Leveraging Your Network: 7 Fool-Proof Steps
“You don’t know me but let me tell you why I’m calling.”
My suspicions were instantly raised. Chris then explained he had seen me speak at an event and thought I might have contacts in his industry that would lead to a job change. He was warm and professional and quick to his request:
“Could I send you my resume and will you keep your eye out for opportunities?”
“Of course,” I said. How could I not?
But I asked myself an honest question: “How likely will I remember to ‘keep an eye out’?”
Another day, another Request: I had told a friend I’d meet with Jesse, so while I was frustrated about the interruption in my day’s momentum, I resigned myself to small talk and set a time limit in my head.
Jesse turned out to be a sincere, likeable guy, and when I told him we already have a financial advisor, he replied, “I understand. Would you keep me in mind when you’re talking with people in your network?”
“Of course,” I said. How could I not?
But I asked myself an honest question, “How likely will I remember to ‘keep him in mind’?”
Whether you’re seeking employment or new business, personal introductions can open up opportunities. But “The Request” can often be awkward and unproductive.
While I want to be helpful, I know that I’ll naturally re-focus back to my own objectives and problems. But I can’t get Chris and Jesse out of my head—and one day it could be me making The Request to connect.
Let’s try these 7 steps to a more productive request:
1. Make it easy. I know how this sounds; but really, don’t make me go to coffee with you! A small interruption is easier to tolerate. I’ve given and gotten some of the best introductions in a two-line email or a five-minute phone call.
If face-to-face is important, go to a nice lunch or visit their office. And always, do your homework: Know something about their LinkedIn contacts and network.
2. Never show up empty handed. My good friend Eric is a great example of “The Go-Giver.” He never comes to me without something to contribute—insights, relevant reading, an introduction or some other valuable offer.
3. Be vulnerable. Seeing people’s needs makes us want to help. I met with a CEO recently who spoke in raw, painful terms about her highly dysfunctional board. Her honest expression of need compelled me to suggest two contacts she should meet to explore other opportunities.
4. Be straightforward. Instead of, “Can you keep me in mind?” try “I bet there’s at least one trusted contact you have that would be an awesome connection for me. Could we come up with that person together and talk about how to make a comfortable introduction?” Or, “I’d really like to meet Jane Doe. How would you feel about facilitating that introduction?”
5. Honor the Requestee. Tell them why you asked specifically for their help. Not only will this improve their disposition towards you, it will improve their confidence to make the introduction. It’s also another way you can give back value.
6. Narrow the consideration. Unless you have someone specific in mind, look for introductions to people that match a set of criteria (e.g., demographic, psychographic, geographic). This helps the Requestee focus and ensures you’ll be connected to high probability relationships.
7. Do the work. In addition to thanking the Requestee, do as much work as possible for them. You might send an email asking for the introduction so they can simply forward it with a short note, or write the introductory email for them to edit and send. Or as my good friend Jim did with me last week, take them both to lunch so you can be there to strengthen that initial conversation.
This year our firm studied How Leaders Grow Today and revealed that strong networks are one of the critical components to leadership growth. Giving and getting introductions are central to being human and necessary for building a career or business.
How have personal introductions played a role in your success?