Why Does Networking Start with Giving?

It seems too simple and yet so few of us do it.
If you really want to be on the radar of hugely connected and influential people, the single best way to begin is to give these people something incredible. For free.

Let’s take one example. Let’s say you are a web designer and you dream one day of having your own startup. You know that you need some mentors, particularly those who have created large SaaS companies, you know you need to find investors and you also need to find some co-founders to help with the technical side and with the marketing side.

If you identify someone influential who can help you, an ideal way to actually have a meaningful connection would be to offer to re-design a website or product that this person owns, or that is in his portfolio (he is on the board of this company, or is an investor). Even better if you can find a mutual contact who can put you together. That person could say “Hey, I’ve got this friend who is so passionate about design, and to help explain a concept to me he actually did a complete redesign of site name which I thought was awesome and totally repackaged the message that site was trying to communicate and I’m pretty sure he would share that with you for free and let you use it, or at least have a coffee with you/them and talk about it”.

This won’t work every time. But it absolutely will if:

  1. The person connecting you is held in high regard by that individual.
  2. If there is a real problem here (e.g. the current design was really not great, before you fixed it). People felt the pain.
  3. The work done / gift offered is truly exceptional

“When you see a good person, think of becoming like her/him. When you see someone not so good, reflect on your own weak points.”

by Confucio

There are reasons why looking to firstly help (for free) the person you are trying to connect with is so effective:

  1. These people are influential. So many people make requests of them, ask them for time or references and the majority of people don’t reciprocate the value they ask for. So, their natural state if just asked to do a favor is “no” unless they can see a mutual benefit.
  2. We are hard wired to return a favor.If you do me a good turn today and I need something from you tomorrow, then genetically we are hard coded to want to balance this up and return this favor. This goes back to the time when if you had more grain and I lent you some which prevented you from starving, then literally if you returned that favor, we were both more likely to survive (in a Darwinian sense). If you sort people out, they will feel compelled for some reason to do the same.
  3. When you have a reputation for being valuable, people are motivated to connect you with others. When that person connects you to this other new person, then new person will bite thankful. Connector will be getting respect all round, which is what they live for. In fact, if you can manage to create a reputation for being super valuable, people will even hear about you in advance of you meeting them. You will be introduced to someone and they will say “oh yeah, you are that awesome designer. This person X said you did an incredible job on such and such, have you met our CEO Tom”. No-one wants to introduce a person where the guy on the receiving end regrets it. But everyone wants to be the person who connects cool people with cool people, to have the reputation as a connector. Make their decision easy! You can think of this in more introspective terms – if you want to be networked with incredible people, you have to be incredible yourself. Asking yourself how you can make an incredible impression on someone is the right way to go.
  4. There is an increase in trust when your words line up with your actions.If you say I am hugely passionate about Health technology, then what does that mean? Are you saying that because it is what you think that is what I want to hear, what will impress me most? Maybe, maybe not. But if you have spent your own time to improve something, iterate on something, show me your passion, then afterwards you say “I am passionate about that”, then not only do I believe you but I want to do everything in my power to help you be successful with your passion. If people judge you to have high moral character in this way, then connecting you with somebody else becomes a hundred times easier for them to do.
  5. You create win-win situations.The influencers out there at stronger if they have a wide network of super talented people that they can call on, reach out to, get advice from, recommend to a contact who is looking for something. They are better off for knowing you, if you can prove that you are really outstanding at what it is you do. They are delighted to know you, and of course you are delighted to know them. This stems from the fact that you proved your worth before asking for any in return.

Of course, you may not be a web developer.

But you might be a salesperson who can suggest a potential client. You might be a copy writer that has a way with words. You could be a lawyer who has seen this situation before.  Either way, everyone has something of value that they can offer. The real question is who would you love to meet tomorrow if you had a magic wand. And how can you give them something of incredible value for free?

If you have those two answers, the world is your oyster.

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