Building Connections that Matter

Excerpt from モNetworking Is Dead: Making Connections That Matterヤ by Melissa G. Wilson and Larry Mohl (BenBella Books, November 2012).

By Melissa G. Wilson and Larry Mohl

Meet Lance and Meredith, business colleagues who both consider their networking skills mediocre at best and have made a resolution to try and network more. Their search leads them to Dan, a specialist in creating and building what he calls “connections that matter.”In “Networking Is Dead,” the pair learns that their approach to networking has been based on fundamental misconceptions about how to be a successful “attractor of possibility.” Over time Dan teaches them a new way to build connections that matter based on 10 core lessons. The following excerpt features Dan teaching them Lesson #6, Upgrade Your Network - Five Levels of Exchange. They learn that as they move up the levels, their relationships deepen and their exchanges become richer.

“So in today’s lesson, I’m going to teach you the Five Levels of the Exchange.”

Meredith and Lance exchanged looks before quickly pulling out their messenger bags for a way to take notes. Meredith was quick to retrieve her iPad, but Lance took a little longer to get his laptop up and running, a blank Word document finally filling the screen.

When they were both ready, Dan turned to the next page in the giant sketchpad. On the page were written the words Level 1: Social Exchange.

Dan pointed to them and said, “So, let’s start with Level 1, or what I call ‘Social Exchange.’ This step is the foundation of building a strong relationship. You also may think of it as emotional intelligence, which is the ability to understand emotions and use them to promote emotional and intellectual growth in yourself and others.

“People are increasingly receptive to emotional honesty, and they’re looking for someone who not only says what he or she really feels but is also an empathic listener. Emotional support builds trust and natu­rally allows the relationship to progress along the Exchange Model.”

After a slight pause, Dan flipped to the next page. Level 2: Informa­tion Exchange was written there. He began: “Once at least some kind of emotional exchange has been established, people are more willing to volunteer information. But let’s face it, people are overwhelmed with data and information. Think of all the sources you yourself have from which to gather information. The key here is useful but easy-to-obtain information versus valuable, not-as-well-known facts and statistics.

Lance looked to Meredith, who was busy typing. Before Dan could continue, he cleared his throat and asked, “Well, what type of infor­mation, Dan? Can you give us a for instance?”

“Sure,” Dan said, turning to them both. “You both just engaged in an extreme case of information exchange in the Give First exercise.    

“Melissagave those resumes, based on her Level 1 Social Exchange with Anne. And you, Lance, gave information and contact numbers for a valuable internship to Jack based on your earlier Social Exchange in the cafeteria at Papa’s Pasta Parlor. But information can be any­thing: a tip, a review, a business card, a Web link. That’s the type of information we’re talking about here.”

On the following page were printed the words Level 3: Knowledge-Wisdom Exchange. Dan said, “Now, the next natural progression in relationship-building is knowledge. So I called Level 3 Knowledge-Wisdom Exchange.”

“But, didn’t we just cover that with Information Exchange, Dan?” Meredith asked before Lance could form the words.

Dan replied patiently, “There’s actually a pretty big difference be­tween knowledge and information. Information is typically pure data and facts; knowledge involves a personal experience, lessons learned, experiences, insights, and ideas.

“So, for example, if you give someone a tip, the name of an event you heard of but have not attended, or articles you have heard about but have not read, you are sharing information. Knowledge support, on the other hand, signifies a growing level of trust. Examples of knowledge sharing could be experiences shared in mastermind groups or mentoring relationships. So for instance, Lance, all you gave Jack so far is information: a contact at the college, a chance at an intern­ship, the connection to make it happen. But let’s say you really find yourself clicking with this kid and he pursues a relationship and be­gins exchanging experiences he has had and you share your insights and experiences that complement his. Well, your conversation could evolve into a knowledge exchange where you mentor him and take him under your wing.”

Lance nodded toward Dan and chuckled, “Hmm, why does that sound familiar?”

They all laughed. “Exactly, we’re having a knowledge exchange right now. But you can see how if you didn’t trust me or I didn’t trust you, we all might be a little less forthcoming with the type or amount of knowledge we convey. If you are doing this correctly, it adds an element of wisdom. Here, you are sharing that 20 percent that can yield an 80 percent return. Best-practice sharing is an example of wisdom support.”

Lance raced to type in Dan’s words as Meredith did the same. The rustling of paper against paper caught his attention, and Lance risked a rare glance up from his laptop. Dan had flipped the last sheet of paper over to a new one.

Level 4: Connection Exchange was written on the next page. Dan pointed to it and said, “Connecting two people you know who do not know one another is leveraging your network, creating a ripple effect for those you connect as well as yourself. If you have made a strong connection through a great introduction, the people you connect will remember you for this and you will grow your social capital.”

The final page said Level 5: Opportunity Exchange. Dan pointed to this page with particular pride. “Finally, gang, we get to Level 5 or what I call the ‘Opportunity Exchange.’ Here is your chance to be recommended or introduced to a wonderful new business opportu­nity—whether it’s a new piece of business or a new job. Getting leads, referrals, and introductions that evolve through this hierarchy of on­going exchanges of support throughout your circles is your ultimate goal. The reason I created these Five Levels of Exchange was to help people realize that you can’t think of closing deals before you effec­tively open up your relationships through a dynamic exchange with the right people.”

Excerpt from “Networking Is Dead: Making Connections That Matter” by Melissa G. Wilson and Larry Mohl (BenBella Books, November 2012). For more information or to purchase the book, visit:

Melissa G. Wilsonand her team at Networlding provide relationship selling, marketing, and management programs for organizations such as Motorola, AT&T, CNA, American Express, and Disney. The co-author of “Networking Is Dead,” Wilson has been a guest on the TODAY show and CNN, and one of her books was featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show.

Larry Mohlis a thought leader, author, speaker, chief learning officer for Fortune 100 companies. The co-author of “Networking Is Dead” is currently Chief Innovation Officer and a founding partner of Performance Inspired, Inc.

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