You go to a networking event and you meet a few people. Some people could become prospects and some could potentially refer you business. You get their business cards. After the networking event you get back to the office and put the cards on your desk where they just sit for a few days with no follow-up at all. Has this ever happened to you? I know I have done it.
The most important part of networking is follow-up. It is in the follow-up that you expand the relationship that was initiated at the networking event. The longer you wait to follow-up after the networking event the more erosion takes place to the new relationship. So, let’s agree we need to follow-up immediately after the event. If you can do it the same day that is optimal, but at the latest follow-up the next day.
A tip that may help you become consistent to follow-up immediately is to schedule your follow-up time at the same time you schedule yourself to attend the event. Actually schedule in your calendar the time you are going to follow-up with the people you meet at the event. This way you already have the time set aside to accomplish the follow-up in advance of the event.
Just as important as timely follow-up is trenchant follow-up. You want to have hour follow-up be effective and move the relationship forward. The best way to move any relationship forward is to keep your focus on the other person. Don’t think in terms of what they can do for you, but think in terms of what you can do for them. (that was in a famous inaugural address…well it sort of went something like that)
There is a good reason for not being “me focused.” Zig Ziglar, a famous motivational speaker, often says: “you can have anything you want if you help enough people get what they want.” So if you want to have success in networking don’t focus on what you can get, focus on what you can give.
Now, back to follow-up! Making your follow-up effective begins with the event. When you meet someone at networking event get information about them. Learn what they do in their business, what type of prospects they are looking for, what they like to do for recreation, etc. Then discretely write some notes on the back of their business card so you don’t forget.
Then, when you follow-up you can reference your conversation in your follow-up. You can follow-up with an email. Also, send a personal note which should arrive a couple of days later. Better yet you could send them an article that may be beneficial for them in their business. When you send the person something of benefit to them you are gaining favorable attention in their eyes. Approaching the new relationship in this way will be non-threatening and the person will be more likely to meet with you to further the relationship along.
Networking is all about establishing mutually beneficial relationships. Because people are so busy, it is very important for you to “stand out” from the crowd. Keeping your focus on the other person and following-up effectively is the secret to showing how you are unique and a professional in the sales game.