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Networking Do's and Don'ts

Over time, your connections will grow. Co-workers will come and go, you’ll meet new people at networking events. Much of what I just described happens organically through the regular course of business. A former co-worker will be much more likely to refer your products or services to their new place of employment- something marketers call warm leads. An event attendee who proactively picked up your business card is more likely to purchase from you than someone who did not.

However, there will also come a time where you’ll need to expand your network through cold outreach. Do's and Don'ts with cold outreach are significantly different than warm leads. Here are two things you should do, two things you never should do, and why each of them matters.

Be intentional

There was once a healthcare executive who had a single goal: he wanted 500+ connections on LinkedIn. It didn’t matter who it was or where they worked. He simply wanted the badge showing he had a wide network. Many of the connections he made were barely affiliated with the services that person offered.

A far better approach would have been to strategically connect with those who could utilize the products and services that the individual was selling. That way, the potential new connection felt like they had a reason to accept the invite to connect rather than feeling relatively disconnected (and perhaps even annoyed at the invitation).

Be intentional with who you reach out to with cold outreach. Make certain that there is a reason to connect with them beyond a self-congratulatory badge on your social networking profiles.

Be professional

While I don’t think any of us ever sets out to be unprofessional, you’d be surprised at how unfocused some cold outreach can be. Most business executives can see through sales pitches, and in your eagerness to close a deal you can often turn the person away without even realizing it.

When addressing the other person, use proper terms: Mr. and Ms.

Show the other person respect.

And make sure you let them know that their time is valuable and that you genuinely appreciate their taking the time to chat with you or read your email.

Don’t make it all about you

There’s a fine line between being informative and coming across as self-centered. Case in point, personal information should be kept out of any first contact scenario: no one really cares that you prefer dogs over cats, for example.

Rather, focus on the needs of the other person and how you can help them with their particular problem. Be clear and concise about what you offer. Try to empathize with their situation, although you also don’t want to come across as too sales-focused.

If you’re reaching out to inquire about open positions at a company, be sure to emphasize how you can contribute to their firm. Don’t downplay what you can offer — know your worth, and how it can be an asset to them.

Don’t fumble the first impression

Each of us will employ a different method of cold outreach, based on who we’re trying to add to our network. If you’re using email, the subject line is critically important. Not only can a poorly written subject line send you to the spam folder, but business email is also sometimes a non-stop cat and mouse game. Be sure that your subject line clearly communicates your reason for reaching out.

If you’re hoping to connect with someone at a business event, be sure that your dress and attitude reflect the nature of those in attendance. You don’t want to come across as ill-prepared or out of place.

Finally, don’t discount the importance of a handwritten note. If there is a connection you’d really like to get to know, and you want to stand out in their mind, send them a letter through the mail. You’d be surprised at how few do this anymore, but it shows both creativity and outside-the-box thinking and will absolutely land the first impression.

The purpose of cold outreach

Intentionality, professionalism, focusing on the other person, and thoughtfulness all revolve around two central ideas: providing value and building relationships.

In fact, virtually everything we do in the business world connects to these two ideas. Ultimately, consumers buy from brands they trust. You can’t trust someone unless you have a connection to them, and often we only have connections with things that provide us with value.

Keep these two ideas at the top of your mind as you work on your cold outreach. Whether through email, initial meetings at conferences, or old-fashioned cold calling, focus on providing value and developing a lasting partnership with everyone you meet. This will make your cold outreach significantly easier and far more successful!


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