01/09/2012 10:43 am ET Updated Mar 10, 2012

Take This Networking Challenge: It's Easy, It's Fast and It'll Boost Your Business

When attending networking events, do you ever notice that there is an overwhelming cloud of "give me" that's in the air? That everyone you meet, while polite in asking what you do for a living, is really just waiting to tell you what they do so you can give them a lead or referral?

Ever feel like you're in a room full of salespeople all with something to sell, but with no one to buy? Have you been guilty of this common, yet ineffective, form of networking? If so, I encourage you to take the networking challenge and find a few good leads... for someone else.

The fundamental reason why the typical networking process is somewhat unproductive is that everyone involved is looking for what they can get instead of what they can give. Ironically, giving actually encourages referrals to come your way. In other words, it's human nature to want to give back when someone has given to us; this is known as the rule of reciprocity. Still, you may struggle with the idea that you have nothing to offer in the way of leads to anyone else, but trust me, you're wrong! Everyone has what's known as "social currency."

Social currency is the value we bring to our social networks. Think of all of the networks you are involved in including social networks, professional networks, family networks, media networks, etc. In every network, you bring value to others in that network based on the people you know and the relationships you have. Social currency is what you have to "spend" by way of introductions you make that help people in your networks get what they want.

First, write down the name of someone with whom you network on a regular basis. Knowing what type of customer he or she is looking for, consider your database of prospects, customers, and other contacts to determine who in your database might be a good contact for your networking partner. Write down three contacts in your database who you think your networking partner would like to meet. Next to each, write a brief synopsis of why you think they would be a particularly good candidate for your networking partner to meet.

Once you have done this, call your networking partner and share the information you've just written. If it makes sense after your conversation, introduce your networking partner to the three contacts you have identified, either via e-mail, conference call or in person.

That's it, that's all. Just sit back and watch what happens. Chances are, within just a few days, you'll be hearing from your networking partner with a few good leads for you.

Applying this same principle, attend the next networking event with a giving attitude and watch what happens. Ask the people you meet what they do for a living and what type of customer they are looking for. As they're telling you, rather than preparing what you're going tell them about your business, try to think of people you know that may be exactly who they are looking to meet.

Challenge yourself to give as many leads as you can and measure your success at the end of the event not by how many cards you've collected, but by how many people you were actually able to help during the event. You may be surprised at the positive outcome this process will have not only in the quality of your networking events and relationships but by the number of additional sales in your own business as well.