Leading with Value is the Best Way to Network

In a world where most people are trying to sell you something, it can be hard to know who to trust. If you want to show your network that you’re trustworthy and generous, lead with value. Be generous.

If you’re an artist or creative, you have a unique opportunity. Your creative skills can help other people.

You can offer your services for free or at a lower rate to charities and non-profit organizations. You can use your skills to make your marketing materials have value. Make connections between your clients and become the go-to person for introductions.

Leading with value is the best way to build a strong network of friends, clients, and professional connections.

The power of leading with value

When you lead with value, you put the other person’s needs first. You give them something they need or want without expecting anything in return. This generosity creates trust and rapport, which are the foundations of a good relationship. Think of it as good karma.

People are drawn to other people who make them feel good. When you help someone, they will remember you and they will appreciate you. It makes you stand out. Most people are trying to sell something, so when you focus on generosity, it gets noticed.

I believe Seth Godin said that you can view relationships in two ways — with confidence or doubt. Proceeding with confidence removes the “transaction” from the relationship. Just give, and you’ll get a return from somewhere, even if it’s not the person you gave to.

Why most people don’t give

One of the main reasons people aren’t more generous is because they fear being taken advantage of. They worry that they will never get anything in return. This is a transactional way of thinking.

This way of thinking also doesn’t consider the law of reciprocity. We are hardwired to want to repay favors that we have received. In other words, if you lead with value, the recipient will want to give value in return.

But remember — you’re providing value to be generous. Don’t give because you want something in return.

Another reason people don’t lead with value is that they don’t know how. They think that they need something valuable to offer, but they don’t know what that is.

Here are several ways to provide value, and you don’t need to be an expert in anything. Start small and build from there.

My favorite ways to lead with value

I’m a tattoo artist. I can always lead with value by providing art services to my clients (for free or at a discount). I focus on being generous with my time and I’m usually tipped well.

If you can’t give away time, there are other things you can do to give insane value to your contacts.

Offer time and advice to people on a similar journey. I’ve been self-employed for years, so I know a thing or two about the difficulties of running an art business. That’s where I can offer genuine advice to freelance artists.

Make connections inside your network. Introduce people who would enjoy knowing each other. You become the common person to their mutual success. I did this once with two clients who were both welders. One worked as a contractor needing an employee — the other was looking for a better job. They ended up working together and everyone gained. Even me.

Be a nerd. If you pay attention and keep your CRM updated, you can recommend books or articles based on your contacts’ interests. I read non-stop, so I usually have a book recommendation for my clients when they sit in my chair.

Publish content. One reason I write this blog is to provide value to other creatives. Publishing is aligned with my mission to make the world a more creative place. I can empower other artists to succeed in their careers. And I can do it for free.

Try writing on topics you know something about. Share videos on your creative process. Be active and helpful in communities that you’re part of.

Publishing content has a return over time. An article or video might not have an immediate impact, but it adds up as you build your body of work.

Finally, you can offer community service. We host regular charitable events at Affinity Art Co. to support local organizations and families in need. Being able to help your community in any way is an immediate boost to your trustworthiness and rapport.

Charitable work is some of the most fulfilling work I’ve ever done. It feels good to be charitable.

Asking for favors: advice from the other side.

The other side of the coin is an interesting one. Let’s say you’re trying to turn an antagonistic person into a friendly person: would you have better luck providing value or asking for favor?

Benjamin Franklin discovered that asking for favors is superior at turning a foe into a friend.

Like the law of reciprocity, the law of commitment and consistency is subtle and powerful.

Benjamin Franklin once faced an aggressive politician who attempted to smear his name. He responded by playing to his rival’s strengths. 

This foe was proud of his book collection, so Franklin asked to borrow one of the rarer books in his library.

When Franklin returned the book, he found a friend waiting for him rather than a foe. 

The law of consistency was at work here. By doing a favor for Franklin, the foe had to re-think his position. Do you do favors for an enemy? Usually not. So he had to become a friend to justify loaning a book to Franklin.

Our behavior shapes our identity. When we behave in a certain way, we take steps to align our identity with that behavior. It’s how we justify our actions.

So, if you have a foe that you want to turn into a friend; ask for a little bit of value! Small favors become huge shifts in attitude.

The foundations of a relationship.

If you want to build a strong network, then leading with value is the best way to do it. When you offer something of value, you create trust and rapport, which are the foundations of any good relationship.

Most people aren’t generous because they don’t know what to offer or they fear being taken advantage of. If you keep the law of reciprocity in mind, you’ll see that giving without expecting anything in return is the best way to get what you want.

Finally, don’t forget that you don’t need anything big to offer. The smallest act of kindness can make a world of difference.

If you feel like any of my articles have been valuable, why don’t you sign up for my email list? I’d consider it a personal favor. 😉


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