Making Networking WORK
So you met an amazing contact at a networking event? What do you do next, without coming over needy, creepy or desperate to sell?
Networking events are my bread and butter. It’s where I make great connections with people most relevant to my business. It’s also where I can put people in touch with each other and be most useful to my existing business contacts.
My network contacts have been great for me. At nearly every networking event I attend, there’s someone worth following up with. Not to just buy my services, but often because I know they will be a great advocate for what I do. Great network connections become, in effect, my outsourced sales team.
So, how do you follow up on an exciting new contact, when you’ve met them for five minutes, surrounded by a bunch of other people? Once you’ve done the “Business Card Shuffle” and they’ve moved on to the next little group, how do you stay top of their mind? How do they get to know, like and trust you enough to pass business your way?
To help you, here’s my guide to Networking Follow Up, and building the foundation blocks of a good business relationship.
Neither a stalker nor a Bushwacker shall you be!
Before we start, here’s one thing to remember – you need to engage with your new contact.
Engagement does not mean following them on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat etc and then never speaking to them – that’s stalking! No one likes that …
At the same time, engagement also doesn’t mean ambushing them at every opportunity, throwing email after email at them, pestering them on social, sending flowers … that’s just creepy. You’re demanding attention without offering any value in return.
Real engagement means listening, talking and offering value. Here’s how you can do that.
Step 1 – Link In And Follow on Social
Easy to do, now that you have their business card. Find them on social media and follow them and their company pages. LinkedIn is perfect for this, so make use of it. There are even tools like Evernote that will scan a business card, add their details to your contacts and request a LinkedIn connection for you. That’s good, but it can be a bit impersonal. So, you need to consider …
Step 2 – Making it Personal
Add a personal message to your Linkedin request. Mention where you met, and if you can remember it, something you talked about when you met. That way, your new contact knows you are interested in them – and, let’s face it, you are interested in them, so why not show it?
If they post something really interesting or valuable to you on social, like it and comment on it. Say why it is so good. That’s what engagement is all about.
Step 3 – Direct Email
I love LinkedIn and use it all the time, but not everyone checks their messages four or five times a day like me.
A direct email is more personal and shows you have taken the time to follow up. Thank them for linking in, say it was good to meet them. You don’t have to throw all your ideas of how you can help each other in this first email, but a 1-2-1 request or contact referral at this stage is a good start.
Step 4 – Be Useful and Valuable to Them
Being valuable is the key to all business relationships. Prove to your contact how a relationship with you could add value for them. If you prove your worth, they are more likely to make use of your services or advocate you and your business.
I always think about passing on:-
- Referrals – who do I know that they should be in touch with
- Valuable Content – what can I send them that will be useful in their business setting?
Valuable content might be a guide, or checklist, a document or just something I’ve read that will help them.
But it has to be valuable! Just sending someone a freebie because it’s free will not make you memorable or valuable, it will simply pigeonhole you as just another pest trying to sell to them.
Step 5 – Arrange a 1-2-1
Networking events are good for meeting people, but they don’t give the opportunity to really drill down into a business connection’s possibilities, especially not when you have two minutes to chat, with coffee in one hand and a plate of food in the other.
1-2-1s are the lifeblood of networking. Once you’ve established a connection, with your new contact, ask for a 1-2-1.
Give the reason why it would be valuable to meet. It might be that you have referrals for them, or that you believe there will be some synergy between your businesses.
Don’t be afraid to state this openly. Many small business owners are very busy and are naturally skeptical of endless 1-2-1s where nothing more happens than coffee, chat and a vague promise to “look around for them”.
There’s a whole guide I could write on having successful 1-2-1s, but the key is having an outcome goal, have something valuable to offer and stick to time!
Step 6 – Follow Up On Your Promises
Promised to put them in touch with someone at the 1-2-1? Do it! That day within 24 hours.
Promised to give them a quote? Do it the minute you get back to the office or home. Don’t wait or delay, that way, you slip from their mind.
Step 7 – Maintain Contact and Maintain Usefulness
Even if nothing came of the first meeting, maintain contact, you never know when they might suddenly give you the best deal of your life. With their permission, add them to your email list. Share their blog/pulse posts on Linkedin. Invite them to networking events where they might meet more relevant people.
Remember, in business Karma is real! What goes around, definitely comes around.