Trust-based Networking and the Paradox of “Collateral Benefit”

A (seemingly) simple question: What is the goal of business networking?

  • The goal of most business networking is to make new connections in order to get more business. 
  • The goal of trust-based networking is to help others develop their businesses.  The “collateral benefit” of trust-based networking is that others then help you.

When it comes to networking, injecting trust into the picture creates a sort of paradox. It’s exactly the same paradox that arises when we think about injecting trust into selling, or advice-giving, or getting people to review your books. 

That paradox was expressed well by Dale Carnegie, Zig Ziglar, and a host of others: basically, the best way to get what you want is to help others get what they want. 

It’s easy to forget how radical that proposition is; and how infrequently people actually do it. 

 Current Networking Practice

Ask yourself: when you go to a meet-up, start looking through LinkedIn, or scan a rough lead list –  how do you proceed? Here’s what usually happens:

  • You search and scan in advance for those you’ve profiled as most likely to be prospects – focusing and prioritizing to narrow down a wide list of leads
  • You focus on honing your elevator pitch
  • During interaction, you focus on finding pain points (waiting to offer solutions at a later time).

If that roughly resembles what you do, then please take note: all three of those benign-sounding activities share one trait – they’re all about you. They are not activities that put Dale Carnegie’s insight into practice. 

Trust-based Networking

What if you were to try something entirely different? For example:

  • You search and scan for pairs of people both of whom you know, but who don’t know each other – and who could each benefit from the introduction
  • You focus not on your elevator pitch, but on a really great question you’d like to know the answer to (better yet, ask the question in the form of a Risky Gift)
  • You focus not on pain points, but on being genuinely curious and seeking perspectives. 

Those are very different activities: they’re not self-focused, they’re other-focused. And, they are more likely to result in relationships and in interesting conversations. It is those relationships and conversations that result in true connections of interest – and before very long, in leads and business development conversations.

The “collateral benefit” of behaving this way is – leads and sales. In fact, more leads and more sales than if you go in with the usual self-centered approach of trying to get leads and sales directly. 

But the paradox must be respected: if you engage in these other-focused activities as mere fig-leaf cover for your true goal of getting more sales – it won’t work. We all see through such base motives. You actually have to commit to the alternative goal – that of helping others.  

A good test of whether you’re really committed is your choice of metrics: do you measure the result of networking by how many entries you generate for your CRM system? Or instead – by tracking how you’ve been able to benefit your new acquaintances. (Hint: what would Dale Carnegie say?)


Learn more about this strategy by viewing our Trust Matters webinar: Network Like a Trusted Advisor: Take the Work (and Stress) Out of It, delivered by our partner and co-author of The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook, Andrea Howe, together with Stewart Hirsch, our head of business development and leadership coaching (and CEO of his firm Strategic Relationships). You also might want to check out our eBook The Do’s and Don’ts of Trust-based Networking.

The #1 Top Single Best Way to Get a Meeting

iPhotoA free bit of advice to anyone seeking to improve their networking skills, or looking for a true best practice in getting a meeting with someone.

And here it is:

Comment on a blogpost or article that person has written.

Simple. You already intuitively get how that can be powerful, but let’s break it down.

Note: It only works if you’re careful about a couple of items.

First, your comment HAS TO BE SPECIFIC. It has to say something relevant, intelligent and useful about the person’s blogpost or article.

That means you have to know something about who you’re trying to contact. It also means you have to give some thought to what you’re saying.

It also means you probably have to know something about what the person is writing about. Mere fawning and saying ‘great blogpost’ will get you nowhere.  In fact, it will just identify you as a cheap SEO-seeking spammer. 

But – if you actually ARE intentional about whom you’re seeking to connect with, if you actually DO know something about the subject in question, and if your question actually IS intelligent and thoughtful – then you will get a powerful response back.

Why? Because we all love being noticed – and because being noticed and appreciated is something in very short supply. If you doubt the power of this, just ask yourself: 

  • how do you feel when you put yourself out there on the webs – and no one responds?
  • how do you feel when you put yourself out there on the webs – and you get a meaningful, thoughtful, inquisitive response back?

