Interviewing Influencers: Networking Strategies with Bethany Williams

Networking doesn’t come easy for most of us. Many are intimidated at the notion of creating valuable conversation with a group full of people they’ve never heard of, and if your goal is to rub elbows with top-of-the-rung executives with busy schedules, you’ve got an added hurdle to cross.

Today on Interviewing Influencers, we talked with Bethany Williams about strategically connecting with C-suite executives.

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Terri Hoffman: Tell us a little about yourself and how you got involved with Wayne O’Neill and Associates.

Bethany Williams: I started in healthcare many years ago. The first fifteen years of my career were spent doing great things for great companies, but I hadn’t figured out what I was good at or how to be unique just yet. I moved to Dallas in ’95. I was a young widow and single mom, and I was determined to move up in my career to support my family.

I met Wayne while I was working at Perot, through a mutual contact. What I needed to do at Perot Systems was to get in contact with high level people and network with them. It was there I learned that what I do well is grow companies. I’d like to call myself a “CEO whisperer.” I have the ability to uniquely understand the challenges they face and know what they need from a business perspective. I’m then able to create a map for them to follow toward their goals.

I was working at Perot, I came in contact with Wayne and loved his concept of connecting. This was partly because at the same time, I was reporting to a man whose dad was in the CIA who was teaching me out to make CIA maps about executives. These maps were visualizations of what the executive does for their company, who they hang out with, who they play golf with, where their business propositions are coming from, who their advisors are, etc.

When I met Wayne and learned about his methodology, we had a huge synergy there. He learned from me and I learned from him as we mapped out this process.

TH: Tell us a little more about how you leverage that CIA thinking and the mapping process.

BW: Most of the decisions made in organizations aren’t necessarily because of what happens within the organization. They usually have advisors outside of that organization or get ideas from people they spend most of their time with. You may find that a CEO of a company with whom you are looking to connect used to live in Florida and his best friend runs a Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville. Mayo Clinic is putting in a new EHR and has hired a new business performance expert and all the sudden, this guy is doing the same. Well, it’s not happenstance. He’s flown down there and gone to golf with him, realizes what his friend is doing, and because he respects him, he is now translating that knowledge back to his organization.

You can determine buying patterns, strategies and initiatives a company will move forward on based on things like this. If you start figuring out who they take advice from, which organizations they respect and admire, and who they’re networking with, you start understanding the patterns of their strategy initiative and where they’re taking their companies. And knowing that, if you can get to trusted advisor status, they’re going to ask you who they should be talking to as they go forward on those initiatives.

TH: That makes sense.

BW: What Wayne does is he takes it one step further and actually creates the synergy of the connections across organizations. He actually has the meetings that create the conversations and then create the buying decisions and then creates the advisers, if that makes sense.

When I was doing the research to find out what was happening, Wayne was already taking it a step further and creating the happenings. I’m a natural connector, and I’m always looking for an opportunity to be a servant leader and help people, but with the right methodologies in place, I really excelled.

TH: What happened when you began using Wayne’s methodologies?

BW: In the position I was in at the time, I had to get to every CEO in hospital systems in the Dallas, Fort Worth and Houston areas while working at Perot. I did it in eighteen months. It was unheard of to get on that many CEO calendars. And I used a lot of the connections that either Wayne introduced me to or I used his methodology to get to every CEO.

TH: So though your company never received coaching from him, you personally were able to benefit from his coaching?

BW: Yes, absolutely.  Wayne, for me, is a great coach. We see things from our perspective so much that it’s hard to see anything from another perspective. Wayne has a way of guiding people to see alternate perspectives. He helped me quite a bit, and I helped him connect to people that he needed to be connected to.

But what Wayne does is more than just making introductions. He makes sure everyone does their homework and is prepared for the conversation, so it doesn’t lead astray. That’s crucial in networking and meeting with CEOs. You have to know exactly what you’re getting into, and the importance of helping people understand how you can impact their business is determined in part by the business issues facing them today. You have to have the ability to understand business and political issues and then make an impact on them.

You can follow Bethany Williams on Twitter @BethanyHealthIT or @BethanyaWill, or send her a connection request on LinkedIn.




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