Are You Building And Nurturing A Network? Or Falling Victim To Strategic Errors?

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I often talk with clients about networking, both in person and online through social media sites like LinkedIn. In this series, I’ll write about some of the most common strategic errors I see. Strategic Error: Be impatient.

You are not other people’s top priority.

People—whether they are the top professionals in their area or not—are busy. They have their own clients, businesses, families, hobbies, health concerns, vacations, and ambitions. Those concerns almost certainly come before responding to a networking inquiry from someone they don’t know.

This means you need to be patient when networking.

Don’t try once and then give up if you don’t receive an immediate response. Don’t assume that lack of immediate response equals lack of interest. Your email might have been caught by a spam filter, opened and then forgotten about, or is languishing among hundreds of other emails that the person hopes to respond to whenever he or she gets a chance.

Send an email and then let a week go by. Then send another email, and let another week or so go by. Then leave a voice mail restating your inquiry and interest.

All your attempts at contact should be, of course, friendly and upbeat. They should not be judgmental and demanding—after all, the person you are contacting doesn’t know you and doesn’t owe you anything. Even his time is not free, since time is a limited resource. The time he gives you comes with a cost to him; it is time (perhaps billable time) taken away from something else.

I generally recommend a “three strikes” rule: try to contact the person three times, through different mediums over a few months. If you still don’t get a response, then you can let it go.