Ashley is the first and only networking concierge that puts you in the right situation or gets you out of the wrong one. As a networking concierge, Ashley trains coaches and speaks on becoming an authority at generating revenue by networking with intention. Ashley is the host of two digital TV talk shows on RVNTV and THIS IS IT TV speaking and interviewing on the topic of tactical networking.
As someone who speaks, talks, teachers, coaches, all things networking, what has been the most effective networking tip that you have ever received?
The best one that I received, which I try to talk about all the time is nobody gives a damn about what you do. Nobody cares, they care how you make them feel and what value can bring to their lives. So I think the biggest challenge a lot of people have in that capacity is that people always forget, when they're in a networking situation or, doing networking activities that they always have to be on. There is a level of good perception and good manners and being respectful, but at the end of the day, people buy or work with or connect with people that they know, that they like, and that they trust. So having that stigma of trying to sell something or trying to impress that person needs to go away because there's no room for that we've got things to do.
How do you know how you're making someone feel?
You look at their body language, and you can understand or at least start to be more in tune with how they're perceiving you as a person. If you're framing out a conversation that is beneficial to the two of you, you always want to lead with service. So one of the things that I try to tell my clients is that we are lucky to be able to network, really, how lucky are we to be able to do that. So when you are of service, and when you are communicating with somebody new, it's really important to make them feel good, but also to allow them to showcase their businesses. Ask the right questions, be naturally curious. You as somebody who enjoys to network has to lead them in a way that's beneficial to them. You'll get the information that you need from them, whether they're in a small business, big business, or if they're looking to meet that particular kind of person, but the goal is to be naturally curious, and you can make them feel comfortable by having actual interest in what they do.
I'm interested in your coaching process, how do you educate your audience on what networking is?
The thing I try to focus on is that networking took a significant change in the logistics, and the fluidity of it, so everything went virtual. A lot of groups and organizations did have virtual options, but it was kind of more cliche, and everyone would typically go to events. So the way that I coach my clients was different before the pandemic than what it is now because you adjust and you grow within the needs of your client, that's what any good coach does. As a coach, I have a responsibility to train my clients in a way that's meaningful to them, which means that my personality may not match everybody else's personality, but they still need my help. So my job is to make sure that I understand how they make decisions and what drives them to complete tasks. So within my coaching sessions, I run a disc profile on them, it's an emotional intelligence assessment so I know what activities to align their decision-making process with the networking activity. For example, for an introvert, I'm not going to put them into a 60 or 90 person networking event, even if it's online, because they're not going to have the ability to communicate in a way that's beneficial to them. Whereas identifying good groups to be a part of and giving them strategies to connect with people one on one, and how to ask for those meetings and putting more of a stress on LinkedIn is the better option for them so they feel more comfortable. Networking is a personal activity, it's not a one size fits all thing. So the way that I coach my clients is understanding that there is fear attached to networking, it's putting yourself out there. I can empathize with that and it's my job to one, champion them and make sure my client feels that they have me at all times to help them navigate through these activities and two, to be that person in their army. To me a network is not a support system, it's not a fan base, it's not an audience, you're building an army. When you build an army, for you to lead people to fight for you in that army, you have to fight for them tenfold before they can even think about running into battle with you. So when you build a network, you're building an army. For you to lead that army and to advocate for you or to fight for you when you're not in the room, you have to do that for them way more than they'll ever do that for you. So my job is to be that number two for them so they can feel comfortable, they can brainstorm, and they can work with me on a monthly basis and navigate through the activities that bring the results of building a very robust and strong network.
What would you say the biggest stigma about networking is?
The biggest stigma I feel about networking is in the midst of two different things. One is not everybody who blatantly tries to sell to you is bad. The reason why is because I feel like they're just not educated yet, in best practices. So when I see somebody come up to me and throw a business card in my face, starts to do the whole salesy bit in a networking environment, I take it as a really interesting challenge and a teachable moment to ask them the questions that allow them to think differently. If they can do that, then I can guide them into a better experience with me, a more conducive experience for myself, and allowing them to see a different way of having the conversation. I don't necessarily blame people for that activity, because they just don't know yet. If I have the pleasure and the privilege of doing what I do, then I want to help pivot their mindset, even if it's in the first 15 minutes to show them a really good way of actually having a conversation and getting out of it what we both want. So I think the biggest stigma is everybody who that that shifty salesperson isn't necessarily a bad person, they just aren't educated yet on best practices. The second biggest stigma is that people feel like they have to meet with everyone, and you don't. This was a hard lesson for me to learn at the very beginning of this business because I thought that the quantity of how many people I had in my network was the validity of my business. I learned very quickly that a great group of people who advocated for you when you're not in the room was better than the 14 new people that I met that day. The difference between a network and a friendship is in the follow-up, you're staying top of mind, but you're also providing value. You do not have to be with every single person, but you also have to identify what time you're spending on nurturing a network and building one.
How do you say no, without feeling like a terrible human being and how do you identify the right investment of my time with this person?
