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How To Maximize Business Networking Calls

by Marc Luber

woman with banana phone

Networking is something we all need to do whether we’re looking for a job and searching for a career path or trying to develop or enhance business. That’s why it’s one of the 15 career development topics that will follow you through life. Social networking sites online have made the process much easier for everyone – but nothing beats picking up the phone. This summer I got a networking call from my cousin’s friend who is one year out of college and looking for work. He wasn’t prepared, so he didn’t get much out of our phone call other than the advice I’m going to share below. Here are 5 tips on how to maximize business networking calls:

1) Map out what you want from the networking call before emailing or picking up the phone.

If the person on the other side of the conversation ends up thinking, “This person is nice – but why is he/she calling me,” then you’re not doing your job. Are you looking for general leads for a specific kind of career path? Are you looking to be connected to a specific person that your contact is connected to on LinkedIn? Are you looking to simply establish a relationship? Are you looking to set up a coffee meeting? Are you looking for a therapist to just listen to you? Figure this out BEFORE reaching out so that there is no question as to the mission of the call. This will increase your odds of being able to lead the call and achieve your goal, whatever it may be, with the least amount of rambling and wasted time. Remember that time is valuable for whomever you are calling.

2) Be focused in the networking call – have a targeted, specific path you want to pursue.

The more specific you can be, the more likely you are to get the help you’re hoping for. I’d be rich if I got a dollar for every time someone called me over the years saying, “Help me – I want to be in the music business.” My first question, so I can figure out how to help people like this is, “What do you want to do in the music business?” Too often, the answer is, “I just want to be in the music business.” I was there once, so I get it. You may not know; you may want to keep all of your options open. But here’s the thing – it’s really hard to help someone who lacks focus. Where should I point you if you don’t know what you want? If you call me and say, “I want to manage bands. Do you know any band managers I can talk to so I can learn the ropes from them?” That approach allows me to run through my Crackberry and see what band managers are in there so I can send some introductory emails. It’s like calling someone and saying, “I want to work in healthcare” versus “I want to do marketing for a pharmaceutical company”. The focus in the latter approach is more likely to make for a successful networking call.

3) Do your research before emailing or making that networking call.

This part of the post originally appeared on the Ryan Stephens Marketing blog. There are several reasons to first Google the person you’re calling and check out their LinkedIn profile:

  • You’ll learn more from the call. If you’re able to walk into the call with the full knowledge of your contact’s background, you can ask more targeted questions (ex: “how did you get a career started at Company X when you were fresh out of college?”).
  • You’ll be better able to lead and guide the call. After all, you’re the one initiating this contact. That means you must have something you’re hoping to learn or gain as a result of the call, even if it’s nothing more than a new friendship. If you can take ownership of the call and actually lead it, you’re more likely to learn what you’re hoping to learn. Showing you know your stuff about the person on the other side of the conversation will help you to maintain ownership of the call.
  • You’ll save time. The contact you’re calling is likely busy and doesn’t really know you. That means you probably have a limited window of opportunity to establish a relationship and learn as much as possible during the call. If you already know the contact’s background, you can avoid time-eating dialogue like hearing about where they went to school and how much fun their internship with the circus was when they were 20.
  • You’ll likely impress the contact you’re calling. By showing that you’re someone who does his/her homework before taking action, the contact is likely to feel more comfortable connecting you to their network for work opportunities.
  • You’ll stroke the contact’s ego. Some people need their egos stroked and want to know that you know their story. After all, they’re about to hear your story….If you call the big ego type unprepared, they could easily think, “why is this person calling me if he/she doesn’t even know who I am and what I do?!” You’re not likely to have a successful call if this happens.

  • 4) Be prepared to give and take – don’t just take. Networking is a 2-way street.

    No matter whom you’re talking to, the odds are that there is something you can do for them. Don’t be afraid to ask, “how can I help you?” Just because the person you’re calling is 10+ years older or younger than you doesn’t mean that you can’t help them just like they’re helping you. Throw it out there – they can always say they don’t need anything.

    5) Put your social networking links in your email signature.

    For personal branding reasons, this is obviously always good…but especially when you’re reaching out to someone to initiate a networking discussion. When my cousin’s friend emailed me to request a phone conversation, he had all of his links (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook) in his email signature. Thanks to that smart move, I was able to do my research before our talk and enter the call knowing his story so that I could offer more targeted help and save both of us some time.

    Do you have any tips to share that have maximized your business networking calls? Any funny stories about how being unprepared led to a disastrous call?

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    Image courtesy of giarose