By Andy Lopata, Business Networking Strategist

While one of the biggest, and most often overlooked, benefits of networking is the development of a trusted network of suppliers for your business, it can become all too easy to take people for granted and have unreasonable expectations from them.

It appears that networking has generated a sub-culture of expecting people to do something for nothing. From the graphic designer friend of mine who was approached on Twitter by one of their followers to 'take five minutes to look at my logo', to organisations who ask professional speakers to plan, prepare and deliver talks for no cost, 'because it will be good marketing', people are increasingly dismissing the background work and expertise that go into providing a quality service.

Perhaps the root of this is the relationships that need to be developed as you build your network. I am continually urging my clients to build both trust and understanding among their network if they want to benefit from referrals, so it's a natural extension that they should give away their expertise to showcase their work....isn't it?

The danger, however, is that people's work and expertise becomes devalued. One of the major effects of the growth of social media is the amount of information that is given away for free, information that people would have paid for previously. Has this led to a situation where people are less likely to pay for the support they need because they feel entitled to receive it for nothing?

I was sent an interesting video by pricing expert Cliff Burgin. In the video, produced by Duke University's Fuqua School of Business, Dan Ariely talks about 'The Cost of Social Norms'. Ariely looks at how money can get in the way of social relationships and how we will happily do favours for our personal friends and family without charging for it.

In the video, Ariely says "We live in two worlds. We live in a social world where we do things for people as favours.....and we live in a financial world where we work for money. When the two worlds are separate everything is fine. But when you try to mix things something happens, and that thing is usually not very good."

As people build relationships with people in their networks, those lines get very blurry. I have built strong friendships with people I have met through my networking, in some cases to the point where the personal relationship is more important than the professional connection. With many business-to-businesses service providers networking together, expectations of free support from each other are bound to grow. And there's definitely a place for this. What is important is the definition of the term 'free'. An exchange of value that doesn't include money is common place now, with services being provided as a contra between two companies. But for the relationship to remain robust it has to be two-way. What concerns me is that expectations of one-way support are growing, people's businesses, expertise and time are not valued in the way they used to be by others in their network and ultimately this can lead to a breakdown, rather than growth, in trust.

Check out Andy Lopata lastest books on Networking

- Brush up on your networking and presentation skills - '...and Death Came Third!' Second Edition

- Develop an effective referrals strategy 'Recommended: How to Sell Through Networking and Referrals'

To find out more about how to pick the right networks, implement a successful networking strategy or how to generate more referrals, please visit our website www.lopata.co.uk or contact us at harvey@lopata.co.uk / 01992 450488.

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