I often teach programs on the strategies of building high-value networks to business professionals. One of the most valuable things you can have is a well built and well-maintained network of people who are there to support you or connect you when you need them.  As I was summing up a class I asked each student, what is the most important thing that you have learned in this program?  One of my students summed it up beautifully.  He said, “What I learned is to build a great network you have to learn to ask twice.”  “Ask, how can I help them, then ask for what I need.”  Right on target!

Asking others how you can help them and finding ways to do it, is how you will build credibility with potential referral sources. Always have a Givers Gain mentality.  Many times when you ask someone the famous question, “How can I help you?” they often have no answer at all, and if they do have an answer then it is the usual “send me leads” statement.  They have not really given much thought to what others can do for them.  In this case, you may want to make some suggestions on how you might be able to help them. In the book Worlds Best Know Marketing Secret by Dr. Ivan Misner there are 18 tactics that you can use to help others; here are 5 easy requests that you can always put to use.

  1. Invite members of your network to an event with you.
  2. Ask them if they would like to put an article in your newsletter.
  3. Ask if they would like to have an article on your blog.
  4. Introduce them to someone who could be a possible source for them.
  5. Quote them in one of your articles as an expert.

BNI Members forget that there are more things they can ask from their network than just referrals. For instance, a simple request like; would you take the time to write a testimonial on my Linkedin Profile that would have real value to me. Or if you would take the time to share my event on your Facebook Page that could be of real value to me. What can I do for you?  What do you need? What can help you beyond referrals?  Yes, referrals are great and do not stop asking for those, but there are many other things beyond just referrals that will build your visibility and your credibility. Just ask and do not forget to ask how you can help them.

Good networking is a two-way street ask how you can help then ask them to help you. Ask, then ask again.  Be creative, look outside the box.  Once you have helped someone else, then you will be ready to ask the second question.