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Posted on Mon, Nov 22, 2010 : 6 a.m.

Your networking benefits from specificity in all requests

By Greg Peters


Actually I needed to talk with a PhD, not an M.D.

Illustration by Penny Matthews

I've talked, repeatedly, about the importance of having a target market. Having a specific target market helps your networking connections help you better. It gives them a mental picture of what and whom you are seeking. It also helps you focus your networking activity to put you in touch with either members of your target market (good) or members of non-competing industries which serve your target market (better).

Now, I'm going to suggest that any networking request benefits from specificity. Remember, being exacting in the description of what you want isn't for the purpose of cutting out opportunities. Instead, it's just letting people know what you would prefer. We've already covered your request for business referrals in some depth before. Let's look at some other requests.

Suppose that speaking engagements are part of your prospecting process. You might ask the various members of your network for speaking opportunities. If you just say "speaking opportunitiesm" though, then you would be happy anytime you are in front of an audience, from a church group, to a trade show, to haranguing passers-by in a public park.

Maybe that does work for you, but I'm guessing you actually have something more specific in mind when you are asking for such an opportunity.

  • How big of a crowd did you want?
  • How long did you want to speak?
  • Did you expect to be paid?
  • Should the group serve a particular industry?
  • Are you willing to travel? How far?

How about writing opportunities? How specific could you get with them?

  • Did you want to write for a company newsletter? A magazine? A newspaper?
  • Local? Regional? National?
  • How frequently were you planning to write?
  • Do you expect to be paid?
  • What topics did you want to cover?

Even personal requests could benefit from a more detailed approach. What if you needed a recommendation for a doctor?

  • Did you need a dentist, an eye doctor, a thoracic surgeon or something else?
  • Is this for you or someone else in your family?
  • Do you need someone local? Where is that?
  • Which insurance would they need to take?

In networking, specificity is the tool for us to ask for what we prefer. Take a few minutes before the next time you ask to really narrow down all of the important details. Not only will it help your networking partners think of someone, but it drastically increases your chances that whomever they come up with will actually be the person you want.

Greg Peters, founder of The Reluctant Networker LLC, writes, speaks and coaches about good networking practice. For more tips that can help your connections count, go to