Expert Advice On Business Networking And Tips On Developing Your Networking Skills

Melissa Giovagnoli interview – Founder and President of Networlding

Melissa Giovagnoli is a leading expert on the development of individual and community leadership networks as a means of growing and accelerating brand loyalty and performance improvement inside and outside organizations. Her organization, Networlding, has provided exceptional relationship marketing and management programs for organizations like AT&T, CNA, Motorola and Disney.

Melissa is also the author and/or co-author of ten top-selling books. She has also been a guest on both radio and television including The Today Show, CNN, WGN, CNBC and FOX. She is a frequent presenter at conferences looking for interactive sessions.

Josh: How do you define Business Networking and why do you feel it is important?

Melissa Giovagnoli: My definition of networking is an activity of connecting that leads to business opportunities for all parties involved. In other words, networking should be an “exchange,” not a transaction of taking or giving, In an exchange, both parties share their respective interests and needs and both parties commit then to explore making introductions (versus referrals where you have first-hand experience working with the person) to potential connections that lead to opportunities.

With Networlding, my process, there also exists the value of integrity that needs to be in place in the minds and, more importantly, hearts of both parties. Success in networking leads to more success. The focus is on quality of relationships, first, that leads to the quantity of opportunities.

Josh: Can you share a few ideas that someone could put into practice that would help them to improve their business networking skills?

Melissa Giovagnoli: One of the most important things is to find “open networkers” who are also willing to mentor you a bit. Where do you find these people? If you connect with me on LinkedIn (and link with me at – name – Melissa Giovagnoli) you will be able to view my 3000-plus connections.

Those contacts who have their email addresses in their names are usually ready, willing and able to help you, at least for a limited time. Don’t put all the pressure on one potential mentor. Locate three or four. Keep your requests simple. Ask for a 15-minute phone conversation. Honor this person by finding out what matters most to them. Spread the word about this person by promoting them to your friends and colleagues by email.

Open networkers love being promoted. In return, ask for their best networking tips and, always, ask them to share with you the name of the person they think is the best networker they know. What then? Ask to be introduced to that person to do the same thing with them–get some simple, short-term mentoring advice. What you will find is that you will build a network of one great connection after another and the best thing you can do then is to introduce these great networkers to each other. Chances are they won’t all know each other and by being “The Connector” you will create tremendous value for you and all others involved in your networking efforts.

Josh: What events, places, or resources (online or off-line) have you found to be especially good for networking? And based on your experience what makes them stand out?

Melissa Giovagnoli: There are many sites. We are now offering a $500 e-learning program for Networking for Sales at You can gain access to this service at no charge by linking with me on LinkedIn. Also, visit our site at and sign up for our newsletter and blog. Finally, we are building out a wonderful online community for socially responsible networkers (those who hold our values of integrity, making a difference, collaboration and innovation) at

Josh: Can you share a personal “networking” success story with us?

Melissa Giovagnoli: Just the other day I connected three clients with presidents, vice presidents and directors of their target prospect organizations within a couple of days. It’s so gratifying to help make these connections.

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  • Mr. Network

    Great conversation guys.

    I am to thinking about Melissa’s style of networking.

    “My definition of networking is an activity of connecting that leads to business opportunities for all parties involved. In other words, networking should be an “exchange,” not a transaction of taking or giving……..”

    Perhaps it may come off as cold but I am results driven and the most successful networkers I know are as well.

    I’ve noticed that over the last few years, as so many entities have tried to formalize networking, the idea has become somewhat diluted.

    “This let’s play nice” conundrum has taken away from the over-all goal of networking…… increased revenue. Re-labeling, adding rules, making exceptions, and pretending there is no “give and take” in networking has not served networkers as much as it has people looking to make professions off of the “industry” itself.

    I am not completely callous though, I just differentiate between professional relationships and personal relationships. I can share both modes with the same person. For instance Joe, my attorney friend is also a professional friend. We may go out get drinks and watch the game but we also have a common understanding of reciprocity when it comes to referring business.

    “If you connect with me on LinkedIn (and link with me at – name – Melissa Giovagnoli) you will be able to view my 3000-plus connections.”

    I am very skeptical as far as Linked-In being an effective networking tool. I see it all the time, on the web and from my friends.

    Don’t take this the wrong way Melissa but sure you have 3,000 networking friends on Linked-In. But what does that actually mean? Here you are on a blog inviting anyone reading it to be your friend? Am I your networking associate now too? What percent of these 3,000 people actually translates to “revenue in pocket”?

    Probably a very low percent, and of that low percent you probably have real-world relationships with most if not all them. I think that Linked-In is a bunch of hype and very attractive to people who can’t actually network that well or who have social apprehensions.

    Tom comes up to me and says do you know an immigration attorney that can help me out with some research.

    Saying hey “I know someone on Linked-In is as absurd as saying hey I know someone on the internet.” It is laughable

    I would not feel comfortable referring my client to that person, handing him the yellow pages would be more substantiated.

    As far as the net I use (see my blog). It has been tremendously helpful. It allows me to manage my relationships, generate new ones, and track my reciprocity.

