A Conversation with The Greatest Networker

by John Milton Fogg


"'Where do you live?' is a simple, safe, always easy-to-ask question to get conversations started," said The Greatest Networker. "Even if the person you're speaking with is unhappy with where he or she lives for whatever reason, you can easily turn the conversation positively by asking where she or he really wants to live, and what would it be like there, what kind of house, neighborhood. My goal here," he told us pointedly, "is to get into relationship with you. That's my agenda-- and, it's my only agenda.

"You see, I know that if I simply get into a relationship with someone new every day... if I just start one new relationship every day, five days a week, in one year, I will have a thriving Network Marketing organization.

"Let's say I work, what? 44 weeks a year-- two months off for reasonably good behavior," he smiled. "That's 44 weeks times five days per week with one new relationship each day, which is... " he paused, adding aside, "higher math was never my strong point."

"220," shouted someone from the audience.

"Thank you!" The Greatest Networker shouted back. "Who says engineers don't get into Network Marketing." And we all laughed.

"220 people in the year. 220 new relationships. Now, you just know I'm going to have, what-- say, ten percent of those relationships grow into partnerships?" he asked us. "No, probably more. I'm charming and smart enough to have 15 percent of them come in the business with me," he smiled.

"How many's that, my engineering friend?" he asked the voice from before.

"33," came the reply, "Not an engineer. Accountant," said the voice.

"Cool," The Greatest Networker responded. "What's your name?" he asked, searching the room.

"Vince," said a thirty-something man in a good-looking suit and tie as he stood up in response.

"Thanks, Vince. Now I've made 220 new relationships in a year-- any retail customers there?" he asked, and looked around the room. "And 33 new friendships that have become business partners.

"Given that every very successful Network Marketer in the world has built his or her business on the efforts of three to five key leaders in her or his organization, what's the chance that I've got the beginnings of a very successful Networking business going and growing here? Thanks for your help, Vince," The Greatest Networker nodded gratefully. "Are you willing to do something with me here?" Sliding out of his chair, he jumped off the stage and walked towards the man.

"Sure," Vince said.

"Great, thanks again. Okay," he addressed the entire audience. "I'm going to ask Vince where he lives. While Vince and I talk, pay close attention to everything Vince is saying. Don't read anything into it, just focus your listening on exactly what comes out of Vince's mouth-- his words, not the chatter inside your own head. What Vince says is what he means, not what you think he means. People say what they mean, yet we insist we know better. Crazy, don't you think?" he nodded.

"Hang on his every word and lookout particularly for his values. Vince's values are those things which are most important to him in his life," he continued. "I want you to listen by design for Vince's values because that's what I say you should be listening for in every prospecting conversation.

"Values are the building blocks of people's lives, and because they are, they're vital for each of us to explore, experience, and express. Values are the foundation of all our relationships. Unless you know, respect, and honor another person's values, your relationship won't be genuine. You won't have a chance at developing a friendship, let alone a partnership.

  ``Values are the building blocks of people's lives, and because they are, they're vital for each of us to explore, experience, and express.''
"See, in our business, nobody buys the company. Nobody really buys the products, the comp plan, the opportunity. They buy... you! They buy a relationship with you. And relationships are always built on an exchange of values-- shared, appreciated, admired, and above all, honored values."

The Greatest Networker shook Vince's hand warmly, one hand on his shoulder and invited him to sit on the edge of the stage with him. (Another smart and subtle move to make Vince comfortable, I thought.) He handed Vince a mike and began, "So, Vince, where do you live?"

Vince took a deep breath and dove right in.

"Out by the university," he said.

"What's it like there?" The Greatest Networker asked. I could literally feel the weight of his focused attention on Vince.

"I like the area," Vince replied, matter-of-factly. "It's close enough to where I work that I can walk on nice days. It's neat and clean. Safe, too. The kids really keep it happening."

"What do you mean `the kids keep it happening'? " The Greatest Networker asked.

"Well," he said, "it's alive. It's fun. Keeps me young," Vince said and laughed. "There are tennis courts, and I can almost always get a game with somebody. It's a great place to meet people. In the coffee bars, restaurants, and clubs, it's easy to strike up a conversation-- the kids are so open. And music, there's always music. New bands, jazz, folk, even great classical stuff over at the auditorium. There's always something to do, something new nearly every night."

