The Do’s of Cold Calling Your Network
The art of conversation is the art of hearing as well as of being heard.
William Hazlitt (English essayist, drama and literary critic)
Recently, a former coworker of mine reached out to speak with me about graduate school and to get general career advice. Considering we only met a couple of times before and haven’t spoken in several years, she did an excellent job at what could have been an awkward conversation. I have witnessed and heard about many painful “cold calls” where the conversation was filled with yes/no answers and extended pauses. These were usually connections that came from contacts at networking events, career fairs, friends of friends etc….The challenge with telephoning someone that you don’t know well is that you don’t have the advantage of facial expressions and body language to know how your conversation is being received. It takes a bit of planning, self awareness and intuition to pull a cold call off with grace.
After we ended the call, I remember feeling really good about the conversation and for the next 30 minutes or so, my mind was occupied with how I could help her even more. She motivated me to act, and in that moment I tried to figure out what she did so well that others have failed to do. The conversation was organic, engaging and just overall pleasant. Here are some of my observations on what she did well that I thought I’d share:
She Was Direct: From the start of the conversation, she explicitly stated what she wanted from me and why she reached out. I wasn’t left guessing about why were talking and how I could help her. It gave me something actionable to think about and act upon.
She Told Her Story: She was prepared to tell an engaging and succinct story about her life. It was not just rote regurgitation of her work history but also a lot about why she made the decisions she made and took the opportunities she took. She didn’t lean on me to lead the conversation and by giving me a rundown of her history, I was better able to give advice and tell my story because I had context on what mattered to her.
She Kept a Light but Focused Tone: She maintained the balance of moving the conversation forward with smart questions while making it personal and explaining why she was asking her questions. Her tone was about business but still friendly which can be hard to execute over the phone.
She Did Her Research: She did her research on me and asked pretty insightful questions that were not intrusive or creepy. She already knew the “what” from my LinkedIn profile so her questions to me focused on the “why” and “how.”
She Honored My Time: We started on time and ended on time. She kept track of the conversation and concluded the conversation in a graceful manner. As we approached the thirty minute mark, she started to recap key topics we discussed and talk about next steps so that when the half hour was complete, we could end in a natural way. She was respectful of my time which I really appreciated and left me with a feeling that I was talking to someone that I could refer to my network for additional guidance.
The above advice is really just guidance on tenets that I think are universal protocol and that everyone should try to follow when making a call to a professional connection.
Hope this helps you when the time comes.