The moral of this story is that you can reach just about anyone online.

This is an important idea when you’re developing a business. It doesn’t guarantee access, nor does it mean that everyone you want to speak with will want to speak with you. It means that you can accurately identify and start plotting paths towards people who you can add value to whatever you’re creating.

This is particularly useful if you want to reach titans of your industry. Their track record speaks for itself and a moment of their time can change the trajectory of new companies.

From the outside, it’s difficult to tell how they tip the scales for previously unknown companies. It might be their experience, network, capital or a combination of all three.

And as they become known for helping these companies, it can seem as though your chances of connecting with them decrease. That’s true but that doesn’t mean it becomes impossible.

I’ll never forget one of my closest friends saying ‘the pyramids aren’t as tall as you think’ after we walked out of a series of meetings with people we considered titans. Some were entrepreneurs, some investors, while others were friends of friends of friends. The one characteristic they share is that they’re at the top of their craft. They are at the top of the pyramid.

They tipped the scales for us, as they had done for many others. And as excited as we were with the outcome, we had to work hard to create the opportunity to have these conversations. We had been actively practicing the 51% rule for some time. They didn’t just come to us.

The 51% Rule

The number one rule in relationship management is the 51% rule.

The essence of this rule is simple. In every meeting value is created. It’s your job, in every meeting, to be the one delivering 51% of that value. In other words, your objective is to always create more value for the other person/people in the room than you receive.

Why? Because developing a business is a strategic pursuit built on the value you bring to relationships. And consistently delivering 51% of the value has a cumulative effect where over time a large proportion of those people you invest in end up returning the favour, oftentimes in unexpected ways.

Here’s how I live the 51% rule:

  • By helping. My opening gambit in every meeting is to ask ‘How can I help?’ and then do what I said within 24 hours.
  • By listening. I practice being the last to speak in meetings so I have the best chance of understanding context and then adding value.
  • By connecting. I’m quick reach out to someone new to cultivate a relationship when I’m certain I can offer them value. I’m also quick to connect people who I instinctively know will gain value from meeting one another. I’m even quicker to say ‘thanks, but no thanks’ so I don’t waste someone else’s time.
  • By sharing. I constantly think about who in my network would benefit from content I’m consuming (articles, posts, podcasts) and sent it to them.
  • By celebrating. I celebrate birthdays of people in my network because it’s their day!

This rule also works in the opposite direction. Consistently being a net absorber of value means the likelihood of your network supporting you takes a nose dive. Don’t be that person.

The wrong way to climb pyramids takes little effort. And you don’t climb far.

It ignores the simple rule that humans engage and prosper through relationship.

These people cold-call and request value from others where a pre-existing relationship doesn’t exist. They do this in the hope a few will respond. If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of LinkedIn invitations which lack context or a reason for connecting, you know what I mean.

I don’t invest a moment thinking about the sender’s intent when they pressed the ‘invite’ button. I decline these invitations immediately and just in case you’re wondering what I’m thinking, it’s this: ‘My network is valuable. If you want access to those people, you can work for it’. That’s just the way it is.

The lesson here for people trying to climb the pyramid this way is that the internet and social media remove context and intent.

Online research might surface some insight about a person’s work history, relationships or hobbies but it will almost certainly be void of what’s happening in their life today, their context. And it’s for this reason that your intent, no matter how genuine, isn’t likely to mean much when you try and make contact.

5 rules of climbing pyramids the right way

Developing business isn’t rocket surgery but it does take patience and the built-in thirst to create value for customers and partners.

1. Until you meet in person, you’re a stranger.

Don’t assume for a second that just because you can read about someone’s experience online that they will want to engage with you. You’re a stranger and in order to gain relevance among their priorities you need to dial up the 51% rule.

2. Piquing attention requires you to have something interesting to say

Time is everyone’s most essential asset. If you have nothing to say, wait until you do. First impressions count and so does every one after that.

3. Relationships are the most important filter

Leverage LinkedIn to understand how your relationships can help you open conversations with people you don’t already know. A warm introduction is 10x more likely to result in a first meeting compared with a cold call.

4. No just means no today

Rejection is a big part of building a business as I wrote about recently (Expect To Be Told ‘No’ 500 Times Before You Make A Dollar). If you’re told ‘No’, understand why you got that answer and make a plan to re-engage in 8-12 weeks time. Rinse and repeat. This is resilience in the making.

5. Always be optimising the 51% rule.

Steal my tips for the 51% rule, create your own or blend them together. Which ever way you go, just make sure you are always the one creating more value. It pays dividends over the medium and long term. Ignore it at your peril.

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If you learned something let me know by leaving a comment, thanks!