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Bridge the Gap

Bringing your contacts together not only helps them--it helps you, too.

When was the last time you brought together one of your prospects or clients and someone who could help their business or career in some way? Actually set up a meeting where both parties would benefit from the introduction? Not a bad idea for long-term gains for your business.

One of the first books to really inspire me about this idea is I Dare You! by William H. Danforth, founder of the Ralston Purina Co. One line in particular had a profound effect on me: "Catch a passion for helping others, and a richer life will come back to you."

This saying is built around the philosophy that if you help others around you succeed, it will eventually come back to you. When you share your ideas, resources and knowledge to build the lives of others, you are creating stepping stones for your own future success. That's what building bridges is all about.

Look at the relationships around you to see where one business can benefit by working with another, and vice versa. This form of networking is not only very satisfying, but it also creates a relationship investment that often pays off down the road. Here are three ways to start building those bridges today.

1. Uncover your contact's key goals and challenges. Start by asking questions. What areas of their business are they looking to build? You may have other contacts or clients who can provide solutions. It's not just introducing these people that helps you; taking a genuine interest in their business immediately improves your relationship.

2. Recommend the competition. This might seem like you're building a bridge for your competitor, but in the long run, it's you who really benefits. Have you ever been in a situation where the prospect you were working with needed something that you either couldn't deliver or weren't set up to service? It might be rare, but when we try to be all things to all clients, it can bite us where it hurts. You might say, "Steve, our factory is up to full capacity, and based on the delivery date you're looking for and the specifications of the product, you might be better off working with XYZ Corp. I'd rather see you get to market on time with this product than miss the opportunity altogether."

There are many benefits to this strategy. When you keep your competitors close, they sometimes become your allies and may start sending business back to you. Also, clients and prospects can tell when you have their best interests at heart, and they'll learn to trust you for it. Trust is the foundation of the bridges you're building.

3. Live and breathe the golden rule. Do you believe in six degrees of separation? That somehow we're all connected? How many times do you meet someone you knew a while ago, and who is now in a much stronger position to help you and your business?

I find it amazing how we underestimate the power of seeding for future events. Just recently, at the end of a speech I had given, I was approached by a business owner who thanked me for listening to his idea two years ago and giving him encouragement. I didn't think it was such a big deal, but he seemed to think it was. Never forget how powerful your words and actions can be to someone who needs your help. I guarantee it will come back to help you one day when you least expect it.

Barry Farber is the author of 11 books on sales, management and peak performance. His latest release, "Diamond in the Rough" CD program, is based on his book, radio and television show. Visit him at www.BarryFarber.com, or email him at barry@barryfarber.com.

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This article was originally published in the November 2006 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Bridge the Gap.

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