When Hungarian author Frigyes Karinthy originally dreamed up the notion of six degrees of separation — the notion that any two people in the world could be connected by as few as five others in their personal and extended networks — he was labeled a radical futurist.
It was 1929, after all. The telephone had only been invented 50 years earlier and commercial air travel was just a decade old. How in the heck could a tribesman in Kenya, for example, possibly connect himself to a politician in Australia?
Nearly a century later, it’s amazing how much has changed.
Thanks to social media and online communication, it’s easier than ever to connect with people you don’t know.
Just look at LinkedIn.
Yes, your direct network of acquaintances might only number 300 or 400 people, but let’s extrapolate it out from there. If one of your connections has 400 connections of their own, and those connections have the same number of people in their networks, think about how quickly your indirect network would multiply.
Why Kevin Bacon Might be Closer than You Think
The reality about the world we live in today is that, in spite of rapid population spikes, we’re closer to strangers than ever before. And the world will only continue to shrink more as we develop new means of communication and interaction.
As a salesperson, that should make you smile.
Why? Because, with it being easier than ever to find, meet, and engage new people, your job as a prospector and seller should, in theory, be far simpler. Here’s why:
- Referrals can come from anywhere. It used to be that people would only refer family, friends, colleagues, or vendors who they knew personally. Now, referrals can come from people you’ve never met or worked with, simply because those people are a fan of what they’ve seen from you online.
- Introductions are easier to make. Armed with a good value proposition and some very basic research, you can now use LinkedIn, Twitter, and other social networks to start a conversation with previously hard to find prospects. Before you know it, you could be having a phone meeting with a prospect that, 10 years ago, would have been much more difficult to engage.
- Social groups open the door to organic interaction. By simply joining a LinkedIn or Facebook group, you can immediately tap into a well of people who can help you get closer to the prospects in the micro-segment you’re trying to reach. Previously, you would have had to attend Chamber of Commerce meetings or events to do that.
How to Make the Most of a Shrinking World
Of course, the sales benefits of social networking and online communication are only valuable if you’re actually doing something to leverage them.
And, no, that doesn’t mean just creating a handful of social media accounts, populating them with basic information, and returning once or twice a month to peruse status updates and search for a handful of new connections.
It means being much more proactive — searching for and adding connections that share your interests and operate in your market; commenting on specific posts or pages that are relevant to your market segment; and engaging directly with prospects that you have not yet established relationships with.
At the end of the day, the goal is to grow your network. Because the bigger you’re able to make it, the fewer degrees of separation you’ll need to interact with your most important prospects.