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Performance Networking
Dick Hoffmann and Dr. Greg Ketchum

This article was featured in an interview conducted with Dick Hoffmann of AllianceVista Corporation on the TalentPlanet radio show hosted by “Dr. Greg” Ketchum on August 10, 2002.

“It’s not what you know, but who you know.” There has never been a more true and powerful adage in business than this one. The best product or talents, the deepest technical know how, the cleverest solution – all mean nothing if you can’t connect them to the right people and convince the right decision-makers to buy, sell or use whatever you have to offer.

In the course of our work in talent performance management and alliance performance management, respectively, we find that mastering the art and science of business and social networking is one of the most powerful and lucrative talents a person can develop.

Connections, networks and relationships have achieved the status of high-value currency in almost every aspect of business. Organizations are willing to pay handsomely for people who have a deep personal Rolodex and know how to use it.

If you consider the major areas in which our industries and the economy have been impacted over the last few years, it’s very easy to see why networking and relationship building are now more important than ever. People have a hard time trusting hardware and software companies when so much of the technology that organizations purchased in the last five years is dramatically underutilized or, worse, sitting unused on the shelf. People have difficulty trusting companies in general when so many high-flying corporations saw their market caps plummet or disappear entirely (including some of the largest and, supposedly, most respected companies). Unfortunately, there seem to be a great many areas of our lives in which trust and confidence are hard to come by.

More than ever, people want to conduct business with people they know and trust. This rule applies whether we’re talking about people we want to hire, alliances we want to build between companies, or products and services we want to acquire. Networking is really about relationship building – creating relationships that begin with common interests and offer the potential of evolving into mutual knowledge and trust.

In this light, the area of personal network management is one that we believe deserves an elevated level of dedicated focus and orchestrated management. This article is intended to outline a few of the key success factors in what we call “Performance Networking” – mastering the power of connections and relationships to open the right doors and capture the best opportunities for yourself and your organization.

Personal Network Management – Building Your Network Portfolio

Almost without exception, the most successful people we know view their personal networks as something to be designed skillfully, planned carefully and managed aggressively. Taking a cue from the experts, we recommend that you view your network as one of your most valuable personal and business assets, much as you would view an investment portfolio. As with a portfolio of investments, you should devote ample time and energy to designing and developing your network – invest in it, manage it, make sure that it’s well-balanced, even dedicate a specific “budget” to build and nurture it (for our purposes here, “budget” is comprised of time, money, effort and creative energies). There are only 2,000 working hours in a year available to any of us, so you would be wise to construct your network plan to use those hours and associated effort wisely. Be very selective in where you choose to invest your time and resources.

Knowing Yourself and Your Networking Goals

An important first step in architecting your network plan is to understand some things about yourself and your network community:

  • Goals: What are the goals you want to achieve from your network? – Finding job opportunities? Gaining high-level connections in target customer accounts? Building prospective alliance connections? Gathering business or technical intelligence? Building a brainstorming group? Developing a social network related to your work? Start by creating a detailed list for yourself of the specific goals you’d most like to achieve with your network.

  • Brand: What comprises your personal “brand”? For what do you want to become known? Much has been written in the past few years about the importance of brand management and, in particular, “personal brand” management – the development and management of a reputation for expertise and talent in a differentiable area. By clearly defining and marketing your “brand,” you provide people with convenient handles by which they can grab on to you and help you enter the worlds you want to enter.

  • Audience: Who comprises the audience you need to reach with your brand message (in this case, who comprises the network you want to build)? Understanding your audience also means understanding their needs. True networking is not a one-sided tactic to achieve what you want; that’s not networking, that’s called using people. Performance Networking is based on mature relationships marked by mutuality – value-based give and take is how business gets done.

  • Messages: What messages will impact your audience the most? In other words, what is the value proposition associated with the personal brand you want to establish? How do you articulate both the “give” and the “take” in terms that will clearly and crisply demonstrate value to your audience?

  • Delivery: How will you most effectively and efficiently reach your target audience with the message of your personal brand? Where do they go to look for resources? Where do they get information? Who do they trust when seeking advice? Many times it’s as simple as using a referral and picking up the phone – “Hi, this is Joe Highvalue, Mary Matchmaker suggested I give you a call.” One of our most successful colleagues has a prominent sign displayed on the wall over his desk. This sign says, “Pick Up the Phone!!!”

