Whoopee in the Cornfields

Here’s the thing with networking: If you want to get more business, you have to  be willing to give business to other businesspeople. That’s why I founded my networking organization, BNI, on the central, guiding philosophy of giving benefit to others–Givers Gain®. It’s an ethical theme that is common to all religions, all cultures: Treat others the way you want to be treated. If you want to get referrals, do the best job you can of giving referrals to others.

I’d like to share with you a story that I originally heard from one of my BNI directors, Art Radtke, which will help you remember this concept.  It was originally called “Sex in the Cornfields,” but I figured “Whoopee in the Cornfields” would be a more decorous title. 😉

Whoopee in the Cornfields

A farmer in Nebraska won the state fair four times in a row with his corn. Nobody had ever done that before, so the paper sent someone out to interview him.

The reporter asked, “What is your secret? Do you use special corn seed?”

The farmer said, “Absolutely. I develop my own corn seed, and that’s an important aspect of it.”

“Well, then, that’s your secret,” said the reporter. “You plant a type of corn that’s different from your neighbors.”

“No, I also give it to my neighbors,” said the farmer.

“You give it to your neighbors?” asked the incredulous reporter. “Why in the world would you give your award-winning corn to your neighbors?”

“The farmer said, “Well, you’ve got to understand how corn is pollinated. It’s pollinated from neighboring fields. And if you’ve got fields around you that don’t have this top-quality corn, your field is not going to grow top-quality corn either. But if my neighbor’s field has this really strong corn, I have awesome corn. And that’s how I’ve won at the Nebraska State Fair the last four years in a row.”

This story is a great metaphor for how networking works.  Put simply, if you’re going to be an effective networker, you need to go into networking with a commitment to helping other people because that is how you’ll be helped in return.

What You Need to Know about the Law of Reciprocity

The term reciprocity is at the center of relationship networking, but it is often misunderstood. Webster’s dictionary defines reciprocity as “a mutual or cooperative interchange of favors or privileges,” as when actions taken for the benefit of others are returned in kind. This leads many inexperienced networkers to expect an immediate return for any actions they take on behalf of another.  Givers gain, right? Wrong.

Not every act of giving will be immediately rewarded by the recipient, and if you go into relationship networking thinking that simply giving a referral is enough to get you a referral in return, you’re confusing a relationship with a transaction. On the contrary, the idea driving Givers Gain® is actually the principle of giving without the expectation of an immediate return. In networking, this idea is called the law of reciprocity ,and the law of reciprocity differs from the standard notion of reciprocity in that the giver cannot, should not and does not expect an immediate return on her investment in another person’s gain. The only thing she can be sure of is that, given enough effort and time, her generosity will be returned by family, friends, colleagues and others–many times over and in many different ways.

Put simply, the law of reciprocity in networking means that by providing benefits (including referrals) to others, you will be creating strong networking relationships that will eventually bring benefits (especially referrals) to you, often in a very roundabout way rather than directly from the person you benefit.  This makes the law of reciprocity an enormously powerful tool for growing your own business’s size and profitability.

I know a lot of experienced networkers who have amazing stories about how the law of reciprocity has proved to them that there’s far more business to be gained by referring business to others than you might at first expect. If you have a story you’d like to share, I’d love to hear it, so leave a comment. Also, be sure to check back on Thursday for some tips on what to keep in mind as your learn to use the law of reciprocity.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
   Follow Me

Get every new post delivered to your inbox