    It may not have 1,000,000 contacts for me to scroll through but I don’t want that. I want results. If I want to socialize I’ll use Myspace or facebook.

    Perhaps I have a different perspective of what networking is.
    Ultimately, I view networking as two professionals who agree to uphold a relationship by which both party’s stand to gain revenue. The keyword being REVENUE.

  • Josh Hinds

    Interesting thoughts. That’s the wonderful thing about sharing ones thoughts in an open conversation like this one. We’re all entitled to our opinions 🙂 I’ve heard the argument that you make about LinkedIn before. I know lots of folks who find it to be a truly valuable resource. And of course I know folks who see a lot of the same drawbacks in it that you mentioned. I tend to think of it sort of like any other tool that can be used for networking. The mileage one gets out of it is going to depend largely on how they use it 🙂

    While I guess I might be classified as one of those folks who has a “feel good” approach to networking — in my own life I’ve found it’s the best approach for me (and judging by feedback from the folks I’ve taught the approach too — them too), and works well I might add. I’ve found that it really gets down to the basic idea that you have to be a person someone wants to be associated with, and given a choice (we all pretty much have a choice after all) people will do business with those they feel they have rapport with (or some sort of positive connection). For example, person A might have a great service, but if I have any sort of connection built with person B, and their product or service is even remotely as good or equal to Person A, I’m going to choose to do business with Person B every time — hands down. I’m guessing (based on countless examples) that most everyone feels the same. So the question gets back to how do we position ourselves as that person others feel a connection with, dare I say, know and like… I’d submit it that it starts with the “feel good approach” towards networking and making connections 🙂

    But of course no one has a lock on what’s “right” for everyone.

    Happy networking, Josh 🙂

  • Eric Mariacher

    Here are my 2 cents on social networking:

    1st advice “Grow your network while you don’t need it”
    2nd advice “know why you want to network”
    3rd advice “get recommendations from current and past colleagues posted on your profile”
    4th advice “make heavy use of the Q&A feature (on LinkedIn) or post on forums”
    5th advice “never use standard boiler plate templates” when inviting people to connect
    6th advice/fact “The more connections you have, the more time you must spend”
    7th advice “join yahoo networking groups. You will learn a lot”
    8th advice “Read other 2 cents advices”
    9th advice “Do not forget other ways of networking”

    read details at

  • Josh Hinds

    Eric, thanks for joining in the conversation here. Good stuff. I especially like the 1st point you shared. We hear that all the time, yet it’s something everyone would do well to internalize and really get.

    I’m reminded of someone I know (who will of course remain nameless :-)) It seems like I never hear from them — not as much as a quick hello to see how I’m doing — yet as soon as they have a new product/project they’ve created, and want my help in bringing it to market I can count on hearing from this person like clockwork 🙂 I’m not complaining, in fact I only write this here to illustrate the importance of not following the approach that this person does.

    Instead, as you’ve pointed out Eric, build your network (i.e. do unexpected nice things for others– create value for the other person first) long before you need anything yourself.

    Just my thoughts… Happy networking, Josh 🙂

  • Networlding2.0

    Hi group,

    Melissa here. I really appreciate this forum to share further my thoughts on more “open” networking if you will. Networlding, when it was first created over a decade ago, was based on the science of networks that Malcolm Gladwell made popular when he wrote “The Tipping Point.” Before that, people did not get the paradox that the “qualty” of your network drives the “quantity” and not vice versa.

    By the quantity I am referring to revenue–that elusive end game if you will for any two good networkers whether it be to land a wonderful, new business account or that next great job. The way the process worked was that if you chose the right 10 people or so Gladwell referenced 15 but my research showed that even 10 or fewer could be all you need in a “primary circle” at any one time to make big things happen.

    Anyway, flash forward to about two years ago when I realized that tools like LinkedIn could be used for marketing as well as one-to-one networking-business development. I might also refer to bringing on hundreds or thousands into your network as a “word-of-mouth marketing strategy.” However, I don’t communicate directly with my 3400 connections on LinkedIn regularly, but I do send them emails letting them know about my Networlding community. Just as Oprah had 400,000 people on her first, live book club, I know I can build a larger network and provide value to it, which, can, in turn, lead to very large revenue by the way.

    So, networking or Networlding as I practice, is more about helping educate as many people as I can at one time. Does it equate to dollars? It does when I hold live seminars, or, now, online tele-seminars or have people who hire me for coaching because they recognize me as an expert and leader in my field.

    The real question with networking becomes, what is it really? For me it is the best marketing and business development strategy out there. Further, tools like LinkedIn make it much easier and more profitable. The reality is that we are just at the tip of the iceberg in learning how to master networking. I would say that, currently, only 5% of all sales people really get the value and leverage it. To that end I built a special e-learning tool called Networking for Sales and anyone can learn more about it by emailing me at

    Meanwhile, I hope any of you out there that wants to see how networking–especially networking online can help you, you keep reading this blog and reach out and get mentoring-coaching support.