The entire time Vince was speaking, The Greatest Networker's eyes were glued to his face. His expression was, well, expressionless, but you could see he was intently interested in what Vince was saying-- and that he was interested in Vince.

"You're a pretty active guy, aren't you, Vince?"

"Yeah. I'm single. I like being busy. I like people-- meeting new people. Women especially," Vince replied a little shyly.

"And why is that?" The Greatest Networker asked with a laugh. He put his hand on Vince's shoulder and said, "I know this is personal, Vince, so don't answer if you don't want to: Are you up for something serious-- looking for a long-term relationship or just exploring the native population?"

Vince glanced down for a moment-- blushing once again-- then answered thoughtfully, "I'd have to say I'm exploring, but . . . " and he took a deep breath, "I just came out of a five-year relationship a number of months ago, and I've gotta say, I really liked being together with someone. I'm afraid my bachelor days are numbered. It's the right time. I am the right guy. I'm just being open to the best right woman in the world showing up."

"The best right woman in the world," The Greatest Networker spoke Vince's words back to him. "That's pretty cool, Vince. So, you know what you want-- yes?"

"Yes sir, I do," Vince stated definitively.

"And some pretty high standards, too," The Greatest Networker declared as much as asked.

"Yes, sir. That, too," Vince replied with a laugh. "I guess I want a girl `just like the girl that married dear old dad,' " and he sang as much as spoke the last words of the old song with a laugh.

  ``In Network Marketing, all there is to do is relationships: Make new ones, keep old ones, manage crazy ones, warm up cold ones, fix broken ones.''
"Only younger?" The Greatest Networker asked, and Vince nodded, adding, "And definitely Italian."

"How did I know you would say that," The Greatest Networker said with a laugh.

He extended his hand out for Vince to shake, saying, "We're going to stop here, Vince. You're a pleasure. Thanks for speaking with me. And thanks for your honesty. I really enjoy how clear you are about what you like and want.

"Vince," he continued, "you're someone I'd like to get to know. I have to go now-- I have this group of people out there," he said gesturing towards the audience, "that I'm going to talk to this afternoon. Do you have a business card and would you be willing to meet me for lunch, coffee, or dinner sometime-- or, hey, you said you played tennis, right?"

"Yeah."

"Any good?"

"Some days."

"Well look, on those other days-- when you're off a bit-- I'd love to give you a game," he laughed, and Vince laughed with him. "Would you be up for a couple of sets with a 50-year-old guy who's been playing for about a year and just loves it?"

"No problem," Vince replied. "I'd like that."

"So would I, Vince. So would I. That's exciting. Do you have a card with you? I'm really glad I talked to you today, Vince. I'd like us to be friends."

Vince was reaching into his pocket for his business card before The Greatest Networker finished speaking.

"And that, my friends," he said to us, "is how it goes. I will see Vince again. Probably a couple of times. You can take that to the bank. I'm guessing Vince is a much better tennis player than I am-- but hey. That's one. I also would love to get out more and hear some new music. Left to my own devices, I'll stay home listening to what I already know and love. Vince gives me the possibility of learning something new, get an update on the music my kids are listening to. That's two. Plus, from his response, I'd say Vince is happy and open to our beginning a relationship with each other. Is that true, Vince?"

"Yes, sir," said the ever-polite Vince.

"That's three, four, ten and more. And you see," he said leaning forward to us, "I didn't say a word about my products. I didn't mention my company. I didn't even bring up my incredible opportunity. I don't have to... because the next time we're together, or time two, or three or ten, Vince will ask me!

"And what, my friends," he asked us earnestly, with his eyes and arms open wide, "do you imagine will happen then?"


After Vince left the stage and sat down to a terrific round of applause , The Greatest Networker perched in his chair again and said, "I want to make absolutely certain that if you only take one thing away from our meeting today, it's this: Network Marketing is the relationships business.

"We live in a relative world. Human beings are connected, related, in relationship," he told the group. "And relationships are reciprocal. Give and take. Tit for tat. You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours.

