Exchanging business cards does not indicate that you are establishing a relationship. Evidence of that is when you make plans to reconnect. So, stop obsessing over collecting as many business cards as possible because you end up with a stack of business cards on your desk. Focus instead on having conversations where you leave the person wanting to talk further.
Are You Good at Follow-Up?
Of course, following up is key to building relationships. When I present my Art of the Schmooze session, I ask participants to raise their hands if they are good at follow-up. Every time only a few tentative hands go up. This is why it’s essential to have strategic goals and a networking plan, so you’ll know before leaving for the event why you’re going and who you hope to meet.
I recommend writing a draft of your follow-up email before you go to an event. Writing this draft message will guide you through the steps of identifying who you’re most excited to meet (either a specific person or a general description), what you hope to talk about, and what you want them to know about you. You’ll find a specific guide for writing this draft email in episode 16, “Networking for Introverts.”
Writing this email draft will help you get in the right mindset before going to the event. You’ll enter more confident and with a stronger sense of purpose. Having clear goals and a strategy will help you meet people that you’ll want to stay connected after the event.
Track Priority Connections
At the event, separate the cards you were handed after only a brief conversation, from the ones where you spoke in-depth. This could be different pockets or just by turning down the corner of the cards you want to prioritize. Doing this will make it easy to identify which people you want to prioritize following-up with after the event. Ideally, you would also write a note on the back of each business card to remind yourself where you met, what you discussed, and any specific follow-up you had planned to do (or asked them to do).
Take a Photo
Personally, I like the physical reminder of receiving a business card, but I’ve also met people who have found it useful to take a picture of the business cards they want to prioritize. If you are disciplined about organizing your photos after each event, this system may work well for you. Even if you take home a stack of business cards from a conference, it might still be a good idea to take photos of the most important business cards—so you’re not risking losing those in the chaos of packing, traveling, and unpacking.
Since you already have a draft message, or perhaps have drafted several over time, and you have been keeping track of priority connections, you have set yourself up to follow through with follow-up successfully.
Schedule an hour within two days of every event or conference to do your follow-up. Actually, put it in your calendar. Schedule this before you leave for the event so it’s already on your calendar when you return to overflowing inboxes and a long to-do list. If at all possible, send messages to your priority connections while still at the event. This may lead to the opportunity to meet up again in person.
When the time comes, pull out the cards you had prioritized, open up your library of follow-up messages, and take a few minutes to personalize each message. Include a mention of where you met and what you had discussed. If you say, “It was good to meet you at the event,” that isn’t very descriptive and won’t help a busy networker place you.
There’s also a chance that they won’t respond right away, so you’ll want to give them enough clues that they can do so even after a short delay.
Concise and Clear
You’ll want to keep this message relatively brief, three short paragraphs or less. Sending longer messages often results in the recipient skimming, deciding this is an item they need to add to their to-do list, and then putting off responding. So you’ll want to be clear at the outset what you’re asking if you have a request.
Your outreach should be done within a short amount of time, preferably within forty-eight hours or at most two business days. We are all busy people, and likely the people you hope to connect with are even busier people. It’s safe to say that they won’t remember your brief conversation if you wait two weeks to send them a follow-up message.
My default is to send LinkedIn connection requests instead of email follow-up for all except the business cards I’ve prioritized. That’s because I know how awkward it can be to receive a “nice to meet you” email that has no next step—do you reply, “you too”?
Instead, those random cards I received at the conference receive a LinkedIn connection request with a quick note. This leave me time to do thoughtful follow-up for the conversations that felt more meaningful and have a clear next step (e.g., to schedule a call/Skype, a podcast interview, dinner invitation).
Some people are choosy about who they connect with on LinkedIn, so it’s important to send a personal note with each LinkedIn connection request. To do so, make sure you submit the request from that person’s profile page. That is the only way to ensure that you’ll be able to include a note with the request to connect. Reminding them where you met and what you spoke about will improve your odds of connecting on LinkedIn.
Of course, if you already sent an email with a specific request, you can also send a LinkedIn connection request.
