Many business professionals think of networking as mainly attending events and exchanging business cards. Then you go back to your office and connect on LinkedIn or some similar networking service and wait for the magic to happen. And it rarely does.
Keep doing that if you feel it is a productive use of your time, but also consider building a solid network of mutually beneficial networking partnerships. Here is an example illustrating what I mean by mutually beneficial partnerships.
Years ago we decided to replace some carpeted flooring with hardwood flooring in a few rooms in our home. We, of course, called a hardwood-flooring specialist to get a cost estimate for the work. He told us all about how he would do it and what it would cost and then told us we would also need a good baseboard carpenter and painter to complete the job. We then said, “That sounds fine, who do you recommend?” He basically told us that he didn’t know anyone and that we would have to take care of that on our own. We were a bit surprised that he did not have any recommendations whatsoever.
In this case, it seems that skilled baseboard carpenters and painters would make excellent mutually beneficial partners for the flooring specialist. They could easily help each other develop business since there is a natural and logical correlation between the services they provide.
After this experience, I looked at networking events differently. When someone came up to me at an event and handed me his or her business card I thought two things: Is this person potentially a mutually beneficial partner for me and, am I willing and able to help them?
In order to answer these questions, I must ask questions and find out if there are any natural and logical correlations between the services I provide and the services they provide. And, I need to find out if I am comfortable recommending them. In other words, are they good at what they do? Finding answers to these questions is a highly productive thing to do at networking events.
As you might imagine, developing mutually beneficial networking partnerships requires more time and effort. However, if you take the time to develop such partnerships, the payoff will be significantly higher.
Once you decide to develop a mutually beneficial networking partnership with another professional, then what do you do? Here’s my first recommendation – take a chance, go first and get them a new prospect or client, with no return expectations or strings attached. People are much more likely to put forth a sincere effort to help you if you help them first. The concept of reciprocal altruism dictates that the other party will likely want to return any significant favor. Basically, it is a great idea to adopt the attitude that the only people you really need to get even with in life are those who have helped you.
Who would make a great mutually beneficial networking partner for you?
Chris Crouch is CEO of DME Training and Consulting and author of several books on improving productivity. Contact him through www.dmetraining.com.