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Networking 201: The Referral Meeting: Introduction

The referral meeting has three parts: the introduction, information gathering, and the close. Today we’ll address the introduction. We’ll deal with the other two parts in subsequent posts.

So, you’ve been referred to me by our mutual acquaintance, Bob, and you are now stepping into my office.

How enthusiastic am I about this meeting? The answer most likely is, not very.

I don’t know who you are, I don’t know what you’re doing here, I don’t know that you won’t ask me for a job, even though you said you wouldn’t, and I don’t know what my role is in this meeting,from which there is no escape, as you are blocking my way to the door!

I don’t really believe it’s as bad as this. By the time we meet after scheduling the appointment, I’ve most likely reconciled myself to the meeting. But you may as well prepare for the worst,because everyone you talk to will have these four issues to one degree or another. If you don’t address them right up front, this will be a very short,unproductive meeting.

Just as the employment interview frequently starts with, “Tell me about yourself,” the referral meeting frequently starts with, “So, what can I do for you?” Almost everyone will ask you this, because they really want to know! They have those four issues!

“First, let me say thank you for taking time out of what I suspect is a pretty busy day, to see me. Let me just explain again why I’m here. I have this background (insert your background here), I’ve done these kinds of things, and, while I can tell you more than you would ever want to know about what I’ve done, how I did it, and who I did it with, what I can’t tell you is what’s going on in the business community at the moment, what companies have moved in, who has challenges, who has opportunities, and so forth. You can help me today by giving me some insight into your view of what’s going on, perhaps an evaluation of my skills and abilities, and some suggestions as to where they would best fit. Let me just say again, I’m not here to ask you for a job. I am here to get information that will help me put together an effective job search. Is that okay?”

There are as many variations on this as there are people looking for a job. The point here is that you’ve told me who you are, you’ve told me what you’re doing here, you’ve told me again that you won’t ask me for a job, and you’ve told me what my role is. You’ve dealt with the issues.

Let’s look at a couple of things here. You can use my words if you want, and if you can make them yours. You can use your own words. But there are a couple of things that you must say, word for word.

The first is, “Let me just explain again why I’m here.” One of the issues that you must address is, “What are you doing here?” Most of the population wants to know the agenda for a meeting before the meeting begins. This is a warm, fuzzy way of saying, “Okay, listen up. Here comes the agenda.”

The other thing you must say is, “Is that okay?” at the end of the introduction. To move on to part two,information-gathering, you must get a“yes.” The only way to get one is to ask for it.

Finally, there is the statement,“I’m not here to ask you for a job.” This is critical, because everyone else who came in here saying what you’ve been saying did ask for a job!

It is this statement that causes me to relax, and to be willing to cooperate with you in this meeting. Knowing that you won’t ask me for a job means I don’t have to find something wrong with you(see the posts on interviewing), and we can develop a relationship.

When I role play with clients, their most common mistake is, instead of saying, “I’m not here to ask you for a job,”saying, “I’m not looking for a job.”

Liar,liar, pants on fire! If you’re not looking for a job, why are you here? Do you do this as a hobby? Of course you’re looking for a job! Saying you’re not looking for a job is lethal! If you want, you can say, “I’m in the early stages of a job search. This is the research phase.” But what ever you say, you must promise not to ask for a job, and then you must honor the promise!

So, now you’ve dealt with my issues, and we can move on to part two. I would guess that, properly done, the introduction will take from two to ten minutes, depending on the other person’s desire to interact. We’ll deal with part two in an upcoming post.