Motivation & Personal Growth: Boost Your Chances of Success

Harvey Mackay explains networking at the next level

October 1, 1997

Most salespeople neglect the fundamentals of this vital skill, says Harvey Mackay, businessman, motivational speaker, and author of Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty, a networking enhancement manual for the ’90s.

How important is networking in today’s world?

At one time networking was viewed more as a tool for advancement. Today we’re living in a dog-eat-dog economy. You need a network for survival.

In the recent wave of corporate layoffs, the employees who landed on their feet were those who had networked. I saw one study that said that 75 percent of all jobs are filled through networking--and only 2 percent as the result of a résumé.

Some salespeople think of themselves as good networkers. Is there anything new they can learn from your book?

Yes, they’ll learn how to bring themselves up to the next level. The better you become at networking, the more successful you’ll be in your job.

Good networkers are made, not born. Even a quiet, reserved person can learn how to be a fabulous networker. All you have to do is be a good listener and ask penetrating questions. It also helps if you have something interesting to say.

What can a network do for a real estate professional?

It increases your probability of success in a number of ways. First, a network lets you know what's going on with your competition.

Second, it delivers all kinds of leads and prospects. The size of a network isn’t as important as the quality of the people in it. Let’s say you and your spouse just moved to the Minneapolis area. You’re from Kansas City, and you were a successful real estate professional there.

You’d like to practice real estate in Minneapolis, but you don’t have very many contacts. Let’s say that after six months of working in Minneapolis you have 10 contacts. That doesn’t sound like much, but if one of those 10 contacts is me--suddenly you have a huge network. I have 6,500 names in my network.

Third, a network can improve and enrich the quality of your life. Here’s an example: Once I received a telephone call from my daughter at college. She told me that she was planning to spend a year in Madrid studying Spanish, but she didn’t have a place to stay. I suggested that she contact a Spanish businessman and his wife, whom I had met five years earlier at a Madrid conference. She did. The businessman had several daughters about the same age as my daughter. My daughter ended up living with them for the year. Today she ranks that experience as one of the most memorable of her life.

How do you stay in touch with your network?

When I give talks to various Fortune 500 companies, I often ask the audience how many of them send Christmas cards to their customers. About 90 percent raise their hands.

Then I ask them, When was the last time any of your customers commented about your gorgeous Christmas card? Of course, not many people raise their hands. Their Christmas cards aren’t noticed because they get lost in the pile.

If you’re going to maintain contact with someone, you have to do it in creative ways.

One thing we do at my company is send Thanksgiving cards. Not many people send Thanksgiving cards, so that kind of card stands out. We have computerized our list of customers and regularly update our personal information about them. We send the card to their home address. We use information from our database to handwrite a one-sentence personal greeting on each card. About 50 percent of the time, our people hear complimentary comments about the card.

How do you track and keep in touch with a network of 6,500 people?

Today I use a computer, but until three years ago, I used a Rolodex card system. Every time I met someone new, I’d put another card into the file. On the front, I had basic information--the person’s name, title, and address. On the back was information about the person’s hobbies and interests.

When your network gets as large as mine--6,500 people--it’s impossible to have regular contact, but it doesn’t matter. I use the 80-20 rule. Eighty percent of your contact should be with 20 percent of the people. I send out about 1,500 Thanksgiving cards.

During the rest of the year, I use the “clip and ship” technique and telephone contact.

For the purpose of explaining how clip and ship works, let’s say that I meet a new person who works in Washington, D.C. While we’re talking, I mention that I’m a marathon runner. The new person, Joe, expresses interest, since he’s a marathon runner too. When I go home, I record that information in my networking system.

A month or two later, I read an interesting article about marathon running. It deals with a topic Joe and I discussed. I know he’d be interested in seeing the article, so I clip and ship it to him, along with a handwritten note.

Whenever I take a business trip to another city, one thing I do is to generate a computer printout of all the people in my network who live in that city. When I get there and find myself in a hotel room with an extra 30 to 40 minutes on my hands, I sit down at the telephone and make calls.

During the course of a year, I probably make between 500 and 1,000 clip and ship or telephone contacts. Of course, I have a couple of assistants who help me.

One rule is that you have to be creative in your contacts. You can’t be predictable or boring.

What’s the most common networking mistake that people make?

They forget to keep in touch with the new people they meet.

It sounds like networking is similar to the practice of staying close to the customer. Is that what you’re saying?

Yes, they’re similar. If you’re going to be a successful salesperson, you have to stay close to the customer. That means, whether you’ve sold a couple of dozen houses or a couple of hundred houses, you have to maintain contact with all those buyers. You have to know the names of all their children and their ages. You have to know the anniversary date of every one of those couples. You have to know their interests and hobbies. And you have to update your information regularly. You can’t let years go by without renewing contact.

What are good places to prospect for network members?

Alumni associations, social clubs, hobby organizations, places of worship, neighborhood groups--these are all great places to prospect.

Don’t forget industry organizations. I’ve spoken at REALTOR® association meetings. It sometimes surprises me how few REALTORS® attend the local, state, and national meetings. They need to attend to network with other REALTORS®. Attending an industry meeting is the same as making an investment in yourself. So what if it costs you $1,000 to attend? What you gain through networking will pay you back 30 to 40 times that amount during the course of a real estate career.

Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty: The Only Networking Book You’ll Ever Need,by Harvey Mackay, is published by Currency/Doubleday, $24.95. To learn more about Mackay and his advice for business success, see his home page at

Test Your Networking Skills

Here’s Harvey Mackay’s quiz to determine how good a networker you are. Answer on a 1 to 5 scale, 1 being not true and 5 being very true.

1.I have a large network of people I can call on when I need help, advice, information, or a resource.
1 2 3 4 5

2. When I meet someone new, I record and file information about that person within 24 hours.
1 2 3 4 5

3. I add at least one new person to my networking file at least once a week.
1 2 3 4 5

4. I follow up with new contacts immediately--writing a note, making a phone call, or sending a clipping.
1 2 3 4 5

5. I keep track of special things--like their family, hobbies, and achievements--that matter to my contacts.
1 2 3 4 5

6. I can easily find out when I was last in contact with someone by looking at my networking file.
1 2 3 4 5

7. When I mail something out--a résumé,sales letter, change of address--I can count on having correct name spellings, titles, and addresses for everyone in my network.
1 2 3 4 5

8. I know about and acknowledge special dates like birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays.
1 2 3 4 5

9. When I want to give a business gift, I can count on my networking file to give me an excellent idea of what the person might like.
1 2 3 4 5

10. I make it easy for others to add me to their networks by providing my business card, notifying them of address changes, and keeping them informed about my career progress.
1 2 3 4 5

11. When friends ask me for the name of a good resource on a particular subject, I am usually able to locate one from my network.
1 2 3 4 5

12. When the moment comes, I can usually tap into my network to wow a prospect, my manager, or someone else with special information or an expert resource.
1 2 3 4 5


Take the numbers you marked and add them up. Compare your total with the scores below to rate your network:

12-18 Your circuits are down.
19-24 You’re getting some results, but there’s still too much static on the line.
25-36 Your signal is coming through, but it could be a bit stronger.
37-48 You’re up and running. Keep it going.
49-60 We read you loud and clear.

Walt Albro is a former senior editor for REALTOR® Magazine.

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