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Personal R&D: Reading and Discovery

Your plane was just delayed and now you have 30 minutes on your hands. What to do?

Sure you could get a coffee, browse a bookstore, watch Hurricane news on the overhead monitors or....

You can deliver as much value to your network as you possibly can. Open your email address book. Scan the list and look for connections waiting to be made. Who should be introduced. What news stories, magazine articles or blog posts have you read recently that should be forwarded to someone in your network. Don't just tickle people for the sake of keeping the relationship live. Always deliver value to the relationship. Build the understanding in your contact's mind that communication from you whether it's a meeting, email or phone call will always be worth their time.

How can you constantly be ready with something for everyone? Well, you can't. Not everyone all the time but you can be ready for the right people at the right time.

The key is managing your personal R&D. In this case reading and discovery.

Read Strategically - Let your reading list grow out of your relationship network. When considering what to read consider who you know who is reading this same thing. Scan the desks, coffee tables, bookcases, carry-on bags, purses, briefcases, etc. of your coworkers, customers, prospects, competitors, etc. Discovering what someone is reading will give you clues to how they think and thus how you can work with them and add value to their lives.

For example: You're on a flight and you meet an executive across the aisle. She's in an industry you don't know a lot about. You sense there is an opportunity to follow-up and open a sales conversation with her. You notice a copy of a trade journal tucked into her laptop bag. After the flight find and read that trade journal so that your follow-up communications can include discussions of issues relevant to her business. She will feel that you value the information she values. It's a good first step to building a relationship.

Discovery - Cultivate your curiosity. Develop your power of observation. Make a game of it. Pretend you are an intelligence officer and practice noticing everything in your environment. Look for connections, patterns and cause and effect relationships. Watch human behavior. Notice advertising. Study new products when you come across them. Meet new people. All these things will develop your social skills and help you understand differences in how people behave and react to what you say and do. Most importantly actively noticing, observing and analyzing your environment and the people around you will help to make and keep you interesting. You'll always have insightful stories, humorous anecdotes and fresh ideas to share with the people you know and those you meet.

For example: You're in sales and marketing for a software company. On the subway ride to the meeting you notice just how many people have white wires running out of their ears. iPod listeners. When walking through a customer's office you notice that many of the young staffers are listening to iPods. In conversation with your contact you learn about half a dozen training needs the company has that surround your products. On the way back to your office an iPod ad reminds you of the article you read last night about podcasting. The light bulb goes on! The next day you propose a series of podcasts addressing the training issues you learned about the day before.

It's obvious that people are drawn to those who they know are interesting, funny and insightful. It's more important than ever to be that person. Being knowledgeable is the baseline. Being entertaining, insightful and helpful is more important than ever.

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September 21, 2005 in audio publication, award winning magazine, award winning newsletter, Blog Outsourcing, blog publish, Books, Brand enhancement, Building Customer Community, Business newsletter, Travel | Permalink


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To strike up a conversation, and follow through on that conversation, with someone you don't know all that well, is to be able to add value to that person. You've mentioned a few great ways to be valuable and relevant, and hopefully share some knowledge that wouldn't otherwise be found. Great tips!

Posted by: Phil Gerbyshak | Sep 22, 2005 6:21:00 PM