Monday, September 19, 2011

When Do You Call the Fire Department?

Have you ever had to call the fire department? It’s very easy to figure out when to pick the phone. Unless you want to get in trouble, you call the fire department, when and only when you’ve seen a fire.

What happens if you call the fire department and there is no fire? Calling in false alarms causes many problems: it wastes the time and limits the availability of a precious resource, it bothers an important contact with frivolous solicitation, and the person who calls-in the false alarm looses credibility. Call-in enough false alarms and key resources will stop responding.

So, when should we call the fire department? How about when you see a fire? In networking seeing a fire is analogous to not just seeing someone else’s problem, but also having their request for help.

When someone relates a problem that they are having to you, such as; “my payroll company is under performing,” simply ask them “is that something that you're looking for outside help with?” and they will let you know if they need your fire department.

Imagine making connections that solve significant problems and that your key resources really value. Your fire department is a precious resource...activate them wisely.


  1. This reminds me of the Sandler system for probing for pain. We need to get at the degree to which someone is motivated to do something about their problem before we attempt to close them on a solution (or in this case, suggest a referral source to assist them). so additional questions to ask could be: "How significant is this problem to you? What have you tried in the past? How will your life be different if you solve the problem?"

  2. Right you are Pete. Thanks for the awesome comment. This is the challenge of communicating in brief 2 dimensional articles. The intent is to be anything but superficial. It is critical that we have true empathy. Understanding the issue/opportunity from the perspective of the person across from us is a mandate for our potential future connection to have any value. Our only concern should be the success of the person with the problem.