The term ‘Givers Gain’ is the mantra and trademark of business networking group BNI and it seems to be a shared philosophy with all the top business networkers I have ever met. I would like to give my personal take on the idea of ‘Givers gain’ in the context of business networking.
One of the 5 major elements of influence identified by Robert Cialdini in his excellent book ‘Influence’ is reciprocity. It seems to be human nature that when someone gives us something we feel obligated to reciprocate. Cialdini describes in detail how the Hare Krishna sect use reciprocity to raise money. They give you a gift knowing that you will most likely feel obliged to make a donation in return. In networking this works well if you give someone a good referral that leads to lots of business for them.
Many will want to return the favour or pay some kind of referral fee to encourage you to give more of the same. They will feel uncomfortable taking without giving anything back in return.
Using reciprocity to manipulate when you are networking is not a good idea. If you have a hidden agenda people often can tell and it will get in the way of developing a trusted relationship. I believe it’s much better to be open and let them know what the deal is. For example:
“I will look out for referrals for you if you do the same for me”.
In groups like BNI you get the potential for a higher level of giving. This is where group members help other people in the group but there is not necessarily a direct exchange of giving. It’s a little bit like the idea of secret Santa where everyone buys someone else in the group a present at Christmas. Everyone ends up with a present rather than each one having to give each person a present in return.
If there is someone in the group that is giving a lot of referrals then other members of the group will want to help that person in return. It is not, however, done out of personal obligation. It is done out of a belief that when everyone in the group is contributing then everyone wins. It does not matter who gives whom the referral just so long as everyone gets what they need.
There is another level of givers gain which I call “Networking Karma” and is based on the saying “What goes around, comes around” – it gets a bit esoteric and so perhaps a blog for another life time!