There is something in each of us that wants to "keep score." Studies have shown that many of us feel obliged to "return a favor" when we have been the recipients of generosity or kindness. While it is important to be aware of these hard-wired urges, it's even more important to master them by not keeping score. Instead, ABG, as I often say: "Always Be Giving."

We've discussed before about making sure you add value when you reach out to new connections, as well as making sure you have a great elevator speech when you meet those connections in person. But now we need to talk about networking as a mindset, in which generosity is your highest value.

Why ABG?

I have used this term with my team for many years as a wink and nod to the legendary speech of Alex Baldwin in the movie Glengarry Glen Ross, in which he relentless pounds the idea of "ABC," "Always Be Closing." Baldwin is captivating in this scene (if you haven't seen it, you're missing out), and his message is bang-on for a certain part of the sales process. But it's a poor way to sell in general, and an absolute disaster for networking.

This is because, as I've noted before, when we interact with others in business, we should treat them the same way as we do those in our personal lives:

  1. Imagine you are building/maintaining something for the next quarter of a century, not the next quarter of the year.
  2. Don't keep track of who has done what for whom.

If you treat someone with the same generosity and kindness that you extend to your own friends, those same behaviors and attitudes will very often be reciprocated.

The Long Game

I often share a story about someone who responded to a Facebook status I posted, in which I was desperately seeking a dentist who could see me right away (I had a terrible toothache). A complete stranger who knew a dentist responded, and got me connected. The dentist was able to see me right away. I was very grateful and I corresponded with him afterwards, asking if I could be of service. He told me he was a graphic designer and that if I ran into anyone who might need work, he would love a chance to win the business. I told him of course, and kept a link to his portfolio.

Some weeks later I was discussing a project with a friend and she casually mentioned she needed some design work. I said that I knew someone--that I had not used him yet--but that I had a portfolio if she wanted to take a look. Short story: she hired him to do work, at a rate of 5 figures.

What had he done right?

  • He responded in a timely manner to a request for help
  • He followed up and made sure I had been treated well
  • He left a way to get ahold of him if there was a need
  • He had no expectations

It was because he focused on ABG not ABC that he ended up with a great opportunity.

Remember that you're going to meet many great people and as you network, there may only be a fraction of people who will end up helping you in any manner close to the way you help them. Remember: that's not the point. Giving is its own reward. By being a conduit for adding value you will increase your social capital, but more importantly, it fosters a pay-it-forward mentality among those with whom you network, and believe me, it's contagious.