In my blog 6 Steps to Successful Networking, I gave an introduction to networking:
- Consider your business objectives and chose the right event
- Research and reach out to the hosts and attendees via social media beforehand
- Arrive shortly after the event starts
- Talk to people! And listen to what they can offer
- Exchange contact details
- Get in touch with the people you met
It’s this final step, following up with the people you meet, which is where many entrepreneurs and business leaders fall down.
Who Do I Follow Up With?
You could meet dozens of new people at a busy networking event, but not all of them will become mutually beneficial connections. Networking and meeting people is time-consuming. Unless you want to become a professional networker, identify the most important contacts in some way. At the event, or soon after, make a brief note on the card or fold the corner over so that you can easily find them again later. I place business cards into different pockets in my jacket depending on whether I should follow up immediately or simply add to my network. You will now have a smaller group of people who you made strong connections with, who you could potentially collaborate with in the future.
Back at the office, I stack the business cards I into 3 piles; the ones for immediate follow-up, those I can offer an introduction for, and those who I would still like to connect with, but the mutual benefits are not immediately obvious.
Use Email or LinkedIn to Engage
Now you have a focused list you can start to contact the people you met. Email and LinkedIn are perfect for this as you can give your new contact a brief reminder of why you should talk to each other. Calls are good too, but don’t be offended if the person at the other end of the phone does not recall everything about you straight away! In addition, due to the high numbers of unsolicited PPI and accident claim calls, many people no longer answer the phone to unrecognised numbers.
You’ve met lots of people, right? So have your new contacts. Remembering who everyone is and why you want to follow up can be hard. Try to add something personal to your initial contact. Include a note of how you can be of assistance to them and make sure you include a call to action. For example:
Some of the best leads I’ve had from networking events are the friends of friends. I spoke to someone this week who, after I introduced myself, told me that he has a friend who is also an ex-accountant how is now building software for accountants and offered to introduce me. We had a call yesterday and will be meeting up to talk about collaborating very soon.
Record You Conversation and Goals
Even if you had a great conversation and you think you’ve found your perfect customer/connection, don’t worry if they don’t reply right away. They’re probably very busy people, who have taken time out of their day to attend an event or conference and will have things to catch up on. At the same time, you don’t want to just fire an email and forget!
This is where a great contact management process will help you. I use a combination of HubSpot CRM, Evernote, LinkedIn and hand-written notes to help. Here’s my process:
- I add the contact details of the individual and their company to my HubSpot CRM system. I can then use this to track interactions with them and add notes. You can also use the contact details for sending mailshots with newsletters and promotions etc. I’ve seen people do this with paper files too, but at Octopus Blue we aim to be as paperless as possible. We also travel a lot and need the data to be available wherever we are, so cloud CRM is perfect for us.
- I also connect with people via LinkedIn. It can be hard to remember everything you talked about and everyone’s background. A quick look at their profile can help to jog your memory and maybe you already have mutual connections you did not already know about.
- Next, I send an introduction email, similar to the example above.
- I write a brief note on the business card, for example:
- LI – connected on LinkedIn
- HS – added to HubSpot CRM
- Email – introduction sent
- Take a photo of the business card. I then save them to Evernote (you could also add them to HubSpot, but I prefer Evernote for this). At this point, the card can be recycled. Feel free to store them, but they’ve served their purpose now and they’re just adding to clutter!
When you meet up, continue your conversation and learn more about your new connection. However, unless you specifically agreed, this is not – I repeat NOT – a sales pitch. Talk about the virtues of your business – you’ll almost certainly be asked about them anyway, but give first. Don’t expect anything in return. This is about building connections, not making sales.
Of course, once you understand your new contacts problems and requirements and you have identified that your product or service can fulfill that need, defiantly arrange a sales meeting!
Networking is a great way to build new connections, but that is all wasted if you don’t follow up.
Focus on who to follow-up with and send a friendly, personal message by email or LinkedIn. Make sure you record your details of your contacts and make notes – use your organisations best practices. Remember, think about what you can offer – give first.
Finally, enjoy meeting up and building your business!
Octopus Blue will help you to expand your business network, with consultancy and advisory services to help define and monitor your company vision and mentoring services to assist you and your team achieve them.
Contact email@example.com 07974 717713 to discuss further.