If you’re networking with well-connected professionals, chances are they hear “Can I pick your brain?” a lot.
Personally, that phrase makes me cringe, even though I’m a firm believer in networking. Aside from it being obviously one-sided, it just sounds unpleasant (pick my brain?). So, even though I’m inclined to help, not everyone will be or they may reluctantly offer you a brief phone call, expecting the meeting to be lackluster at best.
That, of course, defeats the entire purpose of networking, which is to create an ambassador – someone who will introduce you to others, be on the lookout for info to bring back to you, and possibly even recommend you for open roles down the road.
Here’s how to tip the odds of creating an ambassador in your favor!
- Invest in them first. Check out their LinkedIn, social media, or webpage. Research their company. Read their blog or find articles they’ve been mentioned in. Show an interest and they’ll be more open to offering their time. An opener like, “I’ve been enjoying your blogs and would love to know more about your point on…” works every time!
- Be a contortionist. The more flexible you are with your schedule, the more likely you are to get a meeting. Maybe they have a free 20-minutes at the airport while waiting to board the red-eye on a Sunday night – make it work!
- Have military precision. A lot can be accomplished in a brief phone call if you plan. Prepare a 30-second self-intro, perhaps share a common interest you found on social media, and then choose two questions that relate to your contact’s expertise (and that cannot be found on Google). Stick to the agreed time. If you’re truly networking, this will be your first meeting, not your only meeting.
- Keep the ball in your court. The goal of the initial meeting is to plant a seed for subsequent meetings. Create a strategy for follow up (e.g., request an introduction to another contact, report back after implementing their advice, etc.). Building relationships is a multi-step process that you must drive forward.
Oh, and please come up with something better than “Can I pick your brain?” when reaching out. That one change alone will win you mega points!