Successful Networking – Why Giving is the Way to Get

But Henderson’s view is that both moves can happen simultaneously. “When you form alliances, then the whole thing can move ahead,” she says. “There’s plenty of business for everyone. It’s not about fending off competition – it’s about thinking, ‘How can I make the pie bigger?'”
People good at thinking this way consistently cross-network with competitors and regularly give away referrals. For instance, if potential client wants job done and you can’t handle the work right now, don’t just turn the client away – send them to company down the road whose work you are happy to recommend.
Henderson is Sydney-based speaker and writer recently here promoting new book, Masters of Networking: Building Relationships for Your Pocketbook and Soul. She has contributed two chapters to the book and also owns the rights to distribute the bestseller (it’s been on The New York Times list) in Australasia. It contains condensed wisdom from other big names in the networking business, like Tom Peters, John Naisbitt, Deepak Chopra and Jack Canfield.
Networking is life skill, says Henderson, not something you do just when you want something. She spends lot of time in New Zealand spreading the word to local companies like Deloitte, WestpacTrust and New Zealand Post. And every time she fronts up to group in seminar room she talks about what she calls the three universal laws – the law of reciprocity, the law of abundance and the law of giving without expectation.
That means, basically, believing that what you give out will return to you tenfold and that there is plenty for all. “It’s knowing that having ‘poverty mentality’ where people come from fear – fear of sharing ideas or giving information away freely – is negative way to live,” she says.
Paying heed to these rules for living means that results will be better not just for you but for everyone you deal with. The old idea that what goes around, comes around, does indeed work. In the States, they call it revenue enhancement.
Doing business with generosity of spirit is new-century kind of thing. “In the 1980s, there was churn-and-burn approach to customers. In the ’90s, we became more savvy and thought ‘I don’t have to deal with this person if I don’t want to’. Now, it’s case of, ‘I want to give my business to companies who are willing to grow my business, not companies who are always against me’,” Henderson argues.
In the early ’90s about 10 percent of American companies were working in this way, according to Henderson.
“Now it’s more like 50 percent and rising. It makes sense. It keeps everyone growing. But there is still some corporate resistance to it in this part of the world.”
Henderson is global networking specialist who has spoken to audiences in 10 countries and authored five books. There’s lot of life experience on her CV. For seven years she was catering supervisor for Ansett Airlines. She spent 10 years in sales and telemarketing (including management stint at the Sydney Morning Herald) and has been professional speaker for eight years – one of only 104 women in the world to have earned CSP (Certified Speaking Professional) accreditation.
So what do we have to do to be smart networkers?
Henderson recommends putting aside minimum of 15 minutes day for using the phone, writing notes, and sending faxes or emails. “I wouldn’t suggest first thing in the morning – that’s probably the most important part of your day – but you should allocate uninterrupted time at some point to work at your networks.”
This means focusing on keeping in touch with old customers and getting in touch with new ones. “Think of it as income building, not income generating.”
She suggests, for instance, allocating set day for writing birthday cards for the month. Mark each envelope discreetly to make sure it gets posted at the right time.
And Christmas cards should be written early and contain personal messages rather than just signing off. “Try the personalised reference to golf handicap, planned holiday or house renovation to make your card stand out from the dozens of impersonal cards landing on the desk,” she adds.
Include your business card with every item you send by mail, and give it to everyone you meet. “Your business cards are your silent salespeople. Make sure they are working for you.”
Henderson carries thank-you notes in her briefcase. After meeting client she takes moment to write short “thanks for your time” note and posts it on her way back to the office.
She also recommends scanning the news and sending ‘congrats’ notes to people in your community who’ve just achieved things you admire, even if they’re strangers.
“Business is often done with people new to position or location – as in sporting or political transfer – purely because you take the time to acknowledge their achievement.”
She even believes in sending thank-you cards when you fail to get business you expected to nail. “You didn’t get the business now, but maybe the successful provider will fail to deliver. Who will more than likely be the second choice? The one who stands out from the crowd by doing something exceptional,” she reasons.
You do not have to do much to be seen as different, according to Robyn Henderson. But you have to do it sincerely. Others will soon catch on if your behaviour is empty or cynical. “We know intuitively when people are kidding us.”
In some ways, networking means being good at self-promotion. It’s more than being cheerful, generous and helpful. It’s being seen (and heard) to have these qualities. But New Zealanders, I suggest to Henderson, tend to be quiet types, not big-noters.
“That’s true,” she concedes, adding that in some parts of the US everybody’s networking so hard it can be overwhelming.
“I hate that phrase, ‘working the room’,” she says. “It’s not about working the room, it’s about having heart-to-heart conversations. You can tell what sort of talk it is by the way people are listening.”
On the other hand, says Henderson, Kiwis could be more upfront about themselves. She has been coming to New Zealand since 1994 and worked in 31 cities and towns. “And with respect I’d say that lack of self-promotion is weakness in this country. New Zealand is great place but you don’t get enough media comparisons to know that. You are great entrepreneurs, you’ll have go. You are early adopters of new technology and yet often you don’t recognise your talents.
“A way to get round that is to consciously promote mates and peers, talking up the people you work with. If we do that for each other, it talks the whole country up.” The best gifts, she maintains, are priceless. “Recognition, respect and trust. That’s what works – and they cost nothing.”
While networking may be seen by some as smart new way to do business, others might think of it as little more than old-fashioned good manners. Its ‘do as you would be done by’ philosophy sounds like something your grandmother might have drummed into you. “Sure,” concedes Henderson.
“But while people may be polite in their personal lives, many see it as being strictly personal, with business occupying different place. It shouldn’t be like that.”
Of course, if we all followed Henderson’s advice she might, in some fabulous future world, find herself out of job. She’s not worried.
“When everyone’s networking well, life will be better all round. There’ll be lot more prosperity. When behaving like that becomes the norm, it will be wonderful.” She releases smile. “I hope I live that long.”

Lindsey Dawson is an Auckland-based writer and speaker. Email:[email protected]

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