by William S. Frank
OK, so you have your letter to friends and acquaintances. The next step is to test it to see how it works, and to get comfortable talking about your situation.
When Proctor & Gamble launches a new laundry detergent, they don't roll it out to all 39,000 supermarkets in the U.S. overnight. They begin with small focus groups to test and re-engineer the product. They launch the product in stages to be sure it's well-received.
That's what you're going to do with your letter, and here's how:
Email is the language of today, so that is a good approach. If it's impossible to find an email address, use standard mail to a physical address. When I'm writing to important people, or sending a big invoice, I often do both. That way the message is sure to be read.
What's really important?
I once sent a letter listing my consulting services to a dear friend and good corporate client. I had consulted for her in three or four companies. When she received the letter she said, "I never realized you worked in all these areas!" Even our best friends don't know what we do.
Talking to friends and acquaintances about our situation is the goal. Getting advice and ideas about our materials is a side-benefit. Getting job leads is an unexpected reward.
Mechanics of getting it done.
I plan to send this update to a few trusted friends and colleagues, but before I broadcast the letter to a larger audience, I'd like your comments. First, does it sound like "me?" Second, is it too long, too short? Is it too friendly, too business-like, or otherwise off the mark? Did I miss something important about myself or my business?
As a trusted advisor, I really value your input. I'll give you a few days to review and then reach out to you to discuss.
Many thanks, Bill
If you send 12 emails or letters, you should begin getting replies on the same day. Yet everyone is busy, some would say super-busy. Sometimes we have to work hard to talk with our best friends.
If you haven't heard from a focus group participant after three or four days, give them a call. If they're not around, leave a message. Also, re-send your first email. Perhaps they didn't see it. It takes some arranging to connect, but it's well worth your time. This is where the big jobs come from.
It usually takes about a week to speak with a dozen folks. If you're more assertive, it could be sooner. If they're traveling, it could be later. Whatever you do, don't rush people or come on too strong. That is a turnoff and does more harm than good. Anyone who receives your letter should feel "This is a dear friend, a nice person, someone I want to help." Don't do anything hurry-up to destroy that.
What should I say?
Although the call is about me, and I really want advice, what I really want to do most of all is to renew the friendship and nurture the relationship. That's the goal: relationship building. Because if I've created a strong friendship bond, that person will keep me top-of-mind and look after me long after the call has ended. If a person feels taken advantage of, they will try to forget you as soon as the call is finished.
So I always begin a call by finding out about the other person. How are they doing, how's their family, how are they getting along at work? How are the children? This isn't just foreplay, it's an honest interest in friendship. People can tell if you're faking it. And if you're faking it, you're done.
I once had an executive coaching client who learned many things but never got this lesson. She'd ask about my family as she was scrolling through her phone messages. She gave me off-the-cuff impersonal gifts. I helped her get the ideal perfect job, but never considered her a friend.
Relationships are a two-way street, especially in the job market. When I'm talking to someone, I want them to feel very important, I want them to have fun, and I want then to take my second, third, and fourth calls as my career transition unfolds.
Here's what happens
READY. FIRE. AIM.
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