This question has perplexed me since before I started teaching people how to network. In the early 2000s, when I was fumbling my way through learning the ins and outs of networking, I remember being so annoyed that people didn’t follow up when they said they were going to.
These seemingly well-intention new contacts would throw out the proverbial “let’s do lunch” line and I would be left hanging waiting to share a meal with them…a meal that would never come. As is so often the case in a small city, you would run into these let’s-do-lunchers again and they would spew the same false promises. Usually with the same enthusiasm as the first time seemingly unaware they had forgotten the last.
At first I wondered what I did wrong. At the time, since I was quite insecure, the natural tendency was to blame myself thinking it was my fault that these people didn’t keep their word. After a couple of years of seeing this “let’s do lunch” pattern, a young professional comes to realize – and dare I say comes to accept – that the majority of people don’t follow up after networking. What a shame.
Another pattern also became clear. Those who do follow up are the ones who have the most influence in the community. They are the master networkers who have huge, meaningful networks representing a wide range of people and industries.
