Telephone networking is particularly effective, as unlike letters and email it is a two-way process. It is also immediate, so you must know what you are doing before you pick up the phone. It uses special techniques which must be learned and mastered if you are to make the most of your network of precious contacts.
Like most things you will only succeed (and just as important) retain the friendship and assistance of your contacts, if you set about networking in a structured, proven and organised way. But, remember, it is not about phoning contacts and asking them personally to give you a job. That’s the worst thing you can do! It puts them in an embarrassing and defensive position.
Telephone networking techniques
There are three basic types of networking calls BUT the same rules apply to all of them.
- People you know well – these are probably the ones most people find easier start with as it will be the most personal and informal. It’s a good way to start to improve your technique before moving on to people you don’t know so well.
- People whose name you have been given by a contact or mutual acquaintance. So you have an introduction – and the key to the door.
- People you call on spec or possibly as a follow up to a direct letter approach or people identified after research.
Whichever of these types of call you make the same rules apply. Like most techniques there is a right and wrong way. If you don’t prepare, be prepared to fail. And worst still you run the risk of embarrassing or alienating your precious contact.
So before you call you need to be clear what you want to achieve and how to handle the call to get the best response. You will of course have researched the person and the company beforehand, using tools such as LinkedIn, so you can conduct a knowledgeable conversation.
How to get past the gatekeeper
Get to know the PA/secretaries by name – get them on your side. You will need polite perseverance to get through to the person you want. It may need a number of calls to get through to the person you want to speak to. Often using the name of the contact who suggested the call will help getting put through by the gate keeper. If the person you want is genuinely not available at that time always ask, “What is the best time you suggest for me to call back?”
Prepare and rehearse a response to the question “Tell me about yourself”
You will only get one chance to sell yourself and you must be ready. Make it no more than a minute – some say less. It will be necessary to customise your response for each call you are making, based on your research. If you are not asked this question directly then say something like “Would you like me to tell you about myself”.
Use your contact
Have the name of the person who gave you the contact ready. Be prepared to play that card early and frequently through the discussion. This is your introduction – the key to the door – your bridge to the person you are calling and the reason why they are perhaps more likely to talk to you and help you.
Objective of the call
When you get through to the person you want avoid at all costs giving the impression that you are desperate and are expecting them to give you a job themselves. This immediately puts them on the defensive. Your objective it to get advice and information about what is going on and where there might be opportunities now or in the future.
Try to get them to agree to a meeting, not an interview. If you can get a meeting you are then in a better position to sell yourself- face to face.
If you cannot get a meeting then ask for other contact names who might be able to give you more information and advice.
Check list after each telephone networking call
- Ask if it was convenient time to talk?
- Mention the name of the contact who referred me early in the call?
- Ask for a job? Preferred answer NO!
- Get agreement to a meeting? Good – but did I then go on to undermine the value of meeting by asking for further contacts before you meet?
- Ask for further contacts, if I didn’t get a meeting?
- Offer a CV or preferably a 1 page narrative profile?
- Resist the offer of getting passed to Human Resources?
- Offer lots of thanks?
- Remember to make notes of what was discussed and what was agreed?
(Use the Post Interview Analysis form on our website. See Advice Menu.)
- Offer to ring back on a certain day and time – Put this in your diary and make sure you do it.
- Remember to tell the person who gave me the name of the one I just rang to keep them informed of the outcome
Telephone networking is not easy, but it does get easier with practice and increased confidence.
Remember these 4 simple rules
- Use your contacts name early
- Never ask for a job – you want advice and information
- Try to get a meeting OR …
- If you cannot get a meeting ask for further contacts