This post is part of our Weekly Tips series.

Networking has been a hot topic in my workshops lately because most of my clients honestly dislike it. Some are good at pretending to like it, while others find clever ways to avoid it. In the good news realm, it doesn’t have to be that way; specific best practices can help.

One reason that networking is universally disliked is what has traditionally been its goal: to make new connections to get more business (for you). This self-serving focus feels, well … smarmy.

A trustworthy approach has a radically different goal: help other people develop their businesses. Toward that end, Charlie and I shared ten best practices for trust-based networking in The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook. Here are the first five:

  1. Be present. The key to great networking is paradoxical in the same way that trust-based selling is paradoxical: if you focus on the other person, the benefits to you happen as a secondary effect. Just be there with the person you are talking to. Be interested in what he has to say, be curious about what interests him, and be generous with your attention.
  1. Recognize others’ contributions. Aside from being genuinely attentive to other people, little else in your networking strategy is more important than overtly recognizing others. Both internal and external communications can be used to recognize, mention, or elevate their work. Give credit, give thanks, and give public praise. Sincerely.
  2. Collaborate. Establishing a joint project is the business equivalent of socializing: you develop a relationship while engaged in a supposedly non-relationship activity. The subject matter on which you collaborate serves as the social lubricant. By working together, you foster connection. Consider, for example, the mutual benefits of a joint white paper or conference presentation.
  3. Talk about you less and them more. High self-orientation and even a little bit of shameless self-promotion alienate others. Keep the focus off of you. And when you do talk about yourself, maintain your other focus: frame your comments in ways that bring value to them.
  4. Add value. Speaking of value, there’s a reason samples selling is so powerful: nothing beats personally experiencing a product or service. So be open to ways of adding value during a networking situation, not just as a follow-up. Rather than talk about what you do, and how great your offerings are, look for openings to offer practical information and advice to suit their specific situation.

Even with technological advances, trust-based networking is still rooted in the fundamentals: listening, respect, low self-orientation, and transparency.

So … how trustworthy are you as a networker?

Make It Real

This week, consider an upcoming networking opportunity. How might you put some or all of the five best practices to work?

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Download our eBook on trust-based networking, or read more about the do’s and don’ts of online networking in Chapter 12 of The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook.

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Andrea Howe

As the founder of The Get Real Project, I am the steward of our vision and our service offerings, as well as a workshop leader and keynote speaker. Above all else, I am an entrepreneur on a mission: to kick conventional business wisdom to the curb and transform how people work together as a result. I am also the co-author, with Charles H. Green, of The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook (Wiley, 2012).