At its simplest, the act of marketing anything is comprised of three key components – audience, message and message delivery vehicles. Understanding these three components is vital in marketing yourself as well as the reputation, products or services of your company. While designing the plan to construct your network and build your personal brand, keep this mantra in mind: Audience, Message, Delivery Vehicles.

Facilitated Networking – Leveraging Others in Building Personal Networks

When it comes to attending networking events, the tendency of most people is to show up at the appointed time, head for the tray of cheese squares and refreshments, and then start looking around to determine who might be valuable to meet. If the event organizers didn’t think to supply name tags for the event, then you’re in real trouble – you’ve got a plateful of cheese squares and a drink in a room full of strangers, not knowing who might be a valuable contact to suit your purposes.

We recommend a much more thought-out and proactive approach, which we call “facilitated networking.” Here’s how it works. The minute you hear about the event and it seems to match the value criteria you’ve established, contact the event organizers. Ask them who they anticipate will attend the event. Ask them if they have a list of the companies and individuals who have responded with an R.S.V.P. Obtain as much information in advance about the quality and quantity of prospective attendees. This brief bit of research accomplishes two important things: (1) It enables you to validate that the event will be worth your time (remember, 2,000 hours) and (2) It provides you with the information you need to put together a proactive “networking plan” for the event.

Your networking plan should contain, at a minimum, a list of the companies and people you plan to meet, what information you’d like to convey to your new contacts and how you intend to get to the right people – again, “Audience, Message, Delivery Vehicles.” Armed with this information, you can now enlist other people to help you build your network using a “facilitated” approach.

In terms of how you get to the right people, the best place to start is with the event organizers themselves. Ask them if they can provide you with introductions to the people you’d like to meet. The people who organize meetings, speaking sessions and networking events want their events to be successful. A big measure of success for them is having people say afterwards that they found value in the event, met valuable contacts and will be back to attend future events. Given that you’ve done the homework of defining a substantive value proposition for the event you’re targeting, the event organizers should be more than happy to help you get connected during the meeting. After all, facilitating meaningful and productive introductions is one of the things that makes their party a success.

In the course of this process we recommend that you identify and employ one or more personal matchmakers who you know will be attending the event. These are people who have it as part of their natural personality to be matchmakers; facilitating introductions between people who they think are interesting and will find value in each other. Get one or more of these people to take you under their wing, so to speak, and help you get connected to the people you want to reach. In Malcolm Gladwell’s popular book, The Tipping Point, he has a special definition for folks who are skilled matchmakers, or what Gladwell calls, “Connectors.” – “These people who link us up with the world, who introduce us to our special circles – these people on whom we rely more heavily than we realize – are Connectors, people with a special gift for bringing the world together.”

Think of as many ways as you can to pre-plan introductions prior to arriving at the meeting. Create an environment in which the event works for you in addition to you working the event. Perhaps your matchmakers will even arrange scheduled meetings with the people you want to meet during the event. Facilitated networking beats the heck out of the cheese square and drink routine and turns each event into a productive use of your valuable time. In all situations, never leave a conversation, meeting or phone conference without getting at least one new name. Get in the habit of asking people who they might know who fits your audience target and might need your particular brand of value.

Adding Value – Getting Proactively Involved with Networking Organizations

When organizations hold events, they’re doing it for a purpose. Find out what that underlying purpose is and get involved to add value to the event organizers. Their motivations may be to add members to their organization, to drive higher quantity and quality of attendance at their events, to improve their event programs, to develop stronger awareness for their organization, or all of the above. Once you understand their motivations, get involved to help them achieve their objectives (this is assuming that you’ve already validated that this organization and their events will help you achieve your networking goals in the medium to long term).

Actively participating in event activities makes you part of the “in” crowd instead of just being part of the crowd. It also builds valuable relationships that complement the principle goals you have for building your network.

  • Offer to speak or sit on a panel during the event.

  • Use your network to attract good speakers.