Everyone’s writing blogposts hoping to get noticed; very few people (Chris Brogan is a marvelous exception) put as much effort into noticing and commenting on others as they do into writing in the first place.

Want to connect? Start by commenting on others. For real.

The Dos and Don’ts of Trust-Based Networking

We’re pleased to announce the release of our latest eBook: The Dos and Don’ts of Trust-Based Networking.

It’s the fifth in the new Trusted Advisor Fieldbook series by Charles H. Green and Andrea P. Howe.

Each eBook provides a snapshot of content from The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook, which is jam-packed with practical, hands-on strategies to dramatically improve your results in sales, relationship management, and organizational performance.

The Dos and Don’ts of Trust-Based Networking reveals:

  • How trust-based networking is different from every-day business networking
  • Ten best practices for trust-based networking
  • Specific dos and don’ts for online networking

P.S. Did you miss out on Volumes 1 through 4 of The Fieldbook eBook series? Get them while they’re still available:

  1. 15 Ways to Build Trust…Fast!
  2. How to Sell to the C-Suite
  3. Six Risks You Should Take to Build Trust
  4. How YOU Can Raise Trust in Your Organization

Take a look and let us know what you think.

The Great Twitter Debate: She Said, He Said

My co-author Andrea Howe (@andreaphowe) and I (@charleshgreen) are both on Twitter.  We have rather different ideas about it, however. We talked about our differing perspectives the other day, and decided to share our thoughts. What’s your view?

May I Have Your Attention Please

Andrea: I have a lot of mixed feelings about Twitter. In a world marked these days by a lot of distractions, Twitter is a big one—one more thing that helps shorten my attention span. This troubles me because being focused, present, paying attention—not being distracted—are the thrust of what you and I both teach and talk about.

Charlie: Well, if you’re going to tend bar, you’d better make sure your drinking problem is under control. Twitter is indeed mostly about short attention span. Then again, so are racquetball and improv comedy. Each of them is about impressions, reacting in the moment.

Twitter is where you come to scan, not to find soul mates. There is a time and a place for everything.

Andrea: You know I don’t visit bars much. I do have a soft spot for improv comedy, though. Good point.

Popularity Contest or Personal Growth?

Andrea: As much as I like to think of myself as a somewhat-enlightened grown up, I just can’t seem to avoid the negative emotional component of the Twittersphere. Twitter takes me back to junior high school popularity contests. Sometimes I feel great, like “I’m popular, wow.” Other times, it’s depressing as hell—“Why’d I lose 5 followers today? What did I do wrong?” (laughing).

Charlie: You can take the kid out of the junior high school; the important thing is to take the junior high school out of the kid. I actually see Twitter as a personal growth tool. It forces you to recognize that not every 140-second ADD burst from a stranger is an attack upon your being. It really doesn’t mean much at all.

Andrea: You know I’m a sucker for personal growth. I’m just not sure Twitter is where I want to work this stuff out.

The Downside of Early Adoption

Andrea: As long as I’m listing my complaints, let me add this one: Doing it well requires way too many steps. There’s using different client software programs, mastering Twitter etiquette, making the effort to acknowledge followers appropriately. It can take a lot of steps to create a good Tweet. So much for scanning and reacting in the moment. I’d rather let the process work itself out. Call me (Tweet me?) when the tools are better. I’m not an early adopter; I’m here purely under protest.

Charlie: On this we can agree. Twitter is still immature, and while it is changing—every month something gets easier—it’s still too cumbersome. I want more integration, more platforms, more easily available stats, and so forth.

You don’t want to be an early adopter? I don’t blame you a bit. I am an early adopter myself, but you do a pay a price for the privilege.

Authentically Pre-Scheduled

Andrea: Let’s talk about scheduling tweets. It smacks of being strategic rather than authentic; it doesn’t feel real. If this is such a conversational tool, then why pretend otherwise by pre-writing and then auto-delivering?

