Always Follow Up

January 15, 2014

 

The Third & Really Important Step

Lots of people make the effort necessary to adequately prepare for networking events. Many more attend receptions, cocktail parties and other get-togethers. In my experience, only a select few follow up with every one of the contacts they made at a particular event. And, of course, it’s those few people who really excel as networkers.

Immediately after each and every networking event, review the business cards you collected. Make notes on the back of them recording information regarding shared or personal interests as well as potential business needs. Are you both fans of a particular celebrity chef? Jot that information down. Have you both added a particular player to your individual fantasy football league? Make note of all that information and more.

Soon thereafter, enter your contact’s information into whatever contact management system you use. Obviously, you want to record names, email addresses, social networking handles, and so forth. To the extent it’s possible, also make note of the additional personal information you’ve gathered.

Then, get ready to follow up and transform your new contacts into valued members of your network

 

Actual Follow-up

In most cases, your initial follow-up will likely involve sending a series of quick emails. With regards to those messages, I recommend the following:

1. Include name of event in subject line.

2. If it’s a professional contact start with “Dear” end with “Sincerely.”

3. Make sure to write, “I enjoyed meeting you.”

4. Reference something you discussed.

5. Include your contact information.

6. Keep it short, to the point.

You may wish to include an invitation to meet face to face. To the extent you do, you’ll facilitate the relationship-building process that lies at the very heart of successful networking.

For your initial follow-up meeting, consider an invitation to meet over a cup of coffee or other beverage. It’s a less expensive option than lunch or dinner and generally requires less time. Should a meeting go particularly well, you can always order a second beverage. After that refill, you and your new contact can always arrange for a lunch at some future date.

Use these meetings to identify and better understand your new contact’s goals. Understand that networking is all about creating mutually beneficial relationships. Look for ways to help others accomplish their goals knowing that your efforts will likely be rewarded.

As part of your follow-up, determine whether you can serve as a “connector” for your new contact. Connectors generally know people from a variety of different backgrounds. They are particularly adept at bringing people together. So, if your new contact expresses an interest in learning how to paddleboard this year, and you happen to know someone who is an expert stand-up surfer, help connect these two people as quickly as possible. You’ll be viewed as incredibly valued by all concerned.

 

Don't Expect an Immediate ROI

Too many students and new professionals come to networking with the mistaken belief that they should be able to attend one event and walk away with a new client or deal. The truth is this rarely occurs. Building an effective network requires an investment of time. In my own case, sometimes years have passed between meeting a new contact and signing a contract.

At the same time, make sure others are aware of your interests.

Eons ago, I came across a book about women lawyers and marketing. It’s a hefty 500-page tome, and as far as I’m concerned, the most important content appears in a few short paragraphs near the book’s end.

In Getting Down to Business: Marketing and Women Lawyers, Deborah Graham wrote:

One woman general counsel said that, with women, the form of marketing is constantly “We must get together for a meal.” The meal is pleasant. The talk touches upon weather, politics and other subjects of interest.

And “99 percent of the time,” she says, the women never get to the point. “Well if I can ever do anything for you, please give me a call.” They do not come out and ask for business or acknowledge openly that this is what they are after.

In my experience, asking is not a gender-related issue. If you want something, nine times out of ten, you’ll need to ask. So be prepared to do just that. Ask a new contact to serve as a mentor. Inquire whether someone might act as a connector on your behalf. Then, think long and hard about the assistance you can offer in return.

 

What You Need To Know

Successful networkers know that active and sustained follow-up is critical to the relationship-building process.


 




 



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