Networking Skills: And What Can I Do For You In Return?
Have something ready to ask ...
Posted by Jacky Sherman on 01/02/2023 @ 8:00AM
Do you know that lovely moment when you do something for someone and they really appreciate it? Then they respond with, "Thank you so much, and what can I do for you in return?". How do you answer?
We are more likely to like the people we have helped than the people who help us!
copyright: geralt / pixabay
A very common answer is, "Oh, umm, nothing at present." This is great if you're talking to a friend as friendship reciprocation is not based on tit-for-tat. However, if the conversation is with a business contact then their expectation is that they will do something in return.
"So, help them out by having something ready
that they can do for you!"
Now, what kind of something will depend on your relationship and what you judge they are capable of doing to help you and somewhere around the same value. It's never going to be tit-for-tat, but needs to be somewhere in the same ballpark.
For instance, if you've given them some valuable information and then ask for an introduction to the MD of the largest corporate manufacturer in the area, then don't be surprised if all you get in return is a frosty look. Especially if they have never indicated whether they know them or not. If you think that would never happen, the example is drawn from an anecdote shared with me by a client.
So, what type of something can you ask for in return? And what can you offer to those who are reluctant to ask for specifics when you ask what you can do for them? Here are some ideas based on what you might expect to share in a reciprocal business relationship, bearing in mind this will vary for each individual relationship.
Perhaps the easiest to share. You each bring to the relationship knowledge about a whole variety of business and community stuff that the other may find useful. Some of this will be the area of your special expertise and some about business techniques that are relevant to specific challenges across the whole spectrum of running a business.
Some notes of caution around this: If the knowledge you seek is how the other person earns their living, this may be a bigger ask than you think! It might also be subject to specific regulatory or insurance specifications. For instance, if the other person is a lawyer asking for free legal advice is different from asking whether in their opinion you should seek legal advice.
Other ways you can extend each other's knowledge is by passing on details of books, trade magazines, blogs, webinars, events and courses that might be of value or interest.
You can also help spread each other's knowledge by inviting them to speak at events you're running or getting them invitations to speak at events run by others. Check they are an experienced and worthwhile speaker to protect your own reputation. Equally if asking them for such invitations be confident in your own presentation skills.
Knowledge is great, but how to apply it requires wisdom, and wisdom comes with experience. Sharing your own experience in dealing with similar issues can help the other person avoid pitfalls and make better decisions.
Having a close confidant to bounce ideas off falls into this category. Those not large enough to have a formal board may have an advisory board formed from their close network who have specific business skills and as the name implies gives gratis advice and may invite you to join.
A common one which is often undervalued is asking the other person to read a document for you, comment on a webpage or indeed your whole new website and flyers. Again make sure that you both recognise that it is just another's opinion, not formal advice.
And again take care not to expect a full rewrite where producing such documents is how the other person earns their living. The objective is to get another's perspective as a customer might.
When I mention sharing resources when talking to clients on this subject, I often notice a shiver of fear. Do I mean ask them to finance my new business venture? Well no, any major funding falls outside this level of support and should be subject to the formalities of a joint business venture, collaboration or loan.
A less fearful approach would be lending someone your board room for a training session or sponsoring their seminars or other activities. It might be as simple as just sponsoring their business charity event or adventure.
Do take care with this and make sure you're differentiating between donating and sponsoring. Sponsoring has an element of advertising and promotion of your business as well as giving resources to the other person. Donating, on the other hand, is giving without any expectation of a direct return.
Another form of resource may be access to groups or organisations both business and personal. For example, some business groups are invitation only and many hobbies or non-work interest groups may require an invitation too.
The biggest and most valuable asset in a business is your joint network of contacts. The expectation in most formal networking groups is that you introduce each other to people who have a need for your products and services, otherwise known as a referral.
Even if you don't belong to such a group, understanding who this other person knows and whether those people have a need for your services requires you to first develop a relationship of trust and understanding. Remember the anecdote at the start of this blog post?
However, whilst you are building this relationship there are others contacts you can ask to be introduced to. First, there are those people who, whilst not knowing your potential customers, may know the sort of people you want as customers. These people are potential, valuable new members of your network.
Equally, you may wish to meet influential people in other aspects of business or other interests you have. Thought leaders, political leaders, champions of the sport or activities you follow.
All of these giving activities on both sides require you to give your biggest resource, your time and attention. If you are the giver then the more you know about this person and the stronger you build your relationship the easier it is for you to anticipate who they would like to meet and what other resources you can give.
Most of all, when they ask, "What can I do for you in return?" you can respond with a range of relevant and meaningful options that they will feel comfortable delivering.
I leave you with one thought on this: We are more likely to like the people we have helped than the people who help us. It isn't just a matter of feeling obligated. By helping someone, we have invested in their success and as we like to believe we're great judges of character, we are more likely to be interested in making sure they achieve that success with further input.
So, be ready to help others invest in you too.
Until next time ...
Would you like to know more?
If anything I've written in this blog post resonates with you and you'd like to discover more networking skills, it may be a great idea to give me a call on 07970 638857. Let's have an initial chat over a coffee and see how I can help you.
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