Many networkers feel awkward about approaching a cold contact – someone they do not know. Yet reaching out to new people is an important part of expanding your network and constructing a successful job search. Here is a step-by- step guide to warming up a cold contact:
- Get an introduction. Being introduced by a mutual connection is one of the easiest ways to warm up a cold contact. People are far more willing to meet, network and connect if you are introduced by a mutual friend.
- If you can’t come introduced, introduce yourself, making a connection or commonality clear. You may say you heard the person speak recently, or have admired their work, or went to the same college, or share a common background. Share something that makes very clear how you came to be aware of the person and what you have in common.
- Make your intentions clear. Don’t make your cold contact wonder if this is a sales call or a request for a job. Make clear you are seeking connection, information, input and feedback. Clear objectives increase the chances the other person will be willing to invest some time in you.
- Be flexible about the terms of the connection. Some people are comfortable with an email exchange but reluctant to get together. Some will do coffee but not lunch. Some will meet in their office but not at a coffee shop. One power networker asks new connections to take a mid-day walk with her during her lunch hour. She is happy to share her expertise while getting some fresh air and exercise. Be willing to meet on your cold contacts terms, whatever they may be.
- Invest in a little research on your new contact. Don’t waste time asking basic background questions that can easily be answered by looking at a LinkedIn profile. Flatter your contact by being well versed in his or her background and using valuable time together to dig deeper.
- Speaking of LinkedIn, check out the profile picture. If meeting in a public place, it’s smooth and professional to know what your new connection looks like and be able to recognize him or her, walk up and introduce yourself.
- Treat even a coffee date like an interview. Dress well, come prepared, take notes, thank at the beginning, at the end, and in a follow-up email. While you are not asking this person for a job, you are taking valuable time, and asking your new contact to help you. Do everything you can to impress.
- Offer to pay. This gesture will come across as warm and gracious. This is one reason coffee meetings are preferable to expensive lunches. It’s nice to be able to say, “You’re being so generous with your time, let me get your latte for you.”
- Be genuine. While it is good to make your new connection feel valued, don’t overdo it with flattery and fawning. Relax and be yourself and the warmth will quickly develop.
Many people struggle with making cold contacts, but the more often you do it, the easier it gets. Remind yourself that the difference between a cold contact and an established one is simply that you have not gotten to know the cold contact yet. Follow the simple steps above, and that contact will soon be sizzling.