Charlie: I think you’re confusing “authentic” with “real-time.” Chat rooms and IRC have been around for decades. Authentic to me means real, not necessarily ‘right now.’ I have no desire to hang around for an hour watching the feed until someone looks me up and replies. I’ve got better things to do.

Also, not everybody reads when I want to write—that’s the great thing about time-shifting technologies. By spreading tweets around, I get to more people, and more people get to me.

Andrea: Hmmm. Interesting point about “authentic” versus “real-time.” I’m going to have to think about that one.

The Big Cocktail Party

Andrea: Maybe what irks me most is that the nature of Twitter tends toward  superficial interactions. While there is some substantive stuff getting exchanged out there, a lot of Twitter seems more like idle party chit chat than real connection. And I have never been a big fan of cocktail parties.

Charlie: Remember that song, “Lookin’ for Love in All the Wrong Places?” Of course Twitter is chit chat, of course it’s a big cocktail party. Why do you think they call it Twitter?

Seriously, there’s a place for shallow, and a place for deep. Twitter is shallow; blogs are deeper. Articles are deeper yet. Or books—books are real deep.

But if you want to do a surface scan on what tons of people are thinking or saying about a particular topic—hey, God bless Twitter. And compared to real cocktail parties, at least you don’t have to drink or worry about how you look.

Hello, World

Andrea: Despite all my complaints, I do tweet. And I do see one very powerful thing about Twitter: it connects people who otherwise might not be connected. It lets people share perspectives and interesting pieces of information. Link-shortening is a blessing.

Charlie: Amen to that. Twitter is the new blog comments. Twitter is the new RSS feed (though we both use Feedly and I use AllTop to source some material). It is a whole ‘nother level of content-sharing between article/blog headlines and the articles themselves—and it lets you express your own views along the way.

Twitter lets me efficiently state to the world who I am, by way of sharing what I read and my take on it. You could call that branding.

Also, contrary to all the cocktail party metaphors, I’ve met some really cool people through Twitter–and then I’ve gotten more acquainted with many of them through email, by phone, and in-person. It is a fine way to meet interesting folks relevant to one’s business.


Andrea: One last thing. I wish I didn’t have to invest the time to learn a whole new language with Twitter: “RT,” “TY,” the myriad other abbreviations, and the effort it takes to say something sensible in 140 characters. We humans can barely communicate well in our native tongue. Isn’t our time better spent trying to master our own language?

Charlie: That’s what I keep saying to the French when I visit Paris! But I haven’t been able to convince them yet to speak English.

Andrea: Tell me you did not just try to compare Twitter to Paris.

What’s your perspective? Join the conversation. Post a comment to this blog. Tweet about it. Email us. Or—gasp—give us a call.

Empty Calorie Social Networking

I’m an enthusiastic user of many social media. I welcome interaction on Twitter (@charleshgreen), for example. In many ways, online networking is sort of the first derivative of the old, face-to-face type—faster, shallower, but broader and more far-reaching, and with essentially the same objective.

Still, there are some differences. In ‘real’ (i.e. analog) life, socializing can be an end in itself. Online, sometimes the connection is dropped; the symbol no longer links to the symbolized. Numbers become their own narcissistic rationale.

Call it empty calorie social networking—lots of apparent connections, but with no socially nutritional value.

Buying Friends and Buying Lists

Which feels more personal to you: email addresses, or twitter handles? If you’re like most people, you probably have a lot more email addresses than twitter addresses. After all, the social media are opt-in—you choose who gets to be in your network.

But check this out.

You can buy a one-time email list of people who purchased homes in the State of New Jersey in the last 30 days. It will cost you $500 for about 5000 names—that’s $0.10 per name.

You can also buy 10,000 twitter followers for $97.00—that’s $0.01 per name—one tenth the cost of emails.

The email list is ten times more expensive than the twitter list. Still think opt-in networks are special?

Of course, there are a lot of reasons why those particular numbers might diverge, but one of them is this: a lot of the ‘social’ in ‘social networking’ is nothing of the kind. It isn’t just ‘lo-cal’ networking, it’s utterly ‘no-cal.’

Who’s Consuming All Those Empty-Calorie ‘Connections?’

