I ask this question as a metaphor for business networking. I find that people often take one of two approaches to networking.
1. They enthusiastically dive right in and start helping other people and setting up their network of referral partners.
2. They timidly stand back and evaluate what everyone else is doing to see if it’s worth their time.
Inevitably those with approach #1 learn, adapt, connect and end up growing their business because of their enthusiasm and activity. Often those with approach #2 have varied success depending on the makeup of their networking group. If there are a lot of #1′s in a group, then the whole group is likely to be successful. But if the group is predominantly #2′s, many members will end up being infrequent travelers in networking circles.
Put plainly, if everyone is sitting back waiting to see what happens….NOTHING happens!
Before you start evaluating whether you’re an Airport or an Infrequent Traveler, realize: We all have a choice as to which one we are going to be. If you feel like your natural disposition is not that of an airport, you can change that by making up your mind and stepping out of your comfort zone.
Why you want to be a Networking Airport:
- An Airport is an institution. Everyone knows how to find their local airport. It’s a point of reference (example: 20 mins south of the airport). It’s embedded in the social consciousness.
- An Airport provides value beyond its business description. Yes Airports are about airplanes and getting from point A to point B, but for many people they’re also about returning home to see family, going on vacation, business trips to negotiate and close important deals, and even meeting their (business) goals and objectives. There are a lot of valuable intangibles that are part of what an airport does. You could say an airport connects people with their goals, dreams, and loved ones. Do you see the value of being a connector?
- An airport benefits from endless demand. Perhaps because of the intangibles I just mentioned, there’s never a lack of customers for the airport. If you go there at certain times of the year, it seems like there’s too many customers!
So now that you’ve made up your mind to be a networking airport, here’s a couple of tips to start you on your way:
Keep your contacts with you and keep them organized. With the modern technology available to us, there’s no excuse for not having all of your contacts programmed into your cellphone or mobile device. If you’re going to connect people, do it quickly and seamlessly. You project more value that way. There’s nothing more effective than being able to instantly connect a referral partner with a potential customer by a call from your cell phone.
Get an in depth knowledge of your referral partners areas of expertise. People prefer a direct connection to multiple layovers. So make sure that you connect a need to the correct solution on the first try. This means you may have to spend some extra time with those referral partners, asking in depth questions, taking notes…and perhaps posting those notes in your mobile device. This is the kind of substantial relationship building that will be very good for your business. When you take an active interest in someone else’s business, don’t be surprised if they take an active interest in yours as well.
Take an active interest in the solution. After you’ve evaluated the need and diagnosed who can best address that need, don’t forget to follow up with both parties. This is going above and beyond what everyone else will do. By contacting the person you referred to the solution to see if his/her needs were met, you’re cementing your reputation as a giver and creating a sterling impression in his/her mind that will no doubt be shared with any and everyone. By contacting your referral partner you’re reinforcing your commitment to help his business and proving your commitment to provide solid referrals. Inevitably both parties will give you feedback. It won’t always be positive. If something isn’t right, dissect the cause and make adjustments to prevent a it from happening again. This kind of commitment to excellence will take you further than you could ever imagine with your networking efforts.
What other tips do you have to share? I’m looking forward to your responses!
If you’re looking for a good place to start, check out The Value Pages Group. It just might be the networking group you’ve been looking for.
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