For my weekly business networking group, I was recently examining how women tend to be better at building relationships, but men are better at using them strategically. These are generalizations of course, but they got me to thinking about strategic alliances and networking relationships in general.

Strategic alliance can have a tremendous effect on your ability to build your business without adding extra resources & infrastructure. These abilities can help you close more business, and bring in business from new directions. That’s what’s in it for you. The questions most people don’t ask is why the other partner would want this relationship. Because it will help you, and you’re a nice person? Because you might, eventually be able to direct business their way?

Answering the WIIFM question should be a priority. A solid rationale can help cement a deal. To return to the gender differences in approaching this, and I’m going to generalize – not stereotype – men tend to ask this question up front. And they aren’t offended if someone asks it of them. Women are much more inclined to evaluate character and working style to determine a fit.

There is value in both approaches – and the risks are quite different. In one, the relationship will sour if the results don’t match expectations. In the other, if the process of working together gets too difficult, the relationship is jeopardized. What gets interesting is managing a strategic relationship that isn’t confined to a single gender – it makes us think in alternative ways – and that’s always good. And being able to address WIIFM from either perspective should be part of your planning process in developing strategic alliances.

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