"In Network Marketing, all there is to do is relationships: Make new ones, keep old ones, manage crazy ones, warm up cold ones, fix broken ones. Engage in them. Explore them. Enjoy them. Enrich them. Empower them. We speak and listen to create relationships that we grow into friendships, which evolve into partnerships, that we develop and duplicate into a powerful sales organization through leadership.

"I've shown an interest in Vince, and you can bet he's going to show interest in me and mine. Next time, or the next, I'm going to ask Vince what he does for a living. When he's done telling me all about that-- because I really, really listen, and because I ask all kinds of genuinely curious questions, and because I'm interested in who Vince is and how Vince is-- he's gonna ask me what I do.

"And he will, I promise you. He cannot help himself," The Greatest Networker told us.

"Now let's go back over my conversation with Vince. What we're going to do now is take a close look at Vince's values. Can you all remember back that far?" he asked with a smile. "What were some of the values you heard Vince speak about?"

  ``Listen only to what comes out of people's mouths. That's all! You can only hear what they say anyway. The rest you make up.''
A woman in the front row raised her hand. He pointed to her and said, "Yes. Please stand. What's your name?"

"Marijke," the woman replied with an accent I took to be European, but couldn't place precisely.

He smiled at her. "Marijke, what's a value of Vince's you observed?"

"That he likes sports," she said.

"Really?" he asked, his eyebrows raised in surprise. "And how do you know that?"

"Well," she began, "he said he likes to play tennis at the college."

"That's tennis," he said, "but I don't remember Vince saying anything else about sports-- did he?"

"Well, no, but if he likes tennis I'm sure he's into other sports, too," Marijke said.

"Ah, my dear, thanks for doing this one with me." Then he addressed the audience. "Marijke just did something we all do and we do it all the time. Vince didn't say a word about sports. Yes, he spoke about tennis, and Marijke assumed," and he stressed the word for impact, "that if Vince likes tennis, he'll be into all sports, too.

"Not necessarily true," he stated. "Vince didn't say that. You can't make up stuff people didn't say and run around thinking and saying it as if it were true. Listen only to what comes out of people's mouths. That's all! You can only hear what they say anyway. The rest you make up. And if you are busy making stuff up, you are not listening."

"What about non-verbal communication?" a man from the other side of the room stood and asked.

"Yes, yes," The Greatest Networker said to him, "that bit about 90 percent of all communication being non-verbal-- right?"

"Exactly," the man replied.

"Well, I don't know about you, my friend, but I have a heck of a time figuring out what most non-verbal communication means. Do any of you really understand this non-verbal stuff? I know non-verbal communication exists and I'm guessing it matters-- for men, women, and children. However, I don't know for certain what most or any of it honestly means, so I ask questions and listen to the answer because I trust you to tell me the truth. I don't trust my judgment about what your gestures or facial expressions really mean. Do you see where I'm going with this, Paul?"

Paul nodded his head in agreement, said `Yes' and sat down.

"So, Marijke," he asked, turning back to the woman who'd spoken before, "do you understand what I'm saying about your thought that Vince playing tennis makes sports a value of Vince's?"

"Yes," she answered.

"Now, it might be. And the way to know is to ask him. So, Vince," The Greatest Networker turned, "is playing sports a value of yours?"

"Well, actually," Vince replied, standing up as he did, "I'll watch sports on television once in a while, but not as much as I used to. Mostly just the play-offs or Championship games. I just love tennis, that's all," he said. "It's one-on-one. The best man or woman-- that day, that match, the one with the skills, the mental composure and control, the one who's the fittest and who wants it the most-- wins. I really love that."

"Marijke," The Greatest Networker looked from Vince to her, "do you see?" She nodded her head yes.

"And please, don't feel bad," he said soothingly. "You did what we all do. You were practicing Listening By Default. You were listening to you, not to Vince. And do you know why you did it?" he asked her.

"Because I'm human," she replied.

"Right!" he shouted, obviously pleased. "We all do it. Human beings all do it. We make stuff up about what other people are saying and have said. My guess is we hear only 20 percent of what the other person is really saying. The 80 percent we think we've heard is stuff we made up. It's not true. It's not even what the person spoke. But we'll swear under oath that it's what he said, she said.

