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Investing in Reciprocity: The New Way of Networking

“Doing nothing for others is the undoing of ourselves.” Horace Mann

There has been a perceptible shift in the way people do business in recent years and it’s wonderful to watch and be a part of. Back in the 1970’s sales and business strategies were focused on fear, in the 1980’s it was about keeping up with the Jones’ and in the 1990’s things transformed as the internet appeared. And in the early-mid 2000’s the online world threw the instantaneous gratification curveball into the networking and business relationship mix impacting people’s expectations and their attitudes. Business relationships have been traditionally focused on the seller and what THEY can get out of the interaction.

“Hi nice to meet you, here’s what I do and what I sell and here’s why you need it – can I have your money now, please?” I’m happy to say that in the last five to ten years many people in business are recognising that providing assistance because they genuinely want to help someone out – instead of hitting a sales target or KPI - is a more harmonious way of doing business and one that actually ends up delivering stronger trust-based relationships. The rise of the soul entrepreneur and social enterprises with parallel-giving business strategies are evidence of this. It’s called investing in reciprocity and is the new foundation for establishing strong, trust-driven relationships. It’s when you tap into other people’s value systems through genuine interaction, emotional connection and trustworthy behaviours. And trust that by you investing your time, guidance and expertise in the relationship, future positive interactions and benefits will flow back to you. So, as the end of the year draws close and you’re invited to events and meet-ups, think about if it’s time for you to change your networking tack and focus on other’s needs instead of your own. Invest in reciprocity when out and about this party / networking season. Here’s how:

Be open to learning

When you meet new people, use the opportunity to learn something new. I am often fascinated when I meet someone and ten minutes later discover something incredible about them. By scratching the surface and asking questions that aren’t just about their business, you learn so much. I once met a Polynesian princess at a networking event. She ran a financial services company but as we talked and focused less on sales-talk, out came some fascinating facts about her history and culture. I was hooked!

Ask questions

Two ears, one mouth. You’ve all heard the saying! But it’s true. How many people have you met that spend the whole time talking about themselves. Did you connect with them? Of course not. You spent the whole time trying to come up with an excuse to move yourself away from them. Less talking about yourself and asking open ended questions makes for stronger connections.

Help without expectation

There is a famous Princess Diana quote and it basically sums this point up. “Carry out an act of kindness with no expectation of reward, safe in the knowledge that one day someone might do the same for you.” I have introduced many people to each other at business events, knowing that one person’s business could provide a solution to another. I often connect people together because I know they could help each other. I do it without expectation. Yet, am often on the receiving end of these acts of business reciprocity kindness myself.

Be genuine

We’ve all seen the business narcissist. The ‘look at me’ guy or girl. Yet many people have this expectation that when they attend a business event, this is the way they should behave. Pushing business cards into the hands of uninterested parties, interrupting people to introduce themselves, talking non-stop about their product or service regardless of whether the other party is interested or not. This is why many people roll their eyes when invited to networking events. It’s why shyer, more introverted people dread these types of events. Yet, it’s all not true. The most successful networkers are the ones who are genuine and quite frankly, just being themselves. Being yourself allows you to connect with like-minded souls and those are the sorts of people you want to do business with. Much easier! The saying is true. What goes around, comes around. So this networking season, take a ride on the business karma bus. Take this approach and you’ll enjoy the ride. Happy Netships Julia

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