Okay, I guess I lied yesterday when I said this was a two part post — I’m splitting the topic of “sphere building” into three posts because it’s such a large and important topic. Yesterday, I posted about the importance of building trust as a way to build your sphere. Today, I wanted to take a moment to give my high level take on what the most important factor of building a large sphere is. As I mentioned when I explained why I use Foursquare, I’m not an agent, but have similar long term goals when it comes to relationship building and increasing my sphere. The art of networking and building a large sphere is a concept that is surprising not understood very well. But it’s not rocket science. At a high level, it’s actually quite simple. Those that succeed at it all have something in common — they enjoy people and conversations. My friend Sloane Berrent, one of the best networkers I know, just published her “Art of Networking” presentation and the following excerpt hits on this same point:

As a connector, I often have talked to people about my methods in networking. The first place to start might sound obvious, but it’s often overlooked. It’s all about the PEOPLE! I truly care about people, their stories and what makes them tick, so for me “networking” is a hobby to me like playing an instrument. I keep up with people in my spare time.

I’m like Sloane — I enjoy people and don’t think of networking as “work” like most people do. Interacting with smart and passionate people is a hobby of mine; I do it in my spare time because I love the interactions that come as a result. Sure, Sloane will probably help me in my professional life down the road and I’ll help her, so one could argue that we’ve built a friendship with each other for the long term business value that will come with it. But even if I knew Sloane would never benefit my professional life whatsoever, she’s still the type of person I enjoy interacting with. Our friendship was built on the fact that we are both passionate about life, microfinance, helping others, and take an active interest in interacting with other passionate people. Further, Sloane is by far one of the most passionate people I know — and for me, passion trumps all. And that’s why she’s a great networker. Jay Thompson is another example of a great networker with a extremely large sphere of influence — he’s as passionate and caring as they come and it results in being able to easily identify with and like him. He engages in more conversations than pretty much any real estate agent I know. It seems wherever the hot discussion is online, he’s there as a part of the discussion. It’s 100% obvious he genuinely cares about and enjoys people.

If you want to build a large sphere, be passionate. Don’t network to make money, network because you care about those you are interacting with. If you don’t genuinely care about those you are interacting with, you are going to fail at building strong relationships — which is what a sphere of influence is all about. It’s as simple as that. Good networkers care about others. The business and/or money that comes from building a large sphere will come later as a by product — but don’t let it be the driving force behind your daily interactions.

Note: My third & final post (I promise) on this topic will revolve around what kind of networking/sphere building activities I engage in regularly and how I use online tools in that process.