What are the common traits of a master networker? Is it extroversion? Outstanding communication skills? Perhaps the ability to listen? Or all of the above, and more? According to the renowned psychologist, Dr. Marisa Franco, master-networkers share a common key trait. They give back to their network.
In her Psychology Today article, she points out: "The one question that will make you a master in networking is "what can I do to support you?" The best networkers are the best givers."
Dr. Franco cites a psychology experiment by Dennis T. Regan, which, as she highlights, is in line with the 'theory of reciprocity'.
In the experiment, a select group of participants were instructed to interact with their student counterparts and create a pleasant or an unpleasant experience. The participants who were asked to create a pleasant experience, had to offer a free Coke to the student they were interacting with. After a short period of time, the group returned and attempted to sell raffle tickets to their interlocutors. The results were quite interesting. Students only agreed to buy raffle tickets from the people that had previously given them a free Coke.
The experiment showcased how an act of kindness can intrigue people to return the favor in the future. To reciprocate.
Psychologist Robert Cialdini further analyzes this phenomenon through the 'rule of reciprocation'. As he explains in his book '"Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion", people from any culture have a compulsion to return favors back.
Of course, the objective is not to build a list of people who owe you favors. It's about going the extra mile, giving to your network, and taking the first step towards the creation of fruitful relationships.
Don't forget that warm relationships can take you way further than cold ones. LinkedIn's State of Sales Report 2020, points that 44% of sellers find it difficult to get buyers to respond to cold outreach. It's not just in sales though. This applies to other cases as well.
If people have a connection with you, they are substantially more likely to respond, and reciprocate to your call. Talk to them, understand what their needs are. Make a note of what they are looking for and proactively try to help, if you can. For instance, let's say a software manager that you've just met is actively looking to hire software developers but is having trouble finding the right talent. Introducing him to a couple of your contacts could help substantially.
A simple introduction, advice or even a cup of coffee can make a whole lot of difference in forming a relationship. Always remember that.