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Seven Steps to Effective Networking Follow-up
Seven things to do before and after attending a networking event to make sure you get the maximum value from your investment of time and money…
By Brenda Thomson
12 Jan 2019
- Have a plan – know what you want to achieve and make sure you allow time for follow-up as part of your schedule.
- Let the answers to the questions you asked determine the follow up and you will know what to do and your follow-up up will be welcome.
- Take careful notes of what you promised to do.
- Do whatever you promised you would do.
- Categorise your contacts and have a unique strategy for each of them that reflects your business and your personality.
- Have an ongoing stay in touch strategy.
- Have good systems to make everything work smoothly and easily.
1. HAVE A PLAN
Effective follow up begins before you even left the house or office – you need to know who you want to meet and why – that is why it is so important to have a plan – otherwise how many potential opportunities will you miss out on because you didn’t recognise the opportunity when it presented itself. Luck is about recognising and seizing opportunities when they present themselves.
Focus on looking for the right connections and opportunities to help you achieve your business goals – I have yet to hear about a business objective that couldn’t be achieved more quickly, easily, profitably, or effectively with input from other people.
That’s why most large businesses use strategic alliances and joint ventures. It’s not for fun – it’s because it works – and it’s even more important in small business when most of us don’t have a team or only a small team to support us.
And that’s also why successful people surround themselves with networks of other successful people, either in the form of mentors or mastermind groups.
So step 1 of SMART Follow- up is to know what you want to achieve in the first place. Then you will be looking for the right people and asking the right questions to get your needs met. When you meet people who can help you achieve your goals, that will determine the way you follow up with them.
But wait a moment!. Remember I said there were two key reasons why 90% of people never follow up. One was lack of knowledge of how to follow up effectively the other was time, or more specifically the lack of it. You have to plan for following up, when you put an event in your diary, you must diarise follow-up time too, if you can’t do that don’t go to the event because it will be a complete waste of time and money if you don’t follow up.
I do a lot of networking so that is something I have to be very careful with, so I also know that you don’t need to despair if occasionally you don’t follow up right away. All is not lost… A phone call or a card, an apology and make the reconnection.
2. ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS
Yes I know you’ve heard this before too, but the questions you asked are a critical part of your follow up strategy.
Remember you were looking for:
- Ways you can help the people you meet (not necessarily as a potential client).
- People you can connect them with who can help them or who they can help.
- People that you want to connect with either to explore how you may be able to help each other.
- People who may be able to help you…
Asking the right questions is so exciting because it guarantees that your follow up will be easy and appropriate and WELCOME. Remember you only asked for their business card IF you had some reason for following up – we will go into HOW to follow up for different purposes shortly.
3. TAKE NOTES
The VERY First thing to do after a networking event is take notes so you don’t forget who was who and what you promised. You can do this as soon as you leave the event but another really cool strategy to deal with this is on the spot is to carry post-it notes with you to networking events. Then when you promise to do something for someone or you want to connect with them later, pull out your post it note pad, write yourself a note and stick it to their card. You can do it right in front of the other person and let them know that you want to make sure you don’t forget to do what you promised. They will be impressed that you are going to the trouble.
4. DELIVERING ON YOUR PROMISES
That goes without saying right? Remember when you asked for their card you told the other person how you were going to use it. Perhaps you were going to send them some information about something of interest or value to them. Perhaps you were going to introduce them to someone. Perhaps you wanted to follow up on the first connection with a meeting to see if there is some potential for a WIN WIN alliance opportunity. They are now looking forward to hearing from you. So whatever you said you would do – do it.
5. CATEGORISE YOUR CONTACTS AND HAVE A UNIQUE STRATEGY FOR EACH OF THEM THAT REFLECTS YOUR BUSINESS AND YOUR PERSONALITY.
1. People you have offered to help:
- The people that you can help with something that may have nothing to do with your business – perhaps some information or a resource you can send them.
- The people you can help as potential clients or customers.
- The people you can connect to a colleague either as a potential client or as a potential alliance partner.
2. The people that you want to explore the possibilities of some sort of an alliance with.
These are your most important connections – the ones that you will have SMART cups of coffee with, if they are open to the idea.
3. The people that you wanted to ask for help from.
Yes it is OK to ask for help – most people love to help – make sure that you look for ways that you can help in return and ALWAYS give them a way out.
4. Those business cards that you don’t know or remember why you have them.
Invariably you will end up with some business cards that you have no reason to follow up with. Perhaps they were a card thruster, perhaps you had a conversation but it just went no-where and the card exchange was a courtesy. Perhaps you simply can’t remember what you said you would do.
Now decide on YOUR specific strategy for each of the categories and sub– categories – obviously this needs to be something that works for you, your business and your personality.
HERE ARE SOME POINTERS AND IDEAS.
