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Which Way Is Best: Relationships First or Business First?

January 24, 2012
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/222654

Relationships First or Business First?Editor's note: The following is an excerpt from Business Networking and Sex (Not What You Think) (Entrepreneur Press, 2012) by Ivan Misner, Hazel M. Walker and Frank J. De Raffele Jr. The book parses data from a survey of more than 12,000 businesspeople that focused on gender differences in networking to understand communication roadblocks between women and men and to provide breakthroughs that can help improve results.

Related: Networking With the Opposite Sex by Hazel M. Walker

It's no amazing revelation to say that the first priority for women is relationships, and for men, getting business. DNA evidence and the roles men still play in our society support that fact. Men have been the hunters, protectors and providers of our clans since the beginning of time. This is not to say female breadwinners are not increasing in number every day as the sole supporters of their families, because they are. But let's go back to who we are at a primal level.

As the provider, I feel it is my responsibility to bring home the bacon, steak, buffalo -- or squirrel, if it has been a very bad day. When I'm bringing that catch home, I'm not trying to build a forever relationship with that meal that I'm hunting. I need to catch it, prepare it for my family and get it home, just like the sales and deals I go after in today's world.

Unfortunately, we men approach everyone in our networks as if they were our next meal to be slain because we see the processes the same. Today we have to learn to be more relational and less transactional and to plant seeds, like women do, that will provide us with continued business over and over as the years go by.

Related: Do Chamber Meetings Still Beat LinkedIn for Networking?

Most men in business who are involved in sales are very aware of the importance of relationships. But the relationships we instinctively prioritize are the transaction-related ones. My goal is not to create best friends from my business networks. It is to develop relationships that are beneficial to me. I'm not saying this is a good thing or the way it should be. I am just stating that this is the way it is. I must provide for my family, and my instincts tell me to take care of my own first. This is what we men do and are generally pretty successful at it, but we must continue to learn as we have for millions of years to keep current with new technology and methods. We must learn to adapt so that we can be more successful in less time and with less effort.

Some of our strengths are staying focused on the sale, closing deals, and conducting the hunt. However, we're seeing that our transaction-related relationships are not working with women who are relationship-oriented and not at all focused on transactions as their primary objective. We are losing to those male hunters who have decided to communicate in more female ways.

Women have been the gatherers and community builders for as long as we have been hunters. By building a sense of community, they created a nurturing environment for the children and a place for the community to share its riches. Part of the job of gatherers is to collect plants and herbs needed for nutritional and healing purposes. As our tribes discovered the benefits of plant life as food, women began to nurture gardens and small farms.

The act of planting and caring for seeds to grow plants mirrors the building of relationships.

Related: Don't Wait for a Reunion to Network With Former Classmates

First you plant the seeds. You then care for and protect them, making sure they are planted deep enough and consistently watered over time. You monitor their growth until they are ready to be harvested and give you back all the work, or investment, you've put into them.

Male contributions to the tribe, like shooting a buffalo, happen in a matter of minutes, whereas the female contributions, like growing food, require tending for months. That's quite a difference. Women have understood for thousands of years the benefit and importance of developing mutually beneficial relationships. Modern times find them using those same instincts and skill sets to develop business relationships.

When women network, they are working as gatherers, planting seeds and acquiring friends, not just using transactional friends the way men do, but actual friends. They care about and are interested in their friends and want to help them and talk to them. Yikes. This is scary stuff for men.

So what does all this mean? Men need to become more adept at building real relationships. The problem with a transactional relationship is that it is based on the transaction. Once the transaction is over, then the relationship is over. Women, on the other hand, would do well to focus on extracting more transactions from their business friendships. They must keep in mind what the purpose of business networking is.

Related: Five Tips for Getting the Most from LinkedIn