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Networking without a Referral

Q: I want to contact the VP of Marketing of a fast-growing high tech company in my area. I have never met the guy, and I don't know anyone who can introduce us. How can I interest him in a networking appointment? 

A: First you'll need to find out as much as you can about his company. If it's publicly owned, check out its annual report and look for articles about the firm in business or trade magazines. Talk to other people in your network to ascertain if they know anyone in the company you can visit. Linked In and Facebook can be particularly helpful. Ask local business reporters or professors about their insights on the company. (You probably think these busy, high profile professionals won't take the time to talk to you, but they will.) 

Then, when you have plenty of information, plan your call. Given everything you know about the firm, what piece of information is of most interest to you? Is it the expansion into India, the company's marketing ideas, its recent acquisition of a complimentary business?  What do you think the VP would find most intriguing? What are his hot-button issues?  Based upon your reading, can you identify any solutions for his current or long-term problems?  Have you had any similar experiences that might be useful to him?  Can you send him any articles or studies you have seen that would give him food for thought? 

After you've done some brainstorming, select several key "hooks" you believe would intrigue him enough to schedule an appointment with you. Then start your call something like this, "Hi.  This is Taunee Besson. I've been doing quite a bit of research lately on fast-growing high tech companies, and Xyrix's name keeps emerging as an exceptionally well-managed organization with continuing double-digit growth through new product introductions, savvy acquisitions, and a very successful expansion into Southeast Asia.

“Having recently returned from establishing my company's industrial product lines there, I would enjoy meeting at your office or over lunch. We can trade war stories on doing business in East and discuss your interest in expanding into South Korea in the near future. I have some preliminary ideas about how our two companies might form a mutually beneficial joint venture where the sum would definitely be greater than the parts. 

“What do you think?  Shall we get together next week over lunch or at your office?”

Granted the VP doesn't know you from a hole in the ground, but you've certainly captured his attention. He may decide to make an appointment with you as you talk on the phone, or check you out before he commits himself. Either way, if you genuinely have something to offer him, the likelihood of your scheduling a meeting is excellent, because your initial conversation emphasized what you can do for him, instead of vice versa.

Once you have secured an appointment, you've need to decide what you will say when you get together. Since you initiated the relationship, it is your responsibility to set the agenda.  You'll assure a continuing mutually-productive networking experience, if you prepare a set of well-researched, intelligent questions. Don't waste valuable time with queries you can easily answer on your own.

If you are a career changer, ask about your contact's insights and perceptions from his career, industry and company, as well as his description of the skills and personality traits he believes are necessary to succeed in his arena. Tell him a little about your background and why you are interested in his industry. Ask for feedback on whether his career would be a good match for you.  Find out how he would proceed to move into the field, if he were you.

If you are changing jobs, concentrate on asking about the company, its culture and philosophy, and plans for the future. Find out from your contact about his career with the organization. Ascertain if, in his opinion, your background would be fit into the existing structure, or if you could add value by bringing new skills and perspectives to the table.  Determine if there are other key people you should be contacting in the organization.

Whether you are investigating the possibility of a position or a contact with a particular company, or trying to get an overview of a career or industry, always consider how your conversation can be beneficial for both parties. By keeping your contact's best interests at heart you will create a win-win situation for the two of you and pave the way for other collaborative networkers as well.

After your meeting, always follow up with a thank you note. Sending a note is more than just a polite afterthought. It puts your name in front of your contact again, gives you a forum for saying what you plan to do next, and reminds your new acquaintance that you value her time and insight. Whether your thank you note is the final chapter in a brief networking association or the bridge to a more permanent relationship, it reflects your genuine concern for others and your superior understanding of net-etiquette.      

 Career Dimensions ● 214-208-1706 ●

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