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Posted on Sun, Jan 22, 2012 : 6 a.m.

Look for ways to help your networking contacts face their challenges

By Greg Peters


You'll never know what kind of challenges they're facing unless you ask.

Photo by Flickr uer popofatticus

One of the strange side effects of networking in the business world is that many of the folks you talk with are going to assume that you are trying to sell to them. Even the simple phrase "Let me know if I can help out with anything" takes on a meaning that you might not have intended. On more than one occasion when I used those words or others like them, I've had my networking contact tell me that they don't have any work for me.

So, I've been trying to figure out how I can short-circuit that particular pattern. Here's what I came up with.

First ask the question, "So, what challenges are you running into in your business right now?" Depending on the depth of relationship you have with this person, you could even extend the question to their personal lives.

(By the way, I don't recommend you ask "What's your problem?" While it might seem semantically similar on the surface, apparently this is yet another question which can be misunderstood. Who knew?)

Anyway, while you actively listen to the issues that are foremost on their minds, you should also be asking yourself "How can I help?"

You may not be able to help them in a professional capacity. That's okay. In fact, this is where the real networking kicks in.

You may know of someone who can help them with whatever the problem is. Offer to make the connection if they would like. You'll become the hero to both, and then both of them will keep you in mind the next time something comes up that does match your professional interest.

Remember, above all, your goal is to help solve their problem, not sell.

Greg Peters, founder of The Reluctant Networker LLC, writes, speaks and coaches about good networking practice. For more tips that can help your connections count, go to


Steven Case Lyman

Sun, Jan 22, 2012 : 12:44 p.m.

...and look for ways to improve spelling.

Greg Peters

Sun, Jan 22, 2012 : 1:30 p.m.

Hi, Steven Thanks for the catch. Hope the typo didn't detract too much from the message.