  • Work to attract members and event attendees for the organization.

  • Volunteer to help organize event activities.

  • See if there are openings on the local board or within the chapter structure of the organization.

  • Work the reception area of the event as an official greeter for the organization – this is great way to ensure that you know everyone who attends.


More than ever, a strong personal network is one of the most valuable assets an individual can have to add value to their careers, companies, alliance partners and customers. Some dedicated effort and a well-executed plan can result in highly productive results from moving beyond traditional networking and into “performance networking.”

  1. Approach the development of your personal network with detailed thought and planning, as you would the development of investments in a financial portfolio.

  2. Define clear goals for your personal network including definition of your “brand,” defining your audiences and determining the best way to reach them.

  3. Engage other people to help you maximum your time and effort in building your network through “facilitated networking.”

  4. Get involved and add your own value to the networking organizations that you find valuable for your network portfolio.

Finally, once you’re engaged in conversations with people on the phone, in meetings, in social situations, during networking events, never miss an opportunity to ask for the introductions and referrals that will help build your Performance Network.

Finding Networking Organizations and Resources

The following is a brief list of business networking organizations and resources available in a sample city, in this case, the San Francisco Bay Area. A simple search on the web using any of the popular search engines will readily deliver a list of available networking organizations and resources in your area:

Action Plan Marketing – Networking and Speaking Directory for the San Francisco Bay Area

The Association of Strategic Alliances Professionals
(A.S.A.P.) Silicon Valley Chapter

The Bay Area Automated Mapping Association (BAAMA)

The Churchill Club

IBD Network


National Association of Professional Organizers
San Francisco Chapter

National Speakers Association

South Bay Networking

Women in Technology International


Dick Hoffmann, President & COO, AllianceVista Corporation

Dick founded Leverage Point Consulting, Inc. and co-founded AllianceVista Corporation with more than 19 years of operational experience in the high tech industry, including a broad range of sales, marketing, channel, and alliance leadership roles with both market-leading and start-up companies. In addition to leading AllianceVista, Dick is on the board of directors of the Association of Strategic Alliance Professionals (A.S.A.P.) www.strategic-alliances.org and serves as vice chairman of the board responsible for strategic planning. He is a frequent and sought-after speaker at industry tradeshows, seminars, workshops, training sessions and networking events and is considered one of the top global experts in the field of alliance and channel metrics.

Dr. Gregory Ketchum, CEO, TalentPlanet

Before co-founding TalentPlanet™ with Kathy Taylor in 1999, Gregory built and ran his own management

consulting practice, and has over 18 years experience working with business organizations. Gregory is a leading expert in the areas of leadership development, teamwork, and organizational effectiveness. His specialty areas include executive recruiting and executive coaching. In the area of executive coaching, Gregory provides coaching to both individual executives and management teams, and specializes in coaching CEO's in start ups.

Greg received his B.A. degree from the University of California, Berkeley, where he was Phi Beta Kappa and a Dean's List Scholar. He received his M.A. from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and his Ph.D. from California School of Professional Psychology, Berkeley. He has also served on the faculty of the University of California at Berkeley Extension.

“Dr. Greg” is also the host of the TalentPlanet radio show aired on the CNET Radio network airing on Saturdays from 3:00 – 5:00 pm Pacific time -- www.cnet.com/broadband/0-7227152.html

About AllianceVista Corporation

AllianceVista is an Alliance Performance Management (APM) company that delivers alliance-based performance by challenging organizations to think differently about alliances and the utilization of alliance resources.

Through systematic mentoring and consultancy, experience-rich education services and an enterprise-strength technology platform to capture and embed alliance processes and best-practices, AllianceVista revolutionizes the way organizations leverage alliances to drive measurable results.

About TalentPlanet

TalentPlanet™ is an "executive talent firm" which brings a new concept to the world of executive talent by combining executive recruiting with executive coaching and organization development.

This unique pairing allows us to place top executive talent, develop that talent after placement, and build our client's leadership team and culture. We are dedicated to providing comprehensive solutions to the full spectrum of executive talent needs, and a strong return on "talent investment" for our clients.

© AllianceVista Corporation and TalentPlanet, August 2002



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