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How to Win the Networking Cold Call

26 Jan, 2016

We’ve all been here before. There are people whom we could benefit from getting to know, and who would benefit from knowing us. So we try to attend functions where they might attend, but often they’re either not there or you don’t get to make the connection. Or you check LinkedIn, and they’re fourth degree, at best, from you. So, how do you make a credible connection?

Do you decide to take the bull by the horns and simply call them? You make cold calls all the time, so why not?  How much different could this one be? Well, the answer is – a lot. 

There are pitfalls when making a cold call to network – while there’s a clear path to success. I receive a lot of calls firsthand, yet unfortunately, many of those calling me get it very, very wrong.

Let’s look at how to do it right:

Plan and research. I’m not a big fan of extensive pre-call research because this is, on some level, a numbers-based approach. If you’re targeting one specific person with whom you’d like to build a relationship, it behooves you to have at least a basic understanding of them; what they do, etc.

For example, I receive calls from people who don’t do any or much prior research.  They’ve seen one article that I’ve written and want to ‘connect’ with me.  The problem is that they make all their assumptions based on the one article. If they’ve seen me in a copier hardware magazine, they assume I’m a ‘copier industry guy’ only – which I’m not. I’m a sales guy, and perhaps a bit more than that, but I’m not an industry guy, so dropping names that are prominent within an industry probably won’t be meaningful to me. At the very least, they/you should know what the person does, and if possible, what their desired target market is, and how they assist their clients.

Build a concise approach. This is one area where tele-prospecting and telephone networking are similar. If you waste someone’s time, you won’t get a second chance.  You should build an approach to your target contact that quickly establishes who you are, what you do (stated in terms of the value you provide to your clients), and why you believe the two of you should connect. Ideally, you should be able to articulate this in less than 30 seconds.

Drop the fake rapport. I’m from the Kansas City metro area. For many years, this has not been a fun place to be in terms of professional sports. At the moment, however, it’s very much a fun place to be which causes people to think they can build rapport by saying things such as, “How about those Chiefs!” or “How about those Royals!” I do love the Royals – and I spent a lot of money to watch some pretty awful baseball for a lot of years – but cold calling me that way won’t generate a win for you.

Articulate the win. In any good relationship there is a win for both parties. You should be able to anticipate and plan to explain a meaningful win for the other person. Whoever you’re calling for a networking relationship should be able to win by meeting you and knowing you.

Remember that it’s NOT about you. One of the greatest pieces of advice ever given to me came from my good friend Darren LaCroix. He said, “Remember, Troy, it’s not about YOU – it’s about the audience. Don’t worry about looking good, powerful, an expert on stage. Worry about whether the audience is getting what they need from the program.” When networking, it’s easy to start telling your entire professional life story – but don’t. Instead, give a quick thumbnail to establish your bona fides as a person that your contact would want to know, and then move on. It’s about THEM.

Get to the point. I had a call recently that violated that rule. My cell phone rang 20 minutes before I was to speak at a conference in Las Vegas. I took the call as I was all set up so had a few minutes to talk. The person rambled on about his professional history and that there weren’t many companies that do what he does, Three times I asked, “What can I do for you?” Alas, he never got to the point and I had to let him go.

Cold calls can work in networking – but you have to make sure that you’re doing it correctly by creating a win for the other person. Do that well and you can greatly expand your contact base.


Troy Harrison, author of “Sell Like You Mean It!”, “The Pocket Sales Manager,” and a Speaker, Consultant, and Sales Navigator, helps companies build profitable & productive sales forces with cutting-edge sales training & methodologies. For information on speaking, training, consulting, or receiving his weekly E-zine email Troy@TroyHarrison.com  or visit www.TroyHarrison.com

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