Ask not what your network can do for you but what can you do for your network?

Aleksander Góra
by Aleksander Góra on March 5, 2018
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This is a ten minute read to invoke a profitable and alternative point of view towards business development habits. In previous articles, we have alluded to building a network for a specific purpose. This purpose has to be exceptionally clear and measurable. It will have a finite capacity and needs to be defined in terms of what each part of the network delivers to support its ultimate objective.

This article is about a stress test that you can apply to your connections and connectivity to ask yourself ‘how does this connection fit in with my objectives’ and ‘how do I fit into their objectives’. If there is no clear answer then we are in confusion.

Don’t be a vanity networker who is connecting to everyone.

Robin Dunbar produced a seminal work: ‘How many friends does one person need?’

This is still is a good starting point in terms of networking as the publication defines that there is a maximum capacity for friendship and this figure of 150 is a starting point. The network is not necessarily a web of friendship but it certainly requires a relationship management and just how many relationships can you manage?

What about the role of the web in this? Is it possible to manage meaningful relationships beyond the number quoted? Is that really possible to do? Is there any commercial evidence to suggest that the web can stretch this figure in a manner that works for the bulk of us? Does the web create those meaningful relationships?

On one level the answer is yes as I can find out what you were doing in the gym this morning from your tweet but does this generate the level of ‘social-commercial- comfort’ that I need to support and integrate with your networking efforts? These digital developments certainly do keep us in touch though.

Pre-digital you can argue that in the past a relationship might just have died completely quite easily. However, in the end, we actually have to get together to make a relationship work. We all rely heavily on touch and we still haven’t figured out how to do virtual touch. Although a picture is worth a thousand words, words are slippery and a handshake and eye contact are worth a 1,000 words any day in relation to building a professional network.

So this thinking is the opposite to mindlessly greeting and treating every introduction to be of the same value commercially and professionally. The bench test measurement system to apply to a new connection is this: ‘Are you able to be valuable to this connection?’ If not on what basis do you think that they will contribute to your network?

A key feature of having the right network of connections is to consider the power of reciprocity in terms of what you can do for your network. This will tend to define what it is worth. If it does not have the ability to deliver reciprocity then it is unlikely to function as a commercial asset.

To make your network of connections a valuable one to connect too, think of it in terms of the John F. Kennedy inaugural address.

‘And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country’
– John F. Kennedy, inauguration address, January 1961

Ask not what your network can do for you but what can you do for your network?

This thinking plugs into a social norm of responding to a positive action with another positive action which is essentially rewarding kind actions. As a social construct, reciprocity means that in response to friendly actions, people are frequently much nicer and much more cooperative than predicted by the self-interest model.

If the only reciprocity model you can offer is to ‘like’ someone on an online platform for their reciprocal linkage to you is that connection really a connection?
Is that a sign of ‘social-commercial- comfort’?
Without off-line processes how can anyone have a network that is truly relevant? Most networks are built in the manner to produce the end result of sales referrals and here are a few quotes that illustrate the value of a referral in terms of client acquisition.

65% of all new business comes from referrals and referral leads close at 60-70%’
– Tom Hopkins

71% of prospects are most likely to buy from referrals
– Hubspot

Referrals account for 68% of professional sales’
– CEG Worldwide

Referrals close more than twice as often as marketing-generated leads and cost nothing’
– Sales Benchmark Index

71% of new clients for financial advisors are from referrals
– ClientWise

82% of all real estate transactions come from referral business’
– Buffini & Co

70 – 80% of customers will give referrals if asked but only 15% of salespeople ever ask’
– iMediaConnection

With referrals, you bypass the gatekeeper and score an appointment every time, and the closing rate is usually over 70% and those new customers become solid referral sources too’
– SalesForce

5next is very happy to quote all of those sources.

Referral and introduction methodology is covered in the white paper ‘Life is too short to be the modest professional’ an introduction to the ‘art’ of the introduction.

To make those quotes work and the methodology work your network has to be consistent with: ‘the-ask’. So in terms of building towards your 150 connections or looking to replace some of those dormant connections with new ones the function of reciprocity is one proven to get professional results.
If you are able to reciprocate the ‘active members’ of your network then do not waste another minute working the room at ‘leads clubs’ and ‘networking franchises’ where everyone, there is selling something too and usually, there is a likely hood of zero real buyers.

Building a network is an exceptionally time-consuming project:

‘Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you’.
– Carl Sandburg

Start to ‘stress test’ new connection opportunities with reciprocity so your time is productive.

What are the actions that you can take to generate reciprocity?

Using the 5next system there are immediate routes to reciprocity because you have archived and organised your network into the 5 averages.

‘You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with’
– Jim Rohn

On that basis, your commercial and professional opportunities are based on an average grouping too. Let’s go through the potential of a network that is organised in this way to deliver reciprocity.

What ‘Intel’ can you offer your network?
What information are you able to offer from your sector/your market/your profession?
Can you ensure that they are well informed?
Is this of potential value to your new connection?

Is their ‘Innovation’ that you can share with your new connection?
What futurists/new ideas/visionaries can you introduce or highlight to this new connection?

Do the ‘centres of influence’ that you are linked to have significance to this new connection?
Are the business leaders/recognised authorities/influencers possibly a relevant link?

Then the ‘Joint Venture’ opportunities that you are aware of do they play into any business development opening that this new connection works in?
Reflect on the potential partners/collaboration opportunities/common ground connectors you are in contact with and do they add value anywhere.

Finally, who is within 3° of separation that can immediately be of value?
If you ask: ‘not what this connection do for you but what can you do for this connection?’ then it will give you an answer as to whether there is likely to be an opportunity to develop a networking relationship.

Aleksander Góra
Aleksander Góra
Aleksander is co-founder & CEO of 5next. He is the author of Open Heart Website Surgery - An ultimate guide for leads generation for medium and small businesses. Featured in Rafael Dos Santos book - "100 Inspirational Migrant Entrepreneurs in the United Kingdom." Aleksander is also a product manager and Lead UX Designer in one of the leading conversion optimisation platforms
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