After serving as a U.S. Marine, Casey Cheshire embarked on a career in marketing. He built a successful consulting company with over 30 employees from scratch and with no marketing budget. His secret? Networking.
We sat down to talk with him about how he used networking to get from nowhere to everywhere he’s been in his life.
Question: Who are the most famous people you’ve talked to because of your networking skills?
Answer: I’ve talked to millionaires and famous people that are often on TV, but honestly, they were not as exciting to talk to as you’d think. The best conversations I’ve ever had are with people you’ve never heard of who have interesting things to say. Famous people are so busy being famous and chased around by everybody that they often don’t actually have to be interesting anymore — and they usually aren’t.
Q: A lot of people reading this, they might not have college degrees, they might have tattoos, they might not have a long legitimate job history, and that might make them feel nervous going into a professional situation where they need to network. What do you think they need to know about how to succeed?
A: Networking events are meetings made with the single purpose of people meeting each other. No one knows your background and no one is going to ask. Unlike (at) a bar, no one will wonder what your motives are for saying “hello” in a networking meeting. Put people at ease with a smile and a handshake.
Before walking into the room, decide who you want to be. Maybe you don’t feel like smiling, so today you’ll want to be Josh. Who is that? A made-up person or a friend you remember. Josh is a friendly, successful person. Just channel Josh, walk into the room, and act how Josh would act, and you’ll be fine. I’m not saying use a fake name, but get the right mindset in your head however you need to.
Also, it can really help to have a ritual beforehand. Take 5 minutes in the hallway before you walk in and play a song to pump you up to connect with people. Not some sad song, but a happy song that puts you into a good mood.
Q: So, once you’re in the room, like … how do you win? How do you … do networking?
A: The main problem people have with networking is that they play the wrong game. People walk into the room, and they think the game is “collect the most business cards” or “chat with the most famous person” or “be the most impressive-looking.” And that is all just a recipe for being stressed out and not having any success. When I walk into the room, my game is to be the most helpful person in the room. Instead of obsessing over what I need, I’m listening to others and thinking about how I can help them. Maybe I have a deep connection with just one person, and we talk for an hour, and it’s not the name on the marquee, but it’s someone really cool, and we learn a lot from each other.
That leads me to the single most important thing about networking with other people: If you go into a conversation and you want something from someone, they will feel it and be turned off immediately. They can tell you don’t care about them; you just want a job, a connection, some money, whatever it is. When I’m talking to someone, I’m thinking about how I can help them. Just by being nice to them I’m helping, because they’re feeling nervous about being here at this networking event too! Or maybe I know someone they want to know and I can connect them.
Q: So you built a huge marketing company, you say, entirely on networking. If you never asked anybody for anything, how did you make that happen?
A: I had some connections who were great for giving us new business, and I would call them up periodically to chat and say hello. And sometimes I’d call and they’d say, “Casey, so glad you called. I have this deal for you,” and I’d say, “Oh, that’s cool, but really I just wanted to catch up.” Then we’d talk for an hour about whatever, just be friends. And at the end of the call, they’d say, “Oh, and I’m going to send you this lead.” And I’d thank them and that’d be it. But I never once called up and said, “Hey, do you have business for me?”
What I’m saying is this: People do business with you because they like you, and the liking, that comes first. So start by going into each room with “How can I be the most helpful person here?” and into each conversation with “I want to find a way to help this person,” and you’ll be everybody’s favorite person to talk to.
The main problem people have with networking is that they play the wrong game.