Is this your insurance agent?

When I met with Lois Weinblatt, Lead Concierge of Zingerman’s Professional Presents department, we got to talking about cheese. Now, I am not a foodie. I enjoy good tasting food, but for me to pick out a one-year versus a four-year aged cheddar would be a bit beyond my abilities. Nonetheless, while I sampled one of these one-year aged cheddars, she was telling me about their local “cheesemonger” who would go all over the world looking for the best cheeses for Zingerman’s. He had the experience to know not only which cheeses were best, but also when was the best time to get them.

Wouldn’t he be a fun person to travel with?

This got me thinking about the last part of INFER, the “Resources”. This has always been a funny one because it sort of encompasses a lot of concepts. Most people focus primarily on the material end of things. Does their networking contact have a cabin on the lake or a yacht that they might be willing to lend? If someone needed a barn in order to put on a show, would your network be able to provide it? What if someone just needed a training facility to put on a monthly class? Does anyone have such a beast?

There’s another side to the “Resources” — the skills.

Maybe your networking contact is a programs computers for a living, but he is also a gourmet chef. Perhaps that marketing director also performs in the community theater. Have you talked with your accountant lately? It turns out that he is an expert on traveling in Europe. Many of these skills might be associated with their personal interests, but it might also include incidental items such as knowing how to make the very best macaroni and cheese.

The expertise aspect of Resources is usually going to be more on the personal side. Ironically, it’s also much more likely that they are going to be willing to share these skills than they are the ones that are of a more material bent. Think about it. Your financial planner drives a nice sports car and is also a great golfer. Is he more likely to be willing to lend you his car or meet you at the local driving range to give you some pointers on your swing?

There’s also the added benefit that by asking them to share their skills, you are acknowledging them as an expert. Very few people would be unhappy to appear in that spotlight.

When you are meeting with someone in a one-to-one, of course, be ready to ask about their interests. Go a little further, though, to find out some of their special skills, beyond the office. No matter what they reveal, from amateur carpenter to part-time event planner, you’re almost certain to find someone else in your network who needs access to that expertise.

Be the person who makes that connection.

Photo credit: Ricardo Vasquez

Here’s where it becomes more personal and, at the same time, easier to call on.