Great networking is an art with a little bit of science sprinkled on top. There isn’t a formula, checklist or handbook that will guarantee success. But there are qualities that are essential to building a strong network. The savvy networking professional is appreciative, strategic, humble, thoughtful, fearless and service oriented. S/he also understands that people are very busy. And no matter how much a person may want to help you, there is maintenance involved in doing so. So if the task is too time consuming or cumbersome…it will get left behind. And so will you.
You have gone three months without an introduction from your existing network – so something is not working. In order to course-correct, review your emails and/or verbal messaging, and try and assess them as objectively as possible (or ask a friend for an honest opinion). What’s your tone? Is your message thoughtful or lazy? Do you come off as entitled? Are you clear about what you’re asking for? How high maintenance is your request? Are you following up graciously?
Next…remember that people are busy. And the higher maintenance it is to help you, the less likely it will happen. So, make their effort as easy as possible. Below are the key ways to do so:
Be Clear About Your Ask.
Most professionals either beat around the bush or aren’t clear about what type of help they want. So be specific. Example:
- “Molly, it was great seeing you at the ABA event. I wanted to reach out because I’m building my network to include high quality bank finance in house counsel as part of my business development plan for 2018. I know that you are active and well-regarded in this community. To the extent you feel comfortable, I would welcome the opportunity for an introduction to a person or two you think would be great for me to know.”
As soon as people start feeling pressure to execute on your behalf, they start feeling resentment. So steer clear of entitlement, aggressive tones and repeated pings. Instead, acknowledge their busy schedule, express appreciation and don’t box them in on any timeline. The less pressure they feel, the more likely they are to help.
Write The Introduction For Them.
It takes time and thought to introduce two professionals-even if the introduction is brief. Professionals are also judged on the quality of their intro. So there is maintenance to the exercise. Because of this, people often procrastinate on completing this task, which can increase the risk your important introduction will disappear into the ether. By writing the introduction yourself, you make the task easy. Example:
- “Claire, I’m starting to think about my next move and as part of that effort, I’m building my network of venture capitalists. To the extent you believe there is someone who would be great for me to know, I would sincerely appreciate an introduction. I know you are busy and introductions create more work, so I’ve provided some language (below) that you are welcome to use if the opportunity arises. Many thanks! Beatrice
Hi Chris, I hope all is well. I’d like to introduce you to Beatrice Lam. Beatrice currently serves as the #2 lawyer for Company XYZ. Prior to this role she was a partner at Law Firm Q where she and I worked together as associates. Beatrice is interested in GC opportunities with private companies and as part of her search effort, she is building her network with high quality vc’s. Given your impressive background and occasional GC needs for your portfolio companies, I thought it would be great for you to know one another. I have cc’d Beatrice so she may correspond with you directly. Warmest Regards, Claire
Many legal professionals dread networking…mainly because they are unfamiliar with the best ways to ask for what they want. So they use approaches that compromise their efforts with results that speak for themselves. Effective networkers are made, not born. So go easy on yourself. Learn from your mistakes and continue the practice. And you’ll be on your way to Master status in no time.