I can say no without saying no. There is there's a boundary that you start to build and I think it came from the fact that I was spending so much time with new people that I started feeling guilty about not nurturing the network that I had currently built to the most of my ability. So what I decided to do was not necessarily say no, but just decrease the amount of time allocated to the things I wanted to say no to. So in the beginning, I would have introductions, phone calls with people for half an hour, then I would have consultation phone calls with people for half an hour before they jumped into all the training stuff that I have. What I found was beneficial was to do 15-minute phone calls only, do not take every new person on a zoom call, because zoom fatigue is 100% real and just make sure that when you say yes to a new person for a 15-minute phone call, you know why they want to talk to you, and then also have at the ready resources that you can share so you can still be a value to them. Everybody's got 15 minutes for somebody looking for your help. I think the reason why I stress that so much is because I take every phone call I get and I answer every email. I stick to that because when I was working as a waitress, I lost my job due to my employer losing her mind and firing her entire staff. So when I got back home to Jersey, I felt completely defeated and devalued. I had a gentleman and two people come over and sit at my table and they asked me what kind of burger should we get today. I was doing bits with each of these guys and saying, "Maybe you want this burger and add some jalapenos," and of course I was upselling them, but the goal was just to enjoy the conversation I had with them. At the end of the meal, they reached back out to me and said, "Hey, would you send us your resume?" I said, "Okay, thank you, but show it in the tip, guys, thanks very much, show your appreciation in the tip," I didn't believe them. The next day, the owner of that company, who was my customer came over and talked to my boss and said, "Can you grab Ashley?" and when he came over he said, "Hey, you never gave us your resume." So within a week, I went over, had aa interview with them, and within 24 hours, I had a 401k, I had a salary, I had benefits and I had a job working for an online e-commerce furniture company and it was because they gave me the time of day, they saw the value when I saw nothing in me, they gave me the opportunity and they plucked me out of being a waitress. I have a fear of missing an opportunity to not give back the way that those guys did for me. So I'll always take the call, but I do understand decreasing the amount of time for those activities that don't make sense.
Can you share with our listeners one of your favorite or most successful stories or experiences you've had networking?
So I was giving a presentation to a technology startup group and I had a woman come over. Before she introduced herself, I saw her and she had such sadness and defeat in her eyes. I just felt incredible, overwhelming compassion for this one before she even came up. So we started talking, and she said to me, "I enjoyed your story, I think that your background is inspirational," which made me itch because I can't take a compliment. She was telling me she was a CPA and she had an idea for a business and I said, "Okay, well, tell me about your experience." This woman could have had a doctorate in CPA-isms, she had 18 years and incredible certifications, but she was so dismissive of it and it angered me because of how she dismissed her credentials. I asked her almost aggressively, "What's the worst that can happen? You try it for six months, see where it goes, give yourself a deadline." She looked at me like I had either given her the key to the city or completely blew up her house. A year later, I get a call from a friend of hers who I've never met and she goes, "I don't know if you remember this woman, but she came to a presentation," and I was like, "Yes, of course, I remember." She goes, "I don't know if she's ever called you, but she started that business and she said to me, oftentimes that you are the reason why she's successful." I haven't spoken to the woman since I believe her name was Anne, I remember her not the name. It was one of the moments whereas an entrepreneur, that was just so fulfilling. That was my favorite networking story because me talking to her for 15 minutes and having the impact that I truly didn't even know I had on her was exactly why I started the business was to do what those guys did and that was the first instance of that happening.
How do you retain, nurture, and stay in front of this community that you're building?
It's all in the follow-up and the follow-up can come in different ways. So the follow up could be giving kudos on LinkedIn, it could be saying thank you, in an email, it could be reaching out to somebody and saying, "Hey, you should meet this person," just activities that keep you top of mind. It's just being helpful in that capacity. One of the ways to also stay in front is to do something, I like to call the tier one and tier two people. So when you build a network, the follow-up practices revolve around it can get overwhelming. You want to build your "A" team and your "B" team. What you do is you'd grab all of the company names off of LinkedIn, and throw them into an Excel file. Then whoever comes top of mind when you look at those industry names, throw their names into that Excel file, and that's your "A" team. The goal is you want to be able to nurture those people the most, because you've built the know, the like, and the trust factor with them. Your B team is people that you built the know, and the like, you will eventually trust them, you just need more time for you to start giving them referrals or making introductions. When you follow up, the goal would be to nurture the "A" team with any new people that you come in contact with. So by nurturing and by utilizing an Excel file to view your "A" team, when you're jumping on a call with somebody new or getting introduced to somebody new, and they are looking for other strategic partners. Now you're nurturing the "A" network by building networking equity by introducing them to that new person. It seems a little convoluted, but what you're doing is just making sure that the people that you built the know, like, and trust factor are nurtured by the new people that you can introduce them to.
Back to your 20-year-old self, what would you tell yourself to do more or less of or differently with regards to your professional career?
I honestly would just encourage and just say keep going. On Facebook, I look at time hops from like 10 years ago, and I write to my past self. Afterward, I share the post and I say, "Don't worry 2010 Ashley, you'll be able to do this, this and this," and it's just so therapeutic. You suffer for so long, thinking that you don't have any value, and then by the time you get to the point where you have the resources, the tools, and the experience to build something and get back and do what you want it to do it's a very euphoric feeling. I think the only advice I would give to my 20-year-old self is just keeping going, it'll get there, and ever everything is worth it.
What's your final piece of advice that you'd like to offer our listeners with regards to growing and supporting your network?
Build your group of champions to become your army!
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