I just made my first networking call and it was not a success. I wasn't well prepared and the conversation didn't lead anywhere. Before I try again, do you have any advice on how to control a networking call?
Success in telephone networking lies in capturing and sustaining your contact's attention. To achieve this you must be clearly focused, articulate, and concise. Your delivery should build rapport, create trust, and establish authority.
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To break the ice, start by explaining the purpose of your call and why the relationship is of potential value. Be sincere in assuring the contact that your request is low-stakes and time-limited. Give the contact a brief description of your job search or career objectives and address questions appropriate to the contact's situation or experience. Request names and referrals and close the conversation politely with a promise to follow-up.
Most of us dread making networking calls, but keep in mind that they are an important part of the process of building linkages. If you approach the idea of making a job change as an opportunity to expand your personal and professional network, and use the philosophy that networking is more about giving than getting, you will find that you succeed more often than not by building valuable relationships versus creating a file of business cards.
Another reason that most of us are not comfortable in this setting is because we feel we are "asking for something" and have nothing to give in return. If you have researched the situation beforehand, you should easily come prepared to offer something of value to the person you are contacting. Information is the common currency of effective networking.
Think about networking as a process and not a task. To be a great networker, the process has to become a natural part of your everyday behavior.
Dave Opton is CEO and Founder of ExecuNet, an online career services center for executives. Questions can be sent to Dave at email@example.com, he can't answer each individually but look for yours in an upcoming column.