Did friendship play a part in the Olympics? Does it have a role in business?

This article is due to appear in Business2Business a magazine for Banbury, Bicester and Buckingham

Everyone who attended the London Olympics this year has spoken of the marvellous atmosphere. There was excitement, entertainment and also a sense of comradeship. There was friendship – as well as rivalry – among the competitors. In fact, that’s not unusual as any Olympic athlete will tell you. Roger Black recalls a competitor in one Olympics stopping to help a fellow runner who had fallen and injured himself. There are many other stories of competitors either helping each other or at least behaving comradely to one another. None of this should come as a surprise to us, for friendship is one of the seven Olympic values according to the International Olympic Committee.

What can we in business learn from that example? Does friendship have a place in business? If so, is it an important one? I discussed this with Jason Cobine, who runs seminars and courses on networking. If anyone knows about the value of friendship in business it’s Jason Cobine.  Friendship plays a big part in business, he says. “When you trust someone in business it makes the sales cycle much shorter; they readily accept some of the things you have to tell them and they are happier to introduce you to other people. The shorter the sales cycle, the more profit you make.”

He adds that friendship is vital when a particular sector is having a tough time with its reputation tarnished. He explains: “You will trust your friend whatever sector they are in, regardless of what is being said in the media about their sector, because you know them; so you will give them the business. But if you saw an advert from a competitor you’re unlikely to respond to it.”

Many people network in order to make business friendships, but with varying degrees of success. Why is networking such a struggle for most people? “Ah,” says Cobine, “making friends takes time. The challenge is following up the first meeting and then keeping the relationship going. Most people don’t do that.” He adds: “ Another mistake that some people make is that they think networking is about making sales. It’s not. It is actually marketing in a subtle way with occasional sales thrown in. When you’re networking you’re marketing, because you are giving people an idea about your brand, what you do, and the benefit of what you do. That’s marketing. Sales come later.”

The one thing that most people forget time and again is that when they meet someone, they are not just meeting that one person, they are potentially meeting that person’s whole circle of friends and contacts. Many people just don’t understand this.

The next time you meet someone new remember that It’s not the person you are talking to who may give you business but their friends or associates.  If you like them, find them interesting etc, make friends with them regardless of what may come of that connection. And then nurture that friendship. Keep in touch. Be a genuine friend. If you take time over such friendships, your life will be enriched and your business will prosper.

And finally, to return to the Olympic theme, does making friends with your competitors in business make sense?  Yes , it can. If you get to know a competitor and trust them, you might find that they help you out sometimes, you may collaborate, you may swap clients, you might even join forces.

In business there are more possibilities for friendship than you probably imagine.

For more information on how you can improve your networking contact Jason Cobine on www.beyondnetworking.co.uk

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