Building Trust in Networking


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In this week’s blog, I want to focus the spotlight on the topic of building trust in networking.

There is a networking equation that goes something like this.

Networking is based on the know + like + trust factors; a phrase coined by Bob Burg eons ago and one that has become ubiquitous in sales and marketing speak worldwide.

I often add in respect to this equation, which I’ll explain shortly.  Let’s break this equation down and work through the stages.

I’m going to tackle this topic from the perspective of someone who has just started networking.  If you are a networking newbie, you can find out more about how to start networking in my recent blog.  That said, if you have networked for a while and haven’t found that it worked for you, then some of the following information might be relevant for you too.

Ok, so let’s dive in.  We start with knowing.

Stage 1 – Know

You’ve just joined a new network and you don’t know anyone.  You’re hearing people mentioning 1-2-1s, but you’re not too sure what this actually means.

Essentially, you’ll spend time getting to know the people in your network.  You might meet them for a coffee or a lunch to get to understand more about their business.

I always suggest organising 1-2-1s weekly, so you build up your connections on a consistent basis. I call it ‘the power of one’. If you are a part of multiple networks, try to set time aside to meet one person from each network every week.

Building relationships takes time and effort.  Don’t forget to let people get to know you too.  1-2-1s are a two way street.  People need to buy into you and your business in order to support you.

You can read more on What is a 1-2-1 and Why Are They Important.

Stage 2 – Like

As you get to know people, you work out whether you like them or not.  And here is where respect comes in.  You may not feel that someone vibes with you, but you respect their credentials, experience and work ethic.  You may still be in a position to recommend them to others should the opportunity arise.  This is a call you have to make. It’s nuanced, but be aware of it.  Use your discretion.

Hopefully, however, you’ve moved to the ‘like’ stage of the equation and you are invested in developing the relationship, not just at the networking events or meetings. At this stage, you meet up multiple times a year for coffee catch ups, lunch catch ups.  You might invite each other to other networks and events, as an example.

All of this relationship development has moved on because you’ve gained:

Stage 3 – Trust

As you build up the know and like factors, you build trust.

It begs the question, how long does it take to build trust?  In short, the answer is how long is a piece of string?

Trust takes time to build up.  It takes as long as it takes.

It takes the investment and intention you are willing to put into the relationship.  But let me tell you, one meeting with someone doesn’t cut the mustard.  So if it’s not enough, the next question is, how do you maintain and nurture relationships?  How much time does it take?

Read my blogs: How to Nurther Your Online NetworksWays to Nurture Your Network

Let’s delve further into the trust aspect.  There are a few things to note.

Trust is contextual.

What do I mean by this?

Networking can happen anywhere.  In a formal setting, at a conference, in a training room, in a book club, at the side of a football pitch, as examples.  You are bringing your kids to the Thursday night football training and meet up with some of the other parents.

Over time you’ve built cameraderie and you have the banter with them.  You decide to car pool and go on rotation for dropping the kids and collecting the kids from the football training.  You trust the other parents in this scenario.

You know that John is an engineer and Alanna is a website designer.  As it happens you are doing work on your business and need a new website, so you chat to Alanna about it.  You also have another friend who is doing work on their house and they are looking for an engineer, so you refer John in.  You trust them on the basis of the relationship you have with them around football.  BUT

You don’t know anything about their track record or credentials from a professional setting, so therefore there can be no trust in this case.  The professional trust is a separate area and one that needs to be built before using the person’s services or referring the person.

Remember, when you refer someone it’s YOUR reputation at stake.  If John or Alanna mess up, it’s you that looks bad and won’t be a trustworthy referral source in the future.

What You Need To Know In Order To Refer Someone

When I’m running networking training, I often run through these following points. To be able to refer a person, you need to:

  • Know their why – what makes them tick?
  • What matters to them?
  • What does success look like?
  • What are their aspirations?
  • What are their challenges and worries?
  • Do you like the person? If you don’t like them, you’re unlikely to refer them and spend more time developing and nurturing the relationship.
  • Do you understand them?
  • Do you understand their business?
  • Do you understand how to have their back?
  • Are you clear on their track record?
  • Do you know how you can help them?
  • Do you know how you can add value?

Now let’s revese engineer those questions. You can’t know how to add value until:

  • You know how you can help the person.
  • You won’t know their track record or understand how to have their back until you understand them and their business.
  • You won’t take the time to understand them if you don’t like them.
  • You won’t take time to like them until you start getting to know them.

Back to the question of building trust. How long does it take to get to know someone?  How long does it take to build up trust?

Trust is earned. Trust takes time. Trust takes intention. Trust is the key to building successful and mutually beneficial relationships.

And by mutually beneficial, I don’t mean transactional. Transactional relationships are where one person is a taker…these relationships don’t last.

If you are invested in your business, your personal and professional growth, then step back, assess, get strategic and have a networking plan for how you are going to build, manage and maintain your critical relationships.  Remember, networking is a marathon not a sprint.

If you intend on being in business for the next ten, twenty, thirty years…whatever that looks like, then remember that you will be networking (or at least I hope you will) for that amount of time.  You’ll always be in need of the support of your networks!

Let’s Connect!

Connect with me on Linkedin!  And I’d love you to join my newsletter too. Click here to join my community.

Let me know your networking questions, qualms, concerns, challenges…and I’ll answer them in future blogs and on my NetworkMe Podcast. You can DM me on my socials – Linkedin or Instagram or Twitter are best for this or email me at



Jean Evans
Jean Evans
Jean Evans is an expert on all things networking. It is her passion, and one that is borne out of experience and plenty of trial and error, mistakes and mishaps. Through her blogs and social media channels, Jean shares tips, tricks, hacks and ideas on how to become an effective networker in business.

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