As a fearless networker, I find that it’s no use attending an event if you don’t follow up with the people you met. Without a doubt, follow up is the key to successful networking. Sadly, few people do it, and far fewer do it well.
Turn the tables and consider the impression you have of the people who never follow up after you’ve met them. How do you feel the next time you see them? Do they ever come to your mind in between? Would you refer them for a career opportunity if one arose?
Networking is a relationship. Here are five follow-up tips that will help you deepen these valuable connections.
Call instead of email.
Email might be quicker, easier and more comfortable, but I strongly recommend you avoid using email for follow up. To me, it’s highly impersonal and unprofessional. Pick up the phone and call.
The person may answer, or you may be required to leave a voicemail message. Be prepared to speak eloquently in either scenario. Write out and rehearse what you plan to say. Never put yourself in a position to be tongue-tied.
Give a clear reason for your call, generally to further advance the conversation from when you met, and explore how you can help each other. You may want to initiate another meeting over a meal or drink.
If leaving a voicemail, ask specifically that they return your call, and speak your telephone number slowly. Also let the person know that you’ll be connecting with them on social media.
Once you’ve made contact by phone, send a LinkedIn connection request to your new networking contact. Create a personalized invitation to remind the person where you met and state your purpose for furthering the conversation.
Along with LinkedIn, connect on all social media platforms where you both have accounts. Look through the person’s activity stream for content you can like, comment on, or share.
As your relationship progresses, over the phone, in person, and online via social media, explore the person’s hobbies and interests. You never know where you might find some synergies that could deepen your bond.
Take no for an answer.
Be willing to accept the word “no.” Not everyone will agree to meet with you if they feel it is not in their best interests. Be persistent, but don’t be a stalker. Three calls is sufficient before calling a halt on your efforts. You don’t want to offend the person as you’re trying to connect and make a positive first impression.
Networking is not a numbers game; it’s the quality of the relationship that counts. There may be some people you choose not to follow up with because you feel there is no synergy or mutual benefit to the relationship. Still, courtesy costs nothing. Thank them for their time and end the conversation amicably; you never know who might remember you and pass along an introduction or opportunity.
Networking doesn’t end when you walk out the door after an event or meeting. That is just the beginning! Use these tips to follow-up and build on what you’ve started.