If you want to explode your network and have more people promoting you for free, forget what you think you know about being a Top Gun. It’s all about surrendering your ego and embracing teamwork, remember? (Didn’t you watch the movie?!)
First of all, let’s redefine the role of Wingman. Greedy, selfish people avoid supportive roles at every twist and turn. If you’re unwilling to help others, or cover their backs, you will quickly and regularly find yourself flying solo and failing HARD. You can’t lead anyone without a common goal of mutual benefit.
Next, ditch the idea of the dynamic duo, working a room shoulder to shoulder. Often, this approach is perceived as intimidating. And it should be your goal to create a safe environment for honest dialog with those whom you meet. So instead, divide and conquer. Then introduce the right people to your wingman.
When it comes to networking, you wingman with someone not necessarily for them.
Successful networking is all about having a strategy. Being a badass wingman can enhance not only your experience, but those with whom you come into contact with as well. Everyone’s job is to elevate their rapport and visibility by becoming a better connector or strategic resource for the person they are talking with. Your first goal is to uncover ways for you to help people, and in turn, for them to find ways that they can help you.
Let me dive into that. We live and work in an attention economy, and in order to get noticed, you need to perform a service up front. Fair or not, it is a fact of life. If you want to get the attention you seek, then you need to serve others first.
Listen up and keep your eyes on the prize, Hawkeye.
Despite conventional wisdom (derived from lemmings manual), the reason most people fail at networking is because they are short-sightedly selfish. They want all of their time and effort to promote their own agenda. They believe that by cutting out others, they reduce their costs and increase reward. Yet what’s the success rate of the lone gunman? 100% of nothing is nothing. And that’s what a majority of solo acts land in business. The wolf pack has a better success rate when bringing down the big game by working together. We love the mythical image and perceived power of the lone wolf, but the reality is, very few of us have that kind of game, and most of the lone wolves die if they don’t join a pack and work together.
1. Pick the right wingman.
Obviously, the strictly self serving and socially annoying types are out. You want to choose someone who looks good, dresses sharp and can speak well, at least about you. And ideally, you can vibe and banter with them. I recommend choosing an intelligent, attractive member of the same or opposite sex. A well spoken, handsome guy or beautiful woman talking about how wonderful you are, can go a long way in making a good first impression. To put it bluntly, people pay attention when pretty people talk and can enunciate clearly. Use this to your advantage. Power couples have it made – so take this opportunity to do what I did, marry up:)
2. Start with good intel.
You need to know your wingman and they need to know you. You can start by creating a profile and having your wingman do the same. Email subscribers can get a free downloadable doc with 4 simple focus questions to help you create your wingman profile.
Click to download
Of course, this is scalable too. The more wingmen you have in your squad, the better. It gives you a deep bench to pull from for those different events that will inevitably come up. Make sure your squad gets a copy of the wingman profile too. And make some time to pow wow before you go to an event to make sure you’re on the same page.
This helps you introduce your wingman and conversely, your wingman to introduce you. Being a wingman is about being partners supporting and deriving an equal benefit.
NOTE: You can use this profile for multiple purposes.
- Twitter bio
- Gravatar bio
- LinkedIn Bio/ Headline
- Always have talking points or key items about yourself that you’d like to share
Just by having a few things to say to introduce your wingman can go a long way towards enhancing your network. The people you’re networking with will notice your humility and grace in serving others. They will want to associate with you for knowing others, if for no other reason than they want you to promote them with the same level of vigor and depth that you just demonstrated.
Also, more good news. Your wingman now owes you one. Reciprocity is expected. That said, make sure you are clear with your expectations and agreements. And never wingman with a taker (someone who soaks it up but never gives it back). The art of networking is about the exchange of social capital.
When you introduce and talk about yourself, there is a limited amount of oomph you can have. When someone else talks about you in a positive way to a third party, that’s validating, it’s a signal that someone has value outside their own bubble of hype.
3. Do the prep work.
Read the wingman profiles. What? You haven’t downloaded the exercise yet? Get it here.
Click to download
At every networking event, you usually know the agenda, the topic, speakers, and attendees. Do a little homework (which you can split) to have a quick sheet of relevant conversation items, talking points, questions and industry news items. This can come in very handy for added support if conversations stall out.
4. Bring Extra Business Cards.
Bring up your wingman’s business and provide it to the interested party, before introducing them face to face. This extends that third party validation discussed earlier in the article. People will be more impressed when someone else not only introduces you but likes you so much they’re handing out your cards for you.
5. Budget time and a place for the debrief and after party.
You want to strike while the iron is hot. It’s hard to schedule follow up meetings that fit our busy calendars. Block out time for the after party, in case you meet someone special that you hit it off with. This requires some planning. Choose a location that will be open, that’s nearby the event, so you can continue the conversation and/or debrief with your wingman and/or your new connection.
How many events have you left early because you stuck to the event schedule. You are there to connect with people, not do a 50% job and hope they call you. It’s not likely to happen. Go the extra mile and continue the conversation.
To the parent trap crowd – We all make trade-offs. Don’t settle for excuses (even your own). Pay the babysitter extra and plan to stay out late in advance. Come home early and let the sitter keep the unused time as a tip. Again, worst case, you make a great impression with your sitter.
6. Establish time limits and emergency rescue signals.
I’ll admit I’m a chatty Cathy. I’ll go into an event with the intent of working a room and get lost in debate or interesting discussion. That’s why I establish time limits and put myself on the hook to go pull my wingman from a conversation. I also establish subtle signals to cue my wingman to bail me out of a unwanted conversation I may struggle to duck out of on my own.
7. Be an accountability and follow up partner.
I hear more and more people complain about not having the time to follow up and follow through with their communications and leads. This is really a failure to make the time and take the time to properly prioritize, plan, and follow through. Schedule a follow up time (HARD CALENDAR APPOINTMENT) with your wingman to bring your laptops and headphones to a cafe, or office and hammer out your follow-ups silently. Simply being in the presence of your wingman, and them working towards a shared commitment and goal will make you more apt to perform and do the things needed to succeed. This simply works. It builds positive habits and comradery and increases your success rate. Stop looking for hi-tech apps and CRM’s to flood your phone with notifications. A simple trip to Starbucks with your wingman will do.
Bonus Tip: Make it a game.
Seriously, make this fun. Even at the worst event or your worst night, you can at least get someone else to buy the first round after the night is done or the event is over.
Try this – Compare the number of successful introductions or # of cards handed out for the other person. The person who handed out the fewest cards is the weaker wingman and is on the hook for the first round. This requires honest behavior and a trusting relationship, but that’s what makes for a good wingman as well.
You can lose the game but win the big business. So of course you should buy your friends a round or a meal if you get sucked into a great conversation or land a whale that causes you to lose the game.
If you tie – it’s a draw and you buy your own drinks and debrief and discuss follow up actions you’re going to take.
All in all, creating little games based on giving and a guaranteed reward makes networking more fun – guaranteed.
If you think about the naysayers and people who give up on networking, if you list the complaints you most often hear from people who claim to hate it, they really don’t try to make it a positive experience at all. Do they try to overcome the obstacles they observe? Do they keep their eye on the golden rule and big picture? Or, do they act like wallflowers and expect someone to hand them the winning lottery ticket but go home empty handed. This experience isn’t valid, it’s bad practice. You have to own your efforts and your results. Making it a game creates the opportunity for a positive outcome even if you don’t strike it rich with a hot lead at that particular event.
If you follow all of these tips or even just #1, rest assured you are well on your way to exploding your presence and standing in your network, being an epic wingman and true team leader. Try it and tell me all about it – email@example.com or via twitter @iamheroik