A Tricky But Priceless Way To Build Relationships

We’ve all been there before. There’s this person out there whom we believe we could benefit from knowing, and who might be able to benefit from knowing us. We go to the functions they are likely to attend, but either they’re not there or you don’t get to make a connection. You check LinkedIn, and they’re a fourth-degree connection at best from you. So how do you make that association?

You decide to take the bull by the horns and simply call them. Why not? You make cold calls all the time; how much different could this one be?

Well, the answer is: Very! There are many pitfalls when you make a cold call to network—and there’s also a clear path to success. I receive a number of these calls, and unfortunately too many people get it very wrong. Let’s look at how to do it right:

Plan and research. This is the opposite of my approach to cold-call teleprospecting; I’m not a big fan of extensive pre-call research in teleprospecting because that technique is, at some level, a numbers-based approach. The networking type of call is different; you’re targeting one specific person with whom you’d like to build a relationship. It behooves you to have at least a basic understanding of who the person is, what they do, etc.

I receive calls all the time from people who don’t do that research. They see one article I’ve written somewhere and want to connect with me. The problem is they make all their assumptions based on one article, so if they see me in a magazine for the copier industry they assume I’m a copier industry guy—which I’m not. I’m a sales guy, and perhaps a bit more than that, but I’m not an industry guy, so dropping names that are prominent within an industry probably won’t be meaningful to me. At the very least, you should know what the person does, what their desired target market is and how they help their clients.

Build a concise approach. This is one area where teleprospecting and telephone networking are similar. If you waste someone’s time, you won’t get a second chance. You should build an approach to your target contact that includes who you are, what you do (stated in terms of the value you provide to your clients) and why you think the two of you should connect. Ideally you should be able to articulate this in less than 30 seconds.

Drop the fake rapport. I’m from the Kansas City metro area. For many years, this has not been a fun place to be in terms of professional sports, but in recent months when our teams were winning it has very much been a fun place. This caused people to think they could build rapport by calling and saying things like, “How about those Chiefs?” or “How about those Royals?” It doesn’t work—with me or really with anyone else. I’m the most casual of football fans, so while I enjoy the Chiefs’ success, it’s not meaningful to me. I do love the Royals—and I’ve spent a lot of money to watch some pretty awful baseball for a lot of years, but cold-calling me that way won’t generate a win for you. And seldom does it work on anyone else in my experience.

Articulate the win. In any good relationship there is a win for both parties. You should be able to anticipate and plan to explain a meaningful win for the other person, preferably within the first 30 seconds, but beyond that if necessary. Whoever you’re calling for a networking relationship should be able to win by meeting you and knowing you. If there’s no win for the other person, you’re just grasping for coattails. Think hard. There has to be a reason that both parties can win with this relationship.

Remember: it’s not about you. One of the greatest pieces of advice ever given to me in my speaking career came from my good friend Darren LaCroix who said, “Remember, Troy, it’s not about you—it’s about the audience. Don’t worry about looking good, powerful and expert on stage. Worry about whether the audience is getting what they need from the program.” In a networking call situation, it’s easy to find yourself wanting to drop into telling your entire professional life story. Don’t. Instead, give a quick thumbnail to establish your credentials as a person whom your contact would want to know, and then move on. It’s about them.

For the love of all that is good and decent, get to the point. I had a call recently that violated all of these rules. My cell phone rang about 20 minutes before I was to speak at a conference in Las Vegas, and I took the call. That’s not a big deal—I was all set up, my technology worked and I don’t get my game face on until about 10 minutes beforehand. So, I had 10 minutes to talk to whoever was on the other end of the phone.

The caller said he’d met me three years before and wanted to ‘reconnect.’ He started rambling on about his professional history, what he did, that there aren’t many companies that do what his does (which I still don’t know what that is despite being on the phone with him for a while), etc. On three different occasions, I politely asked, “What can I do for you?” He even said, “I know, you’re saying to get to the point,” yet he didn’t. Finally—with 10 minutes to go before my speech—I had to let him go. I wasn’t trying to be rude, but it was time to move on, and if he couldn’t give me a reason why we should talk within the first 10 minutes, I was willing to bet that another 30 wouldn’t have made a difference.

Cold calls can work in networking just as they do in teleprospecting, but you have to make sure you’re doing it correctly and creating a win for the other person. Do that and you can greatly expand your contact base.

Troy Harrison is the author of Sell Like You Mean It! and The Pocket Sales Manager, and is a speaker, consultant and sales navigator. He helps companies build more profitable and productive sales forces with his cutting-edge sales training and methodologies. For information on booking speaking/training engagements, consulting or to sign up for his weekly ezine, call 913-645-3603, e-mail Troy@TroyHarrison.com, or visit www.TroyHarrison.com.