1. Just do it!
You need to deliver on what you said you would do – how did you offer to help? Were you going to introduce them to someone, give them a web address, send them an article? whatever it was DO IT!
2. Be an information giver NOT a salesperson
I STRONGLY suggest that you do NOT move straight into a sales process with someone you met at a networking event unless they have specifically told you they want to buy from you.
After all – what do you think when you get one of those impersonal salesy emails from someone you met at a networking event? Or even a sales call – it kind of takes the shine off the new relationship.
The next step is to build credibility and trust by not selling – instead have some sort of useful “something” that you can give them with your complements – this could be a sample, a free trial, a FAQ sheet, a hints and tips, a ten things you need to know about… – it must be something useful and valuable to the other person – not a sales pitch! NO NOT a brochure (unless the specifically asked for it). It must contain useful information. If you don’t already have something that you can use in this way then make sure you take the time to create or find something. It will make a huge difference to the success of your networking.
PS Do NOT add anyone you meet at a networking event to your regular e-zine or e-newsletter list without their express permission. Receiving their business card at an event does NOT constitute permission to add someone to an email list and can be regarded as SPAM.
3. Social Media
Connect with them on the social media. I particularly recommend that you connect on LinkedIn, however if you are an active Facebook or Twitter user then by all means connect there as well!
4. Potential alliances
If they are a potential alliance partner I strongly suggest a phone-call so that you can arrange to have the SMART cup of coffee. A chance to get to know each other better and work out if there is a possibility of working together for a WIN WIN outcome. A SMART coffee can be a virtual meeting on the phone or a live appointment but it needs to be a set time, a real appointment.
5. Nice to meet you
If you have no idea how to follow up because you don’t know why you have their card, send them a nice to meet you message – either by card or email or even give them a call and ask how you can help.
It’s up to you what you do with the card thrusters you may not want to build the relationship.
6. Have an ongoing stay in touch strategy
Once you have made the initial follow-up connection it doesn’t end there, the next step is to stay in touch.
This does NOT mean adding them to your regular email list unless you have their explicit permission to do so. Adding someone to an email list just because they gave you their business card is illegal. Of course part of your follow up strategy can and should be to ask them if they would like to be added to your mailing list!
Whether or not they ask to be added to your mailing list it is critically important to be organised, have a system and keep great records so that you can stay in touch.
In addition to your regular emails (I presume you do send those?), identify a number of touch points that work for your business and your personality and implement an ongoing “Stay in touch” strategy that will ensure that you continue to develop each relationship.
Remember the “Stay in Touch” strategy you implement will vary depending on the nature of the relationship you want to nurture.
This may vary from a simple staying in touch card or email once a year to remind them who you are, to regular phone calls, meetings, cards and even gifts. Once again you need to develop a range of processes that work for each of your categories of contacts.
HERE ARE TEN POSSIBLE TOUCH POINTS!
You may be able to think of more…
Things you can do include a phone call, an email, a card or a gift – whatever works for you and your business AND the nature of the relationship!
- As a follow up to the follow-up.
- If you offered them some help – was it useful?
- If you connected them with someone – how did it work-out?
- If you were exploring the possibilities of an alliance. Well the next steps should be obvious.
- When something significant happens in their lives or their businesses – keep an eye on their LinkedIn or Facebook profile if they have one so that you can respond appropriately to the highs and lows in their businesses and lives.
- When you find something that they may be interested in.
- When you see them in public or whenever you have a meeting.
- Birthdays and special occasions – one of the cool things about social media is that you often get to know peoples’ birthdays so you can recognise them.
- As a thanks for something nice that they do for you.
- When they become a customer of yours or a referral works out.
- When they buy a second time.
- If they give you a testimonial.
- On the anniversary of when you met them.
(Make sure you identify when, how and with whom you will use each of your chosen strategies)
CEO and Founder, Synergy48 Group
Brenda has an honours degree in organizational psychology and a Graduate Certificate in training and development and she is an experienced trainer, facilitator and counsellor. She is a firm believer in mutual collaboration combined with a practical, hands on tools, strategies and systems as the most effective way to achieve real results in business.
Brenda has over 20 years of experience training in communication, team work, time management, productivity, organisation and strategic planning in large organisations. She is also the developer of the Business Benchmarking Toolkit used by Synergy48 Group members and clients to identify areas for improvement in their business processes.
Brenda is a sought after mentor, speaker and trainer in the areas of strategic partnerships and networking with a difference. She is passionate about actively giving back to the community. In addition to donating her speaking fees and a proportion of every Synergy48 Group membership to provide microfinance to help women in Malawi to start their own businesses, Brenda has climbed the Himalayas to raise money for Kids Help Line and helped lay a pipeline to supply water to a remote village in Tanzania.