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The lack of a previous relationship with new leads you receive during the networking process means you are actually at a disadvantage when making your initial contacts. However, when you explain that you have been referred by a mutual friend or business associate, there tends to be a natural sense of obligation on the part of the lead to respond in a positive way. By knowing exactly how you are going to introduce yourself and communicate the purpose of your call, you will have a much better chance of establishing the type of rapport required if you hope to achieve your ultimate objective.

Before speaking with a new lead, however, it is highly advisable to determine how you want to focus the conversation with that person in order to optimize his or her assistance. This may be accomplished by asking yourself a simple question: “Based on what I’ve been told about this new contact by the individual who gave me the lead, what type of advice and guidance might he or she provide that will do me the most good in my job search?” This will then allow you to create a number of personalized questions that are not only appropriate for that particular lead, but will in turn do you the most good in successfully expediting your search for a new position.

Cold Calling a New Lead
Your opening dialogue when cold calling a networking referral – whether to conduct a telephone discussion or arrange a face-to-face meeting – should be similar to the following:

    • Greeting and Referral Statement - "Good morning Bill, my name is Brad Johnson. While we've never met, I was talking to our mutual friend Bruce Flanders this morning and he recommended I give you a call."

    • Purpose of the Call - If not well orchestrated, this is the point where things can turn against you, so quickly make it clear as to why you are calling and the role you are asking the contact to play. For example: “The reason Bruce gave me your name and number is that he felt you would be the best source for me to speak with. I am currently the CFO at Ajax Corporation, but I have decided to seek another opportunity due to changes resulting from our recent merger with The Dak Corporation. Now please understand that I am not calling to ask you for a job, but one of the search strategies I am pursuing is to apply my finance expertise to (the type of business or industry the contact is in). The problem is, I can see the potential in your industry for my kind of global financial expertise, but I need to get a better handle on the most important issues and problems that I will be facing. Bruce said you’re the person he would talk to, and that’s why he suggested I call you.”

      Note the explicit disclaimer in the above dialogue that you are not calling to ask for a job. It is absolutely essential that you make it clear you are in the process of a career transition, but that you are simply calling for advice and guidance based on the recommendation of a mutual friend or business associate. NEVER ASK ANYONE FOR A JOB WHEN NETWORKING.
    • Request for a Face-to-Face Meeting (Optional) - Most of your networking activities will be completed by telephone, although there may be times when it will be to your advantage to ask for a face-to-face meeting in order to establish a better relationship. While it is not practical to ask for a personal meeting with every lead you obtain, evidence does show that a face-to-face meeting can increase your success rate by 50% over an ordinary telephone call. Target your requests for personal meetings carefully, and focus only on individuals who can hire you or who are likely to have high-level connections within your target companies or industries.

When requesting a face-to-face meeting ask for an hour of the person’s time, but be satisfied with 20 or 30 minutes. To schedule such a rendevous you might say, “Based on what Bruce has told me about your industry knowledge and success, I’m calling to see if we might get together for about an hour during the next week or two. Now I know it’s an imposition, but I would really appreciate your advice and guidance.” If the person is agreeable, try to schedule the meeting away from the contact’s office to minimize interruptions, and select a time when the person is least likely to have time constraints and feel pressured to end the discussion. Generally, breakfast and dinner meetings tend to be most productive, although you must be accommodating and adjust to the contact’s preferred time and location.

If the contact declines a personal meeting due to scheduling or workload problems, you should be able to salvage the situation by saying, “Since I’m asking for a favor, and I don’t want to inconvenience you, we might save time if we cover this on the telephone. Is this a good time or would you like me to call back later this week?” (NOTE: If you succeed in arranging a personal meeting, defer any other discussion points until you physically meet the person.)

Eventually you are going to access people who have, or know about, a job opening. In some cases, you will know in advance that someone you are going to contact has a position available. Nevertheless, you should approach the person in much the same manner you approach any other contact. That is, give no indication that you are aware of the possibility of an open position. There are two primary reasons. First, your information could be wrong and you don’t want to take the chance of alienating a valuable contact. Second, even if the contact does have a job, you are likely to make the person much more defensive if you indicate that you are calling about the open position.

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