, there are two types of givers: selfless givers and otherish givers. Selfless givers will drop anything to help others. But they are so committed to helping others that they can easily be taken advantage of.
Otherish givers are just as willing to give as selfless givers, but they are much more strategic with their support. They ensure that others don’t take advantage of them. A great way to be an otherish giver is to be kind and express genuine interest in others. Genuine focus and attention go a long way. Remembering a key detail about a client’s kids or their hobbies can be a differentiator for closing a deal.
- “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” —Dale Carnegie
This otherish approach keeps the focus on the most valuable connections in your network and on making them feel valued. Activist and author Maya Angelou concurs with Grant and Carnegie. Genuine network connections go beyond simple acts of service. A big deal is a big deal, but personal connections leave lasting impressions.
- “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” —Maya Angelou
Growing your access to new connections and opportunities begins with building these authentic connections centered around giving. As a speaker and bestselling co-author of “The Go-Giver” series Bob Burg is an expert on influence and referral marketing.
- “People can tell. They know — maybe consciously, perhaps unconsciously — if you are truly interested in them or just fakin’ it in order to manipulate or “get something” from them.” —Bob Burg
Authenticity is at the heart of all strong, long-lasting relationships. You have to be able to present yourself (and your business) as the right fit based on your connections’ and clients’ needs, not yours. This trust can be built more easily through data—by using your own information to demonstrate your firm’s value—and reiterated over the lifetime of a relationship by meeting and exceeding their expectations. Burg adds, that
- “The single greatest "people skill" is a highly developed & authentic interest in the other person.” —Bob Burg
You have to show that you’re invested in the people you’re working with and their successes.
View your network as a long-term asset
Herminia Ibarra, an organizational behavior professor at London Business School, reminds us that effective networkers focus on the long game. Networks aren’t created overnight. They’re assets gathered over lifetimes, and building trusted relationships within that network is similarly a life-long endeavor.
- “Networking is a lot like nutrition and fitness: we know what to do, the hard part is making it a top priority.” — Herminia Ibarra
Diane Helbig—internationally recognized business and leadership development advisor, author, and award-winning speaker—echoes Ibarra in emphasizing the importance of viewing networking as a long-term investment.
- “Networking is an investment in your business. It takes time and when done correctly can yield great results for years to come.” —Diane Helbig
Grant believes that being an effective giver is directly correlated with one’s tendency to view networking as a marathon, not a sprint.
- “Being a giver is not good for a 100-yard dash, but it’s valuable in a marathon.” —Adam Grant
Marathon runners don’t run untrained. They spend months building a focused workout regiment, plan, and diet that helps them succeed. For professional networkers, this foundational planning is rooted in focusing on the giving habits shared by these experts and ensuring they have the tools necessary for modern network management. Relationship intelligence platforms, mobile applications, newsletter subscriptions, and industry data platforms all provide insights that inform professional connections.
Develop a wide-reaching network
In 2013, bestselling author Michael Simmons interviewed Ronald Burt, one of the world’s top network scientists. He asked him about the number one best predictor of career success. Burt's response? An open network.
An open network is a network where you are connected to different clusters of people who don’t know each other (versus a closed network where you are connected to people who tend to know each other). Because people who build open networks are able to connect to many diverse viewpoints and perspectives, they're more likely to gain novel information from their network.
- “Instead of better glasses, your network gives you better eyes.” —Ronald Burt
Qualitative insights from industry experts and veteran investors in your network can sometimes be more impactful for early-stage investments than quantitative ones. Knowing who to contact and when is invaluable, and effectively curating and knowing how to manage that open network can dramatically improve your access to new information.
Michele Jennae, author of The Connectworker, shares Burt’s belief in the importance of developing a wide-reaching network.
- “Networking is not about just connecting people. It’s about connecting people with people, people with ideas, and people with opportunities.” —Michele Jennae
Focus on quality, not quantity
While the size of your network is important, and the most successful dealmakers often have the largest professional networks, those networks are also very intentionally curated. One way to keep your focus on quality connections, according to Harvey Mackay, 7-time New York Times best-selling author, is about keeping focused on the big picture.
- “My Golden Rule of Networking is simple: Don't keep score.” —Harvey Mackay
In networking-focused industries, your relationships aren’t transactional. They don’t close after a sale is done. Your connections and the work you do with them carry through your career. This is how you maintain long-term quality relationships, and, by extension, high-quality deal flow. Jarod Kintz, author of This Book is Not for Sale, similarly believes in the importance of quality busines relationships.
- “Networking is more quality, and less quantity. It’s better to form a solid connection with one new person, than a liquid connection with ten. You don’t want people to think you drink too much.” ―Jarod Kintz
Adopt technologies that will support your network growth
Social media has exacerbated this sentiment. Master networker Heidi Roizen has cautioned against confusing social media connections with actual intimacy.
- “Just because someone connects with you on LinkedIn doesn't mean they're your friend. Social media creates a false sense of intimacy, particularly when people choose to expose a lot about themselves.” —Heidi Roizen
Like Roizen, the late Steve Jobs, while a technology icon, cautioned against relying too heavily on technology when building a strong network.
- “Technology is nothing. What’s important is that you have a faith in people, that they’re basically good and smart, and if you give them tools, they’ll do wonderful things with them.” —Steve Jobs
This warning highlights the risk of technology as a substitute for humanness. In contrast, new generations of technologies like relationship intelligence platforms are designed to augment the most human parts of networking and connection-building, not replace them.
The future of networking is rooted in having actionable insights at your fingertips. It’s in having technologies that surface data before you know that you need it. It’s about building both your reputation as a person and team member that understands the people in your ever-expanding network and having the insights to help them before they know they needed your help. Or, in the words of author and motivational speaker Zig Ziglar:
- “You can have everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.” —Zig Ziglar