Before sending the request to connect on LinkedIn, skim their profile to see what or who else you have in common. This will also be a good moment to see if they’ve been posting blog posts on their LinkedIn profile. Commenting on or sharing their blog posts would help you stay top of mind.
The other social media channel I recommend connecting with new contacts on is Twitter. This is particularly useful if they tweet regularly. That way you can stay on their radar by “liking” and/or retweeting their tweets—or replying to them.
Friending on Facebook after a brief meeting at a professional conference should not be the norm. If you connect through a professional Facebook group, then it feels less awkward to send a Facebook friend request. But be aware that some people very carefully keep their Facebook list small—just family and close friends—so your friend request may not be accepted.
That Device in Your Pocket Is also a Phone
It doesn’t need to be high-tech to be effective. Calling people to catch up would make you stand out in a world where “liking” someone’s post is considered engagement. When I interviewed Susan RoAne, networking expert and author of How to Work a Room(R), she called these “make HAY while the sun shines phone calls.” HAY stands for, “How are you?”
I’ve been trying to fit a couple of these in each week, and people have really enjoyed hearing from me out of the blue. It really is remarkable how personal a phone call is when we usually keep up with each other by reading Facebook updates or tweets.
As Susan says, “If we are a commodity or a service, we are missing the connection. The only thing that builds connections is conversation—whether online or face-to-face.”
Incorporate HAY calls into your life. Make a shortlist of six to ten people you want to reach out to, and whenever you have fifteen minutes to spare, give one of them a call.
That’s right, the device in your pocket actually makes phone calls and isn’t just for browsing Facebook, checking email, and playing the latest game craze.
Regularly Host Dinners
Hosting dinners is a great way to stay connected with people in between events.
Hosting private dinner parties has been a very purposeful strategy that has helped Dorie Clark, best-selling author of Reinventing You and Stand Out, build her professional network.
By being the convener, she is providing something of value for her guests, a welcoming space where they can meet like-minded people.
Dorie very successfully did this when she moved to New York City. In a new city, surrounded by millions of busy, successful people, she began to host dinner parties for up to ten guests.
When I interviewed her, she said, “I love to organize dinners. It’s a two-fold benefit—part of it is, I think it’s fun for people to go to dinner where they are meeting lots of people, it’s high value for them because they’re investing a couple of hours, but getting to meet eight or ten really cool people.”
This networking technique is beneficial for Dorie, not just for her guests. She said, “It also serves as a networking benefit for me, because I have a limited amount of time and often times there is a default in our culture to suggest ‘Let’s have coffee!’ That’s the standard thing people will suggest if they don’t have a compelling reason to do otherwise. And that’s nice, but if had coffee one-on-one with all the people who wanted to, I would never have any time in my schedule.”
She would also be highly caffeinated.
She said, “So instead, organizing dinner gatherings is a much better way to do it. I’m able essentially to do networking in bulk. Spending a few hours one evening every couple of weeks and getting to see tons of people, plus bringing together people from different facets of my life.”
One-on-One Reined In
As Dorie rightly pointed out, meeting for coffee with everyone who asks would leave her little time to work on her business. That said, there are times when a one-on-one in-person conversation is incredibly helpful, and there are ways to incorporate them into your schedule without getting overwhelmed.
The person I’ve most admired for this is Stephanie Chung, a speaker and coach who is known as the High-Ticket Sales Closer. She sets aside a specific day to schedule up to seven in-person meetings. She actually spends the entire day in one location, an upscale hotel restaurant.
Starting at 8:00 a.m. she meets with clients every two hours. Her last appointment starts at 8:00 p.m. That’s seven meetings in fourteen hours. You might not have Stephanie’s stamina to host seven meetings in one day, but that drive and determination are what led her to win sales awards while closing multi-million dollar deals. Apply some of her tips to your life to move toward your own audacious goals.