"Is it any wonder," he asked us, "that so many marriages don't last? That work doesn't work anymore? That countries don't get along? Is it any wonder," he said, leaning forward, "that so many Network Marketing hopefuls fail... and fail so fast?

"You cannot build a successful business unless you listen to people. Remember," and he stood up as he said this, "nobody buys until you see through their eyes, and the only way to do that is to listen! It's the only way!

"Ma - ri - jke, my dear," he said, drawing out the woman's name with obvious delight, "did you see any other values when Vince and I talked?"

"Yes," she said matter-of-factly, "he enjoys music and meeting new people."

"Excellent!" The Greatest Networker exclaimed. "That he does. And you know, music and tennis in and of themselves aren't really values. It's what music and tennis provide for Vince. It's what he experiences or is able to express through tennis, through music, even through meeting people, which is of value to him and therefore one of his values. Vince gets something from music. He gets something from tennis. And he gets something from being with people. It's what he gets that makes up his values."

"Anyone else?" The Greatest Networker asked.

A man in back spoke up, "He likes the outdoors."

"How so?"

"Well, he likes to be outside, in nature. He likes to walk to work and play tennis, and that's outdoors."

"Ah ha,' The Greatest Networker replied. "So Vince," he called out, "are you an outdoor guy, a walker, a nature lover?"

Vince stood and said, "Not really. I mean, I don't dislike nature, but I don't go hiking and stuff like that, if that's what you mean."

"But you enjoy walking to work and playing tennis, and those are outdoor activities," The Greatest Networker pointed out.

"I like to walk to work for the exercise and it's easier than hassling with driving through traffic and finding parking."

"So is fitness a value of yours?"

"You bet!" Vince replied.

"And things with a high hassle factor are not?"

"Absolutely not," Vince replied flatly.

"Like, perhaps, calling a week in advance to reserve a court at a specific time and getting in your car and driving 15 minutes to play tennis someplace indoors?" he asked.

"Exactly!" Vince said.

The Greatest Networker turned to the man who had spoken and asked, "What's your name?"

  ``Discover what they want from the business. Find out what values they have that Network Marketing and a relationship with you would honor.''
"Pat," the man replied.

"So, Pat, let me ask you," The Greatest Networker said, "is nature and being outdoors a value of yours?"

"Yes," Pat said, "it is."

"I thought as much," he said, and turned his attention to the whole group. "What Pat just demonstrated is something else we frequently do. We lay our values on other people. Pat really likes the outdoors and quite innocently, even enthusiastically, he wants us to like the outdoors and nature, too. He likes people who like nature and being outdoors, because they share his values. True, Pat?"

"Sure," Pat said.

"Similarly to what Pat just experienced with Vince, have you ever wanted the business opportunity for someone more than they wanted it for themselves?"

Many people in the audience clearly related to that one.

"We do that all the time. We're not listening for their values. We're too busy giving them ours. We like it when other people share our values, and often we take the shortcut and assume they have the very same values we have. Please, don't do it!" he emphasized. "That's an example of Listening By Default. Instead, just listen. Discover what they want from the business. Find out what values they have that Network Marketing and a relationship with you would honor. Pat, thank you. That was a great contribution," The Greatest Networker acknowledged.

"When you're prospecting, remember to ask questions, just like I did with Vince. Oh . . . " he interrupted himself, "here's another great question to help you in conversations: `What do you like best about that?'

"That question always moves a conversation in a positive direction. Talking about what they dislike, I say, really doesn't bring out the best in people. In a prospecting conversation, that's what I think you want to know most about-- their best," he told us.

"I know some marketing people have the attitude that you should stir the pain," he continued, "find out people's problems, show them how really bad the situation is, then like the proverbial breath of fresh air, provide the solution," he said. I could hear a hint of disdain in his voice.

"That's not what I recommend. More flies with honey," he said. "I'm suggesting that what you really want to talk about is, `What do you like best?' You're after people's values, their dreams, their aspirations, what's most important to them in their lives. Leave the negativity to your competition and you'll win every time."

This "Conversation" has been adapted from John's book, Conversations with The Greatest Networker in the World, available at Networking Times.

John Milton Fogg's Classic Sequel, Conversations with The Greatest Networker in the World is available in paper-back at NetworkingTimes.com for $9.95. BUY THE BOOK


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