A consultee recently asked me the following:
“I am wondering what is the fine line between contacting and annoying people. Now I want to learn more about sales….I have considered getting a sales job so that I could build up my contacts…..”
This person is currently between jobs, and exploring options. She’s wondering how many times she can call/email someone before she starts becoming a nuisance. In most cases, she’s contacting these people to ask for information about their company, their job, and so on.
My personal rule is that I will attempt to contact a new person about twice, and if they don’t respond I will move on. One phone call, and a follow-up email, is enough to let you know if someone is willing to help you. In some cases, I will leave one phone message, then call back at different times of day but without leaving a message. If I know people who know them, I may try to find out if they are on vacation, or there’s some other reason why I’m not getting a response.
But just as important as how often you contact someone is the content of that contact. If you are always only asking for things, you can bet you will soon have trouble getting anyone to return your calls. The true secret to networking is to give as much as you get, and giving more than you get is even better. Send someone an article on a topic they are interested in, pass along a tidbit of info you heard about a cause they care about, and so on. Look for opportunities to provide information and do things for others, and you will go a long way towards strengthening your relationships.
And that’s really what networking is – building relationships. You don’t want to just know of people, you want to know about them, just like you want them to know about you.