Warm Networking, Not Cold-Calling

When you attend so-called networking events, you most likely don’t have a chance to gen-up on the other attendees ahead of time or give them an opportunity to do the same about you. That’s what I’ve labeled cold-call networking.

On the other hand, when you schedule a conversation with someone you haven’t met before, you do have a chance to pave the way–and you should. Warm networking offers much greater potential value than going in blindly.

Warm Networking Tips

You’ll want to keep these brief networking tips in mind when you’re doing warm networking. They can help you maximize the effectiveness of your interactions with the people you meet and have professional conversations with.

  • Avoid the mistake of assuming the person already has important information about you–your experience, strengths, etc. Even if you’ve been directed to this individual by someone you think has filled in background about you, you could be wrong.
  • Show respect for the time of the person you’re making contact with. Provide the most critical information about yourself, in a professional manner, but don’t ramble on, providing excessive details or information that is off-point at this stage. Also, have a clear sense of what you might get or hope to get from the upcoming meeting, so you don’t squander the time you’ve been given.
  • Make the interaction a two-way street. Do some research on the new contact before the meeting–even if your referrer has provided you with some information. He/she might have neglected to tell you something useful or might have gotten a few details wrong. This is one way to identify a way you might be able to offer value to the other person.

Don’t Blow Off Warm Networking Opportunities

When someone offers to put you in touch with a potentially useful contact, always treat that as a warm networking opportunity. Otherwise, the person you end up speaking to could dismiss you as less than you are and not perceive your potential value. A recent article on HBR Blog Network
titled “Don’t Let Them Underestimate You” tells a few stories about how this unfortunate situation can happen and gives some sound advice about how to prevent it.

Author Dorie Clark says: “We all hope our merits will be recognized — and it’s a jarring comeuppance when they’re not….Before you meet a new contact, make sure they’re aware of your background and expertise.” Then she offers a few suggestions you might want to consider:

  • Send a letter of introduction before the meeting. Clark received this suggestion from a psychologist, Robert Cialdini, who said a letter makes it possible to communicate information about yourself without sounding like bragging.
  • Prepare a few stories to back up your expertise (much as you would prepare for a job interview, I think).
  • “After the meeting, if you suspect they haven’t fully grasped your potential, don’t push it….When it’s clear someone has pigeonholed you, those protestations come off as slightly pathetic. Instead, recognize that you’re in the long game now, and you need to change their opinion of you over time. If the relationship is worth cultivating, keep in touch and periodically update them with news about your progress…; if you have mutual friends, let them talk you up. They need to “discover you” and your value for themselves.”

Warm Networking Can Pay Off Big

If done right, even cold-call networking could produce results eventually. However, when you’re fortunate enough to have an opportunity for a warm networking situation, pursue it with the right kind of preparation and you could see significant results.

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