Networking is crucial to any small business. Whether you’re looking for clients or vendors, who you know will make a difference in the deals you can find. That can translate into attending a lot of networking meetings. Just showing up, though, isn’t enough. If you want to make the most of your networking efforts, you need to follow up with the people you meet. Whether you send out personal emails after an event or pass along opportunities, you’ll get the most out of introductions if you follow up with a real relationship.
The Importance of Follow Up
Phelan Riessen knows networking. Not only is he a serial entrepreneur, but he runs RefreshSD and has helped bring together events like BarCampSD. He can attend more than fifteen networking events in any given month.
Riessen points out the importance of follow up: “Chances are you’re not the only person they met at a networking event. They‘ll forget you soon after unless you’ve made a grand impression on them. People need constant reminders you even exist. The sweet spot used to be six interactions with someone before they may even consider buying from you. Now days it’s up to ten times or more. And don’t even think about getting any business directly from a networking event. Longevity, consistency, reminders and rapport are what will eventually drive the business back to you.”
A Follow Up Method
In order to follow up on the stack of business cards you take home from a networking event, you have to have a process in place. Riessen’s process is relatively simple:
- He marks an ‘X’ on cards during the event to note warm or hot leads. Riessen points out, “In some cultures you should not write on their card so be careful about doing so in their presence.”
- After he leaves, Riessen writes the date and event on the front of each card he received, so that he remembers where and when he met that person.
- He gets the data into a format he can use. While manually adding information to a spreadsheet is an option, Riessen suggests either using a service like CloudContacts or a virtual secretary so that you can spend your time on actually making calls or sending follow up emails.
Once you’ve got your information in to a format that you can more easily handle, it’s time to actually reconnect. If you made a point of saying that you could send your new connection specific information when you met, you may already have a reason to do so — but even if you don’t, you should still reach out.
“Don’t be afraid. Pick up the phone. Set up a meeting or lunch date. Follow up and build that rapport,” says Riessen. He points out that even if your new connection doesn’t buy from you, he may introduce you to your next sale. Even something as simple as emailing out a report on an important topic affecting your industry to each person you meet can help spark the conversations that turn someone you met at a networking event into a connection who can help your business grow.
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