I’m not talking about those who follow @charliesheen (1.8 million at this moment) or Justin Bieber (7.8 million). I’m talking about those who follow 20,000 people and who have 20,000 zombie-like followers themselves—and who have only ever published ten tweets.

What’s driving this is a perversion of relationships—reciprocity gone wild. You follow me, I’ll follow you, and we’ll all get—bigger numbers. But for what end?

There is more than a whiff of spam about all this, but that’s not all that’s going on. Spam is imposed against our will; following is not. Spam survives on one hit in 10,000—following gets darn near 100% returns. Like Pogo, we have found the enemy, and it is us.

Much as high-calorie junk food addiction is being linked to obesity in the physical realm, there’s an addictive quality about this empty-calorie following. Fat follower lists are not conducive to relationship help.

Out of control eating no longer has anything to do with nutrition; out of control follower-collecting no longer has anything to do with relationships.

Ask yourself: why are you following someone? If your answer is anything but “because they sound interesting,” enlighten me.

Collaboration: Trust Matters Interview with Brandon Klein

I first met Brandon Klein when we were swamped processing people at the outset of the Trust Summit in NYC October 23. Some very nice guy came over and, simply, offered to pitch in and help. Which he then proceeded to do, and most ably.

That was Brandon, and it turns out, that was characteristic of him. He doesn’t just collaborate, he does collaboration. In particular, he’s something of an expert in the practical ways of organizing gatherings of human beings in ways that maximize output. That includes social dynamics, ergonomics, technology and psychology.

Since collaboration is one of the four Trust Principles, it’s of interest to us both.

CHG: Let’s start big: how do you define collaboration?

BK: Collaboration is repeating the assumed and then stating the unspoken. It is envisioning what success can be and then understanding how to work together to make it happen. It is sometimes best understood by stating what it’s NOT: It is not about latest social media software (chasing the shiny new thing), it’s not more meetings about meetings or guessing games/”strategizing” about what the boss might be thinking. Collaboration is defining and aligning on a common objective as a group of stakeholders and then openly, selflessly, working towards achieving it in a fun, social, interactive, barrier-less way.

CHG: How did you come to be involved in this sort of thing?

BK: Like most, I was incredibly frustrated by the amount of time that was wasted at work. Though most workplace environments boasted a team approach, I couldn’t accept that collaboration meant spending 95% of my day sitting in a cubicle and/or conference room. In searching for a better way, I was lucky enough to be one of the original people to learn the collaborative process known as a DesignShop™- in my opinion, the best off-line collaborative methodology in existence today.

CHG: Why do you think collaboration is ‘hot’ these days?

BK: The proliferation of web-based tools has definitely made the concept of collaboration more top-of-mind. Everyone can now be “collaborative” with a couple clicks of the mouse (or cell phone). It’s similar to the effect of television on sports. Once upon a time, you either had to play the sport or plan in advance to make the journey to the stadium to cheer for your team and interact with the fans. Now, you simply need to press a button on your TV’s remote. Fan bases have increased dramatically, but so has their average weight!

We’ve managed to make online collaboration hot and successful, but we have quickly forgotten what it means to collaborate in person. We can comment anonymously online, but can’t say why we are so ineffective at work. We can “Reply All” to make it look like we are involved, but can’t cut a meeting short that isn’t going anywhere.

CHG: Your focus is primarily on people getting together, isn’t it? Is technology changing that?

BK: Even with using Cisco’s Telepresence (which is awesome) it is very difficult to say that technology has changed ‘getting together’ yet. Yes, online conversations are fantastic and improving everyday. However, I focus on meetings with 12 to 120 people in the same room. Technology has little effect on face-to-face meetings, and in most cases makes them worse. This is because although we have created new tools and ways of working online, we haven’t developed ways of interacting better in person. It is commonplace and therefore acceptable to sit behind a conference table and read your blackberry, while calling the meeting successful and collaborative. It is crazy!

CHG: Let’s talk about conventional meetings; what’s the biggest mistake people make?

