Malcolm Gladwell, in his 2000 book The Tipping Point, describes three types of people who innovate and foster change. Connectors, Gladwell writes, are the hubs that allow different social networks and groups to contact each other, like the friend you have who can always figure out how find the right contact for the right task. Mavens introduce their friends to new ideas and concepts, are are always happy to share their knowledge with a larger group and to be the expert on a specific topic. Finally, Salespeople are able to take almost any idea and shape it to appeal to a variety of different audiences using the language and style of that audience.
How you can use Gladwell’s types to your advantage
You may not fancy yourself to be any of these types, but learning how to take best advantage of their characteristics is key for improving your networking overall business skills. We should all try to be the connectors to our spheres of influence, the mavens who find and introduce new concepts to these trusted groups, and practice our sales skills by framing these ideas in the context of the people listening to the idea.
You are a connector (you just might not realize it)
“Come on, ” you say. “I’m not into this networking thing. I use LinkedIn when I need to find a job.” Ah, gentle reader, but when will you need to find your next job, or more importantly, your next opportunity? The truth is, all of those opportunities are already around you. We are all part of communities, whether they are based on our work friends, our personal interests and hobbies, our clubs, churches, and synagogues, or simply the people that we see every day as we go on our daily commute. You should meet more of them. Don’t worry — it’s not a lifetime commitment to support an undying friendship — it’s just a way to reach out and to meet someone new. You never know what you might learn. And then next time you need support from your network, it will be easier to ask.
Pick something you love and make yourself a maven for that subject
We all have interests — esoteric or not — and although you may not realize it, if you’ve spent a good deal of time thinking about or doing that interest, you’re likely to be an expert. Even if you’re not the expert (as defined by Gladwell as having spent about 10,000 hours in your lifetime working at something), you’re probably very very good at it and have spent more time thinking about that thing than many other people. I like to paint pictures of signs. I don’t know as much as I could about the history of these signs, the advertising that spawned them, or the history of the Interstate Highway System — but I talk to people who care about old signs and it’s endlessly interesting to me. So, find the thing you like, learn more about it, and share it with your network.
Sell your ideas (without selling)
The best salespeople make you feel that you came up with the idea to buy their product or service and that it solves a deep-seated pain for you. Or, they ask you questions and find the right solution that matches the way that you view the world and what you need. They also don’t sell you things you don’t need, know when they’re selling a bit too loudly, and should have your best interests in mind. That is, the best salespeople are mavens and connectors who identify a need that you have, are experts on the topic that matters to you, and can connect you to the resources and people you need to make you feel that the ultimate solution is … of course … to buy their product. Or not — because as it turns out, the connections and information you gain today might result in a sale tomorrow.
Which of Gladwell’s types are you — Connector, Maven, or Salesperson — and how are you strengthening your business or personal life by using and practicing the attributes of each of these types?