When it works…and doesn’t work.
I’m a strong believer in networking as a way to build strong relationships with clients, customers, and colleagues. I’ve had some success with it, which is probably why I think it’s such a good thing.
But as times change, so do business techniques. The internet’s social networking features are grabbing hold and changing the way we network. Is it for the better? In this multi-part series, I’ll explore some networking concepts and services as I see them.
Real Networking in Action
For example, suppose I fly for an aerial photographer named Adam. Adam is working for Charlie’s company and has hired me to fly him around while he takes aerial photos of Charlie’s housing development under construction. During the flight, I’m impressed by Adam’s equipment, ability to give me clear instructions, and obvious know-how. He’s a professional, someone I feel privileged to work with. At the conclusion of the flight, I see some of his shots and they’re really good. I observe the way he works with Charlie and Charlie’s response. Everything I see is positive.
Three months later, I get a call from John who is interested in getting some aerial photos of a local mall where his company’s about to build a multistory parking structure. He’s been referred to me by Pete, a past client, and wants to know if I have a photographer on staff. I don’t, I tell him, but I know a photographer who’s experienced in this kind of work. I offer him Adam’s contact information, then, after hanging up the phone, send Adam a quick e-mail message to let him know that John might call.
The hope, of course, is that Adam appreciates the lead and uses my company for the flight. If I’ve done my flying job right, he’s recognized me as a professional who is capable of getting the job done. So perhaps Adam might recommend my company to another client who needs an air-taxi from Scottdale to Sedona. Or a gift certificate for a tour of the Phoenix area.
The result of my networking activities is that Adam and I both get additional business.
When Networking Goes Bad
Too often, these days, people have the “what’s in it for me” attitude. If they were in my shoes, they’d expect some kind of cash compensation — a sort of commission — from Adam if he got the job with John. They don’t realize that Adam might be working too close to cost to be able to cut them in on the action on such a small job. So Adam doesn’t take the job and they both lose.
Or there’s a confidence problem. Instead of offering Adam’s contact info to John, they’d try to broker a deal to keep themselves in the middle. They’d be worried that Adam might prefer using a different helicopter operator and that they’d lose John to someone else. But John may prefer to speak directly to the photographer to make sure the photographer meets his needs. When he can’t get in direct contact with him, he looks for his own photographer who might just have his own favorite helicopter operator. Again, they both lose.
I don’t have these problems. I’m not greedy and I have enough confidence to know that I can do the job satisfactorily. I pride myself on having a good relationship with all of my clients. I get a lot of repeat business to confirm that I’m doing something right.
How a Commissions Structure Fits In
I do need to make a few quick comments about commissions. I don’t want you to think that I’m completely opposed to paying commissions for leads. On the contrary: I work with several outside individuals and organizations who refer customers to Flying M Air in return for monetary compensation.
For example, I work with hotel concierges and pay them a 10% cash commission for hotel guest they book on one of my flights. (With tours starting at $795 in the Phoenix area, that’s not a bad take for making a phone call.) I also work with an individual at an aviation-related business who refers potential clients to me when her company cannot meet their needs. I send her a gift card purchased locally for each call that turns into a flight.
The main thing to remember here is that these people and organizations are not colleagues or clients. They do not have a business relationship with me other than as commissioned referrers. I think of them as a marketing arm of my company. This isn’t networking. It’s marketing and sales.
That’s all I have to say — at least for now — about networking the old fashioned way.
Next week, I’ll start my discussion on Web 2.0’s social networking features with a look at LinkedIn and how I see its role in real networking.
In the meantime, why not take a moment or two to share your thoughts about networking. Do you do it? Has a referral really benefited you in the past? Use the comments link or form for this post to share your experiences.