When it comes to the Beatles and Paul McCartney, I have always been on the fence about Paul’s post Beatles career with his band Wings. I missed the Beatles but was grateful still to have McCartney’s voice and lyrics in my life. One of my favorite McCartney songs from the Wings era is “Let ‘Em In” from the 1976 Wings At The Speed Of Sound album. From the song:
Someone's knockin' at the door. Somebody's ringin' the bell. Someone's knockin' at the door.
Somebody's ringin' the bell. Do me a favor. Open the door and let 'em in.
As I muse about networking during the coronavirus pandemic, I know with a high degree of certainty that now is not the time to let up on your job search networking activities. If anything, the elimination of face-to-face meetings combined with our increased desire for social connection has improved your odds of securing virtual networking meetings. But to land that meeting, you need to know how to knock on the door and convince your target to let you in and establish a connection.
Years ago, in sales, there was no email and no LinkedIn to help open the door for the first meeting with a prospect. The tools of the trade were a telephone or hand to knock on the door as you were making cold calls. Times and technology have changed cold calls for the better. Most of us screen our phone calls now, and rarely if ever, do we pick up a call from a number we don’t recognize. And knocking on doors, uninvited, sounds dangerously close to stalking. Email, and most importantly, LinkedIn have changed the cold call into a warm call.
To build your professional network, you must have exploratory meetings. To get the exploratory session, you need to be able to “open” the metaphorical door and convince your target prospect to agree to meet with you, by phone or in person. Easier said than done. My rule of thumb is that one-third of the people you reach out to are decent human beings and will be open to networking and mentoring. You just need to reach out to them strategically, professionally, and in an engaging manner.
Strategic: Strategic means that the prospect is in your database of potential network contacts. That means they have experience in or knowledge of your target industry, target company, or target position. Additionally, they may be a referral from one of your previous exploratory meetings. Strategic means that you did not just wake up today, see their profile on LinkedIn, and decide to reach out to them. And strategic means that you have invested time to research the prospect on, at minimum, LinkedIn. Research means that you have learned enough about the prospect to develop a list of insightful and open-ended questions you would like to discuss with your target.
Professional: Professional means that you reach out to your target prospect with a well-designed email or LinkedIn InMail message. Focus on three elements in your outreach.
Who you are and precisely how you came across this individual in your networking process (referral or research).
What is your networking rationale for reaching out to this target prospect (the knowledge, background, or experience that they possess and which you value)?
What are you specifically seeking from the contact (focus on a phone call or meeting and delineate the time frame with 20 minutes as an excellent entry point)?
Engaging: Engaging means to add some heart and some passion into your outreach. No one wants to meet with a robot or a drone. An email or a phone call with personality and human connection significantly increase your close rate (i.e., acceptance to schedule the meeting). With LinkedIn today, your engagement doesn’t have to be cold. You can use the LinkedIn platform to “warm-up” the target prospect before you formally reach out by email or phone. View the prospect’s activity on LinkedIn and like or share relevant posts across your network. Engage in that manner for a couple of weeks, and you increase your visibility as a known and warm commodity when you contact the prospect for an exploratory meeting.
The final element of the process to open the door and land the exploratory meeting is persistence. Get yourself used to rejection, and don’t take it personally. Your first outreach may be met with radio silence. Wait a week and try again a second and even a third time. After three attempts, if you still have not received a response from the target prospect, move on to greener pastures. The reason you developed a target prospect database of up to 450 individuals is not so you could meet with 100% of those contacts. You win if you succeed in connecting with one-third of your prospects.
If you are scheduling meetings at a rate of one in three or higher outreach attempts, your process is working, and all you need is to keep up the pace and continue the outreach. Below a 33% close rate, you will need to examine the outreach process you are using more closely. One or more elements in your process are broken. Most likely, your outreach communication needs refinement along with a more focused research process on the target prospects.
Networking and exploratory meetings ARE the way, in all probability, that you will land your next job. In fact, networking is a skill and an activity you should maintain throughout your career. And in the face of a global pandemic and recession, now is the time to redouble your job search investment in networking. Put your foot on the accelerator and start knocking on those doors. Paul McCartney will let you in!
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Dan Troup is the Managing Director of the AdvantEdge Careers coaching service. If you are interested in learning more about how a job search expert and certified career coach can assist you, please contact AdvantEdge Careers for a free initial consultation.