You already understand the importance of networking for growing your business. So, you’ve attended a handful of networking events, met some interesting people, and acquired a handful of business cards. Now what?
If you wait for your new contacts to reach out to you, you’re leaving your business growth to chance. They might misplace your card. Or you might simply slip off their radar – after all, they’re busy too. Therefore, you should proactively contact them.
How do you follow up with a new contact you barely know without coming across as aggressive or awkward? The five suggestions below can help.
1. Write on the back of each business card, noting the date and event where you met the person. Jot down any noteworthy personal information the contact shared with you (e.g., family, interests, business challenges, etc.). Mentioning these details will help you reestablish rapport with someone later.
2. Connect with new contacts on LinkedIn and/or Twitter. This is an easy, unimposing way to stay within reach of someone. Viewing a person’s profile or past tweets can offer insight into interests, recent accomplishments, and business needs. These can serve as personable conversation starters and help you identify ways that your products or services can meet that person’s needs.
3. Send an interesting article, based on what you know about a contact’s business needs, industry trends, or other interests. This can effectively position you as a valuable resource and give you something to discuss the next time you’re in touch. It works especially well if the article addresses something you two discussed when you initially met or if it indirectly promotes something your business offers.
4. Offer to take a new contact out for coffee. One-on-one time together can help solidify a relationship and inspire candid conversation. Taking the steps above will ensure you have something to talk about. Additionally, the great thing about a coffee meeting is its flexibility – if the conversation is thriving, you can linger in a café as long as you want; if the interaction is bumpy, you can limit it to a brief outing.
5. Seek out previous contacts at future networking events. Many of the same people often attend various events within an area, so your chances of running into them again are good. While you should continue to connect with new people, make sure to also reconnect with previous contacts to strengthen and maintain those relationships. Introducing your existing contacts to others at an event can enhance your image as a valuable resource and earn you bonus points.
Of course, as with any business activity, networking and follow up should be outcome-oriented. While you must be careful not to jump into a sales pitch or a request for referrals too quickly, it’s also critical not to lose sight of that aim. Listening to contacts and referring back to what they’ve told you can help you build rapport. Establishing yourself as a valuable resource can help you build credibility. And these elements, along with diligent follow up, are among the building blocks of a productive business relationship.
Shelley A. Gable is an instructional designer and freelance writer. She writes articles on topics related to training and business for print and online publications. Shelley has developed training for functions such as financial services, call centers, and engineering education. For more information, visit Shelley’s website at http://shelleygable.wordpress.com.