The biggest inhibitor to networking is the fear that someone will take advantage of you or embarrass you. You can help overcome this fear in others by extending a hand when they need it, but that is not enough. Maintaining a high level of trust is essential to developing a network.
Maintaining trust requires several things. First, it means that you will provide a high-quality service. It doesn't pay to network with hacks because your reputation will be sullied by theirs. It also means that you will go the extra mile to clear up any problems that you might have with a client or in some other relationship.
This is good practice in any event, but by itself it is not enough to maintain trust in networking; you must also be forthright with your contacts. If client confidentiality or some other obligation prohibits you from providing a contact with the help that he desires in a specific instance, you must tell him so. If he understands networking, he will accept your explanation. If he does not, you will want to cut him out of your network anyway.
This rule further means that you, yourself, will hold off pursuing an opportunity if pursuing it might embarrass your contact. This can be very hard to do when you are under pressure to make a sale.
Maintaining trust also means that you do not help one business contact by placing a burden on another unless you are in a position to request an outright favor. Rather, your objective is to help all parties involved. This means, among other things, that you shouldn't feel an obligation to introduce a member of your network to a client unless you think it will be beneficial to both and you can convince both of a meeting's potential value.
Do's and Don'ts of Developing Trust with your contacts.
Ask a contact how confidential his information is. If you have any doubt, it is better to ask than to violate a confidence.
Always ask permission before mentioning a contact's name as a source of information.
Call the contact who provided a lead to let him know the results of your pursuit.
Show gratitude. This applies especially when you win a job that a contact helped you win. Call. Write. Take him to lunch.
Help a contact who has helped you win a job by getting him a chance with the new client. For architects and some other professionals, this means putting the contact on your team. In other fields, it means an introduction later.
Tell a contact when you cannot help him because of a prior commitment to a competitor. If you take a contact's information, but you plan to work with a competitor, you are using your contact. Users get a bad reputation in a network.
Don't share confidential information. This is the most commonly violated networking rule. You will be strongly tempted to use any information at your disposal in the bartering of networking, but you will get the reputation of being untrustworthy if you violate confidences.
Don't ask where information comes from if a contact is providing it hesitatingly.
Don't share information provided by a contact with his competitor.
Don't go around a contact to his boss when you wish to share information with his firm. People help you, not companies. Return help to those who give it so that your contact gets credit for generating a lead.