Tuesday, August 16, 2011

What To Do When Your Network Goes Cold

I got the following email earlier this week:

I am an interim management consultant.... who let my 90% of my professional network (1000+) go cold for two years. Whilst I let it go cold, I did spend years building it. For the last week, every day I write to a selection of contacts to re-warm the relationship. Truth is, I am looking for a work assignment and feel a little anxious to get work, but am determined to avoid the big networking mistakes. I am not asking them for opportunities or who I may contact at this stage.

Question 1:  How do I best reach out to my 1000 contacts? I publish a blog and I’m not sure whether writing to ‘all’ my network and letting them know about the few most recent articles is a good or bad thing to do. Bearing in mind that what I write in my blog is relevant to 90% of my network.

Question 2:  How & when should I best let my network know I am looking for work?

Here is my response:

1. Letting a network go cold is like leaving your wallet on a table in a bad part of town. It is lost opportunity.   The good news is that re-kindling relationships is easier than building them from scratch.

I think when you reach out to those whom you have lost touch you have to fall on your sword and admit that you failed in keeping in touch. While the people did not reach out to you either.... you have to take ownership of cultivating relationships or they will die out.

A group email or links to your blog is too impersonal. Your outreach needs to be a custom connection to each person. Also, email or using a social media tool is so over-used for this type of re-connect activity and you will get lost in the noise. 

Pick up the phone and call. Yep, 1000 calls.  If that is too many, select the 250 people whom you most want to rekindle the friendships.  If you did 10 a day you would be done in 3 months (25 days for 250 people). 
Be casual in your discussion and say something like "I thought of you today and realized we had not talked in far too long". Let them know you appreciate knowing them and hate the idea of a connection to someone important going stale.  Ask if there is anything you can do to help them. Ask them what is their biggest challenge. Etc....

Some of these people will be indifferent to your call. Others may wonder what you really want (we live in a world where too many are suspect)... but some will be thrilled to hear from you. Grasp onto those people and then follow up with emails, and invitations to have coffee, etc....  

Once you warm up these contacts, NEVER MAKE THIS MISTAKE AGAIN!

2. Not calling for years and then calling when you need a job sends a message that says "I am a taker who only shows up in our business community when I need something". Thus you have to wait a while to jump in with your needs of finding work. 

If they ask, and some will, that is a different story. But be clear that while you are looking for opportunities, it is not the purpose of your call.  Be clear about the situation that made you realize your failure in letting contacts expire... and the purpose for your call was to reconnect. At least in America, people are very forgiving when you admit your mistake.

Most people want to help others.  However with over three years of the tough economy has made many people sick and tired of hearing from old friends who are only calling to find help in getting new jobs.  If your are not sincere in wanting to re-connect for the sake of the friendship, they will see through it and become jaded by your self-focused motivation.

Good luck.

****Anyone have any other suggestions for this person? Leave a comment.

Have A Great Day.

thom singer


JibberJobber Guy said...

And then get a CRM system, like www.JibberJobber.com (my company), so you can forever manage where you are at in each relationship... keep track of names, numbers, conversations, set times to follow-up, etc.

1,000 is a lot of contacts, and you can't manage all of the follow-up in your head, or else another two years will fly by.

Mark - Leadership501 said...

Prioritizing that list is probably the most important thing he can do. Maybe he'll make it through the entire 1000 people, but he needs to make sure his efforts are first spent on the ones that are most likely to 1. be glad to hear from him and 2. be good long term contacts.

While it might not be a good way to re-instigate contact, doing some type of yearly, bi-yearly or even quarterly mailing may not be a bad idea--particularly with his career. It could be a newsletter with things related to his industry or even just a personal letter. ideally customize it by writing handwritten notes or tear sheets for each person. I'd go with mail over email because you can make it more personal and everyone already gets too many email newsletters.

He may be able to spin the fact he is looking for a job into the reason he is re-initiating contact without appearing desperate. For example, something along the lines of how he just finished a long term contract and now that he has some time he is trying to reconnect with some people he hasn't spoken with for awhile.