I opened my inbox and saw 11 new leads on my calendar, ready to chat. It was the result of a new client acquisition system I’d been testing.
A buddy of mine did a rough calculation and thought those 11 new leads could turn into six-figures for my business.
He followed up his back-of-the-napkin math with, “Well, after all, it’s not what you know, but who you know.”
Honestly, I was shocked he said that. To me, that little phrase is one of the most dangerous lies out there. Some entrepreneurs use it as an excuse to explain the slow growth of their business.
“If I only knew more of the right people…”
In 2007, there was an experiment done in the DC metro station. For the experiment, Joshua Bell, a world famous violinist posted up in the subway during the morning rush. Dressed in street clothes, he pulled out his $3.5 million violin and played for 45-minutes.
As he played, 1,070 people passed by without a flinch. Heads down, scurrying onto the next thing. Seven people stopped to listen for a few seconds and twenty-seven people tossed him a couple bucks for a total of $32 and change.
It was hardly the response you would expect.
How do you explain that? How could a world-class violinist who plays in front of sold-out crowds all over the world get mostly ignored in the subway? How could a master musician who makes upwards of $1,000 a minute playing for fans, make only $32 in 45-minutes on the street?
The reason is simple.
In the subway that morning people saw Bell as a beggar. That’s who he was within that context. He was just another street performer worthy of only loose change from a few people.
That’s why the “who you know” idea is a lie.
Because if it was true, Bell would have been flooded with fans. He would have had a case overflowing with cash. He was surrounded by an affluent DC crowd — a large segment were likely in his target demographic of passionate fans. He was winning the “who you know” game by a wide margin that morning, yet it didn’t matter.
What mattered was the context, which meant he made pennies.
If you don’t get the context right, it doesn’t matter how great you are. That’s why the person who networks endlessly always struggles to get traction. That’s why sending cold emails is so difficult to master. It’s because the context is not in your favor.
The truth is, “it’s not who you know, it’s who YOU ARE to who you know.”
The problem is, when most entrepreneurs try to get clients, they inadvertently show up like a beggar. This causes high-quality clients — people who would love to work with you — pass by heads down, onto the next thing. They never see your value.
Creating noise on social media or spamming people’s inboxes WITHOUT controlling the context is the game of a beggar.
That’s the piece most people miss.
What you need to do instead is control the context. When you get this right you go from a being beggar pedaling for pennies to an in-demand expert who gets to choose who you work with. Prospective clients will flood your inbox inquiring to work with you, and they’ll be happy to pay you top dollar for your expertise.
Joshua Bell has thousands of fans show up and pay hundreds of dollars to listen to him play the violin because he controls the context. Yes he’s good, but as the experiment showed, that isn’t enough.
The idea, “control the context and you’ll have clients beating down your door” probably sounds like a fantasy, right? I used to think so too, but only because I never heard anyone lay it out in detail (most people aren’t sharing details like this).
This week I want to talk about what sets high-paid experts apart from everybody else. This isn’t just about going from the subway to the stage, it’s about controlling the context so high-quality clients are happy to pay you what you’re worth.
The same shift that takes Joshua Bell from beggar to celebrity can give you an edge in your business.
Most people want to be well known. Look at most of the business products out there like, “10k subs” or “Endless audience”… but I don’t care who you know. I care about who you are to who you know.
Because the best don’t just show up anywhere, they show up in the right context.
Which is why today, I have a little challenge for you.
I want you to think about a celebrity, leader or authority and how they’ve created a context that positions them as the authority.
It could be:
- The Sharks on Shark Tank → Business authority
- The spiritual guru who only answers questions → Spiritual authority
- A judge perched higher in a courtroom → Legal authority
- Kim Kardashian showing up in a tabloid → Fashion authority
It could be anyone.
Take 45-seconds and think of someone, then drop a comment with your answer on this post in our private Facebook group (join if you haven’t already—it’s free). I’ll check in throughout the day to see what you come up with.
P.S. This is going to be fun. Controlling the context improves what type of clients approach you about working together and how much they’re willing to pay you. The better you get at understanding the context of how you show up, the faster your business will grow. So take 45-seconds and drop your answer as a comment on this post.