For small business owners, sales can be tricky. As I’ve developed my businesses and advised others over the years, the most effective tool I’ve found for growing my business is counter-intuitive: helping others. As I’ve helped others without expecting anything in return, I have found that others give back to me more than I ever thought possible. And in the process, I’ve created the most important asset of all: strong relationships.

In the newly released book, “Give and Take: A revolutionary Approach to Success”, author Adam Grant talks about Givers, Takers, and Matchers. 

Givers give without expecting anything in return – they like to help others.

Takers want to make sure they get their fair share, and may choose to make it worse for others in the process.

Matchers want equity in their relationships – giving creates an expectation of reciprocation.

Grant says that although Givers show up at the bottom of the heap of salespeople in regards to actual sales made, they also show up at the top – winning by a wide margin.

In my experiences, and those of the people I know, the giving-focused business owner wins big in the long run by making the pie bigger for everyone involved. When someone asks for help, givers provide the help, but often go beyond – making introductions to others who can help and pointing the person to relevant resources (like the Durham Chamber). Givers believe in making the pie bigger, and as that happens, their piece of the pie grows. They do not believe it’s a zero-sum game (if I give something to you, I’ll have less).

Before building TribeSpring, my partner, Jeff Raxlin, and I talked to hundreds of people about how they sell, how they connect, and how they get referral business. We found that those who were successful at building referral sales were those who gave unconditionally. Of course we all want to benefit from helping others – and givers believe they have received enough when they get a “Thank you” and see the other person prosper. Whether it comes back to them is not their concern. That they made the world a better place one person at a time is. Yet, even without focusing on growing sales, others want to help them in return. It’s the Law of Reciprocity – the more you help others, the more they help you. But expecting them to return the favor only makes the relationship shallow. Like BNI founder Ivan Misner says, “Givers gain”.

In my other company, Big Think, I operate 100% on referral, and the years of helping others has paid huge dividends. I’m fully booked, have great clients, and have a steady flow of referrals that keep the business going. All without having to “sell”.

If you’d like to find out more about this approach to building your business, come the the Durham Chamber’s Networking 101 workshop, which is held each month at the Chamber’s offices. It’s a great way to meet others, figure out how to network effectively, and drive your sales up. May22nd is the next Networking 101 workshop.


About the guest blogger:

Craig Mathews
Chief Thinkologist at Big Think
CEO of TribeSpring

Craig is a business and marketing strategist and small business advocate. He has started and run three businesses, and has helped hundreds of companies in North Carolina and internationally to increase profitability. He works with and has taught the entrepreneurship program at UNC Business School, and will assume the role of Chair of the Small Business Council at the Durham Chamber at the end of May. Big Think uncovers hidden opportunities for profitable growth. TribeSpring is a mobile app that makes it easier for small business owners and salespeople to make money by referral. Feel free to reach Craig at