2 April 2015
For those of you like myself who recently ventured into the world of small business ownership, one of the first messages we hear from others is “givers gain”, and we are encouraged to adopt this credo as our own. Positioning ourselves as “givers” is a great way to earn trust with potential customers and referral partners. Here are some insights into the reality behind “givers gain”.
1. What To Give
Your first challenge as a newly declared “giver” is to decide what to give. Many of you first became familiar with the giver gain motto from your participation in BNI. In that case, your “give” is fairly easy to identify… you give your BNI chapter mates leads and referrals. Fairly simple to do, it doesn’t cost you anything, and the promise is they’ll give you leads and referrals in return. You are giving to your colleagues the trust you earned with people whose names you share.
Outside of the BNI experience, you might find other things to give. You might give your expertise, wisdom, or insights to interested parties in the form of a workshop, a “lunch and learn” presentation, or a webinar. Here, the give is a little more costly, not necessarily in terms of hard dollars but in terms of your time and expertise. If your business is unique because of a special product or service – what I like to call your “secret sauce” – this might be an occasion for you to spill a little secret sauce, as it were, in order to generate buzz and interest in your product or service.
Restaurant or food franchise owners know that they are going to have to give a way some samples of their food in order to get some interest and win over loyal fans. Now things start to get a little costly, because you’re giving away the very thing that brings in revenue.
Basic lesson: Find something of value that you can afford to give that doesn’t seriously damage your income early on.
2. Givers Give
While the promise of “givers gain” is that much more will be given to you in return, this is not guaranteed. The only guarantee is that givers give, and sometimes there is no return.
I learned this lesson through direct experience. I joined BNI because I saw direct evidence of what membership in a chapter could do. After a full year of participation in a vibrant chapter, I gave my colleagues referrals that resulted in over $20,000 of closed business. I was pretty happy about that. The flip side was that I had closed $200 worth of business based on referrals given to me. The promise of “givers gain” was not fulfilled. This is not a condemnation at all of the BNI experience. Rather, it reveals a reality that is seldom discussed or glorified, namely, givers don’t always gain, but givers always give.
Basic lesson: If you are going to embrace the givers gain philosophy, you are also embracing the possibility that givers simply give. The good feeling of doing something that benefits others is a reward, no doubt, but it won’t keep your business afloat.
3. Strength or Weakness?
Outside of the BNI experience completely, I was coached to “give first, in order to earn the right to ask.” I embraced this concept fully, so each time I opened a new conversation with a potential client, I made sure I had a “give” in place before asking a prospect to consider buying my services. I even listed it as a core value of my business.
One of my company advisors challenged me on this point. He offered an insight that made a strong impression on me. He suggested that publicly announcing my posture of “give first in order to earn the right…” may come off as a sign of weakness, and in fact turn potential clients away. He countered that I have the right to ask for a client’s business whether or not I first give something. As a business consultant, he reminded me that I want to appear strong and confident in front of clients, not weak or unworthy of their business.
Basic Lesson: Don’t confuse the strength of generosity with the weakness of appearing unworthy.
In summary, I endorse the givers gain credo, but I now understand that living it has more nuances than first meets the eye. How about you? What are your experiences with “givers gain”? I’d like to hear your comments.