BK: Agendas, PowerPoint and WMD’s (Weapons of Mass Distraction ie phones/crackberry’s) are the 3 most unproductive tools on the planet when it comes to meetings. Additionally things most people don’t even consider such as tables, tardiness and tight-lips, are pretty bad too. Here are the quick reasons:

  • Agendas mean people know when to check out or worry/dread what comes next. Don’t publish agendas to more than 3-4 of the key people responsible for the output of the entire project/strategy etc.
  • PowerPoint puts people to sleep. Unless you are good enough to speak at TED, just don’t use it. Tell a story. Have a discussion about the main points instead. Put the bullet points in large all caps letters on a flip chart. Or better yet, create a visual to represent everything.
  • Technology in the pocket. Humans can’t multi-task. Seen the statistics on text messaging and driving? 23 times more dangerous than being drunk. You don’t want your meeting attendees drunk do you?
  • Tables. If people don’t need to eat lunch or take incredibly copious notes and have stacks of paper in front of them, why put a barrier between every person?
  • Tardiness. This could be replaced with excuses. If you show up late, everyone has to catch you up… wasting everyone’s time.
  • Tight-lips. Water cooler talk is the essence of a company and the harbinger for the success of the project. Bring it out into the open and every meeting and project will succeed.

CHG: How about big-group seminars and shows and conventions; do you see a few big things happening there?

BK: Unfortunately, there hasn’t been enough change. The ‘sit and get’ model is SAFE and so it is almost always what you see. Large-scale collaborative events of any kind are really quite rare. People are afraid to foster interactivity, or to relinquish control. A giant PowerPoint screen is a sense of comfort and power.

CHG: What’s the role of technology? Are twitter feeds good or bad? Is cloud computing affecting things?

BK: I love all of this technology. Twitter Feeds, Google Waves, Live-Blogging, etc, they are all great additions to any group gathering. Their popularity means they are being included by default right now, which can often be more distracting then useful. Their incorporation needs to be strategically designed. Unfortunately, just throwing out features doesn’t produce collaborative, successful output.

CHG: What’s your view of collaboration and how it fosters trust? Or do you see it the other way ‘round?

BK: Perhaps this is the classic case of the chicken and the egg. People must trust in order to collaborate better. And true collaboration will lead to stronger trust. But collaboration only works when people share openly and honestly. In the end, companies, managers, employees need to be willing to change the status quo in order for foster true collaboration… they need to trust each other.

CHG: Many thanks, Brandon, and let’s pursue some of this further another time.


For more information on Brandon Klein and the collaboration information he and his colleagues provide, check out his website at

Network and Relationship Building Done Right

Networking is one of the hottest topics in the blogosphere right now, part of a general rush to figure out how business (sales in particular) can relate to the online world.

The most common problem with the rush to networking—online or offline—is the overwhelming desire to treat it as a quick-hit way to transactional selling.  Call it the spammification of new sales ideas.

The truth is simple and evident: blogs and communities and twitter feeds et al have not rewritten the rules of relationships.  They are simply another venue within which to play them out.

Just as email is getting overwhelmed by spam, there is a surfeit of those who collect Linked-In contacts; who enjoy applying the still-latent meaning in the word “friend” to 700 such people on Facebook; and generally those who wish to find a shortcut to relationships and to sales.

Alas, rushing too fast into relationships in cyberspace has exactly the same result as it does in the analog protein world: it achieves the opposite of what was intended.  We resent being hustled, rushed, hit on.  And we react.

Which is why it’s always refreshing to see a sensible treatment of the subject. has a new online guide, called “Face-to-Face Networking Guide: A Primer for Relationship Building.

And it is done right. It gives practical advice on how to network—online or offline—based on some sound, commonsensical ideas about how human beings develop relationships.  This not a piece by Luddites—they know their technology in the new world, but more fundamentally they know how selling of complex services works.

Full disclosure: I’m a Contributing Editor of, they publish some of my articles, and I’ve done a webinar with them.  That’s all because I think they’re pretty darn good at what they do, which is to produce great content about how to sell professional services.  

Give them a look-see.