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.
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.