Reciprocity: Simplifying Business Networking

A little and a lot, both can be said about business networking. To write about the little is to summarise all the many little things I’ve learned over the last 9 years. Its quite simple that every business conversation starts with give and take. As a novice I’ve found learning this simple protocol to be long and confusing. A short article can help accelerate that process.

The one word that I’d use to capture this idea is Reciprocity*.

The take: Knowledge of what you need right now is distilled from your priorities in that day, week and even quarter. You get the idea. Articulate what you want and suggest ways you can be helped. You can help me with <…> just fill out the blanks.

If you end a conversation without speaking about what you require, you’re missing out. Business relationships work both ways.

The give: This the part that I’m good at. I tend to offer more than I have to in the hope of getting things started off on the right foot.

Nevermind the generosity. What I figure works best is to understand who you’re speaking to and what their priorities are. Remember how you’re priorities helped you out earlier? That’ll work here as well.

Not all give an take has money on one side. They can also be sophisticated barters. Welcome creativity!

Once you’ve established some common ground, its time to apply the idea to the many types of people you will meet.

Investors are not different beasts as is commonly misunderstood. They too want things to be done. Maybe they’re priority on that day is to identify that interesting deal which will make his year. You’re deck or elevator pitch may not necessarily be sufficient if you get where this is going.

In that same picture, always ask based on your priorities. It need not always be an investment. It maybe something the Investor will know (an Analyst’s report perhaps), or maybe someone he knows (an Investee company?).

Moving on, time-based engagements (consulting) also follow this principle. This applies to people who are supremely busy, or have something you want desperately.

Sounds simple, right? I’m glad I’ve had good mentors to help me figure out this idea in its entirety. The biggest temptation being to avoid leaving the take to the context. Doing things this way leaves little room for grudges, disappointment, or entangling yourself in confusing priorities.

I enjoy meeting new people as a part of my work and I hope that by doing business with them it’ll lead to larger things down the road.

* The Key to Getting Meetings with Insanely Busy People, Fast Company.

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