I suppose it is hard to believe, but those on the receiving of networking calls actually experience more stress than you do.
Yes, I know that picking up that 400 pound phone isn’t easy, but neither is responding to phone calls from those who have been trained in the NFL approach to networking. (That’s where they tackle you and won’t let you up until you give them 3 names.)
Is it any wonder that your phone call or visit can strike fear in their hearts? The stress comes from the fear of disappointing you and/or disappointing the friend who sent you their way by appearing not to be able to help you.
If you want the process to work as well as it can, you need to take steps to reduce the fear and dread. A good part of this process is to come prepared to those meetings or phone calls with specific requests and to start with questions that are easy to answer in the affirmative. (In selling terms this is analogous to “getting to yes.”)
Of course, you should have your 90 second elevator speech down pat. That part of your presentation is key to providing a quick overview of who you are and how they can best help you.
The next step is NOT to ask if they know about any open jobs. In fact, asking if they know about open jobs is almost a guaranteed conversation ender. Very few people actually know about jobs that might fit you on the given day that you call.
It is far better to start with easy questions. For example, do they know any search professionals who you might be able to contact? Sure, recruiters aren’t all that helpful, but on the other hand, everyone knows several very well and they are relieved that you have asked them such an easy question. It also causes them to get out their address book and start paging through it. That’s good, because they are going to need it for the next part of your “interrogation.”
To ensure that the next part of the process goes well and appears easy, you need to come to your encounter with a target company list and/or marketing plan.
I like target company lists over target industry lists because I find most folks are more familiar with the names of companies. They may not even know for sure which firms fall into which industries. Your target company list may even include the names of individuals at those firms that you would like to meet.
Now, you shouldn’t really expect that your networking contact knows folks at those specific firms. And, you don’t need to actually want to work at one of those companies. The purpose of the list is to give your networking contact something appropriate to focus on. In addition to getting the mental wheels turning, it gives them something to hang onto, sort of like a nervous speaker hangs onto a podium.
You will be surprised that they may know someone who knows the person you want to meet. That’s close enough. Or, they may know an officer at a company that is SIMILAR to one of the companies on your list. In any case, these are much more open ended questions and ones that can generate flexible thinking. You will be surprised how often this kind of a process generates valuable next networking contacts.
The key is taking the stress out of the encounter and making your networking contact successful. They will feel good about your meeting and so will you.
An additional tip would be to follow up with this contact by reporting back on your success or failure. The reason is that as soon as you left their office, they thought of more contacts for you, but then they got busy and put it aside. If you call or write with a report you can pick up these valuable additions. It is also possible that the first set of contacts was a test to see how well you do. No one is going to risk his/her whole book on one person they don’t really know.
The road to success is networking, networking and more networking. I hope these tips make you more successful in your efforts.