Sometimes staying in one location and having people come to you isn’t possible. If your job requires you to travel a lot, you might be in a different city every week. This is true for Chris Clarke-Epstein, a change management expert, prolific author, professional speaker, and
past president of the National Speakers Association. She’s on the road speaking throughout the year. Despite this, she manages to meet in person with a handful of colleagues in between conferences.
She does this by keeping track of where each of these colleagues lives and coordinates meeting up with them whenever she is going to be within driving distance from their home.
Social Media Has Its Limits
Scott Stratten, who was named one of the Top 5 Social Media Influencers in the world by Forbes.com, said it best when I interviewed him: “Nothing beats face-to-face. Virtual is not a substitute for face-to-face, it’s an addition or an enhancement.”
While social media does allow us to keep tabs on each other, it is not as helpful at deepening relationships. For that, nothing beats spending time together in person.
As Scott said, “Never substitute virtual for in-person. Nothing beats it. Virtual helps keep the connection going in between the in-person ones. It’s really important, and I would tell this to anyone who thinks they can just do this from their phone.”
Don’t Waste Your Time
These are just some ways you can stay connected. Try something new or do what feels most comfortable. Just do something. If you regularly go to events, collect lots of business cards, and don’t send any follow-up, you are definitely wasting your time networking.
Try to stay in touch even when you don’t need something, this could be a quick note of encouragement before a big event a contact is hosting or congratulations after they publish a book.
Set a Google alert for your key contacts so you’ll know when they are in the news, or keep an eye on the updates from LinkedIn. But don’t let too much time pass for your most important relationships and the ones you hope will become significant.
ABOUT ROBBIE: www.robbiesamuels.com/about
Business Growth Strategy Coach
Robbie coaches inspiring entrepreneurial women in their 50s and beyond (and a few awesome men) to grow their impact and income by building an audience before launching new revenue streams.
WHO YOU ARE:
You want to have a greater impact and increased income. The problem is that there are so many options for how to build your business that you can feel stuck, overwhelmed, and like you’re running out of time.
The reason options are overwhelming is that you’re looking at them as a series of disconnected steps when to make the most of your time, you need a strategy that connects only the most important and highest impact ones.
You know that if you try to do everything, you’ll accomplish nothing. This means, to achieve your goal, you have to invest in a strategy to put time on your side.
WAYS ROBBIE OFFERS SUPPORT:
As a relationship-based business growth strategist, Robbie will work with you one-on-one to design a year-long plan that consists of three 12-week sprints, each followed by 4 weeks of reflection/assessment, rejuvenation, learning, and strategic planning. This will allow you to sequence your goals, create momentum, and leverage your limited time.
Have a project that you want feedback on or need assistance with a specific strategy? He offers half-day strategy sessions.
Already selling but feeling stuck around how to increase your revenue? Sign up for a one-day mastermind with fellow entrepreneurs to break through to the next level.
Ready to dig into your network to validate a solution you’ve been working on to see if you can build an audience for it before launching? Sign up for 12 Weeks to Create Your Irresistible Offer program.
Want accountability, support, and guidance as you implement your strategic plan? Learn more about his year-long Wake Up Your Network mastermind program.
These are not right for everyone; they're personalized offerings and are priced accordingly.
WHAT MIGHT YOU WORK ON?
In his coaching work with entrepreneurs, his clients focus on the areas where they'd like to grow, which may include:
- Creating a strong sales conversation framework
- Building your referral network
- Lead generation through a relationships
- Growing your visibility in your industry
- Increasing your ability to attract the right kind of clients
- Identifying and launching a minimally viable offer
- Breaking through whatever bottleneck is holding you back from getting the results you want and deserve
- Becoming a published author and marketing your book successfully
- Improving your virtual presentation skills
LEARN MORE AND SCHEDULE A CHAT: www.robbiesamuels.com/coaching
Robbie is excited to support you in reaching or exceeding your goals.
Interested in booking Robbie to speak? At www.robbiesamuels.com/speaking you’ll find video clips and a description of his talks.
Watch his TEDx talk “Hate networking? Stop bageling and be the croissant!” at www.robbiesamuels.com/TEDx.
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