In my many meetings with individuals and groups as a networking coach, it has been my experience that those who complain most that networking doesn’t work are those people who fail to follow-up. They get excited at the event, collect a handful of business cards that end up in a stack on their desk. None of it means anything unless you follow-up. Many have a love/hate relationship with networking. No follow-up is the number one mistake made by most networking underachievers. These people often give up on networking without ever investing enough time to make it pay off.
The lifeblood of a profitable business is strong, healthy, and mutually beneficial relationships. Following up with new contacts within 24 to 48 hours after a networking event will make you standout among the majority of networkers and keep the momentum going. Why? Because most networkers don’t do it effectively. The longer you wait, the less interested you will appear to them.
When I meet someone at a networking event who sparks my interest and I would like to know better, I immediately write the date, name of the event and something to help me remember them on the back of their business card. I also carry small, white labels to stick on the back if the card is too slick on which to write. Follow-up starts when the conversation starts. I do my best to set the foundation for follow up when we first meet, provided I think this is someone that might be a good contact, then I initiate the follow-up.
When you follow-up promptly you enhance your personal brand; demonstrate your competency, and you cause them to remember you favorably above others.
Before you follow-up, it’s important to have a clear understanding of the purpose of the follow-up; to know what you should talk about once you have the opportunity to sit down with someone face-to-face. The goal in networking follow-up is to discover how you can work together to the benefit of both! Profitable relationships, formed between like-minded visionaries, are built on trust, and developed over time.
This first meeting is never about you! Never! This is the exploration stage. Never ever make it about selling your product or service. I usually try to visit their office rather than have a lunch or dinner. I make it very clear that I want to see their business and learn as much as I can about them and what they do. You must build a relationship with your new contact before you ever start talking about doing business together or exchanging business leads. I’ve heard some people describe these first follow-up meetings as informational interviews.
I will often skip an e-mail follow-up and pick up the phone to arrange a time to get together. I suggest you do the same. Often trying to come up with a subject line in an e-mail will not get their attention. Following-up with a personal connection helps you differentiate and solidify the relationship. I’ll use e-mail to follow-up after the first meeting when we have something to talk about.
• Mention the meeting where we met and the conversation.
• Refer to something specific that came up in the conversation, especially a mutual interest.
• Suggest a visit to their office to determine how we might work together and to continue the conversation.
I want them to know that I want to get to know them on a personal level, then business with each other may come from that or not. The quickest way to turn off someone that you just met is to view them as a prospect. Be aware that not everyone is a match nor will everyone be receptive to you no matter what you do or say. If not, just move on. Let it go and don’t take it personally. If that happens to me, I will send them a nice handwritten note with my business card wishing them well and a suggestion of staying in touch.
Another great way to stand out from the crowd is to ask the “right” questions about them and their business because most people like to talk about themselves. Remember to “listen” to their answers. Listen more than you talk. I ask open-ended questions designed to avoid a yes or no answer. It’s important to be sincere and truly interested in them and what they do. My purpose is to leverage the relationship to something more than networking. If we click and are like-minded, I want them to be a friend first. The possibility of a referral partnership comes later.
That kind of attitude, the right posture, and an engaging smile usually goes a long way in attracting an ideal contact. I want to know their business, and listen for ways we can effectively work together. I offer my assistance. I have yet to find anyone who does not appreciate an attitude of sharing. You will be appreciated for generously sharing what you know and what you do, giving others just one more reason to recommend you to those who are in need of the service your business provides.
Establishing long-term relationships by following-up will allow your new contacts to know, like and trust you. That makes you someone that people will love doing business with. Schedule time to stay in touch with your new contacts by commenting on their social media status; sending them articles or information that might be useful to their business; sending them holiday, birthday and anniversary cards; or getting together again.
Watch what my friend, Kathy McAfee, has to say about follow-up:
BONUS articles: Are You Fouling Up in Your Follow Up?
Seven Steps To Building Your New Relationships Through Follow-Up
Your Networking Fortune is in Your Follow-Up!
5 Ways to Use Follow Up to Achieve Results
Copyright © 2013 – Larry James. Adapted from Larry’s latest book, Ten Commitments of Networking: Creative Ways to Maximize Your Personal Connections! Larry James is a Professional Speaker, Author and Networking Coach. He presents networking seminars nationally and “Networking” coaching by telephone or one-on-one. Something NEW about Networking is posted on this Networking BLOG every 4th day! Visit Larry’s Networking Website at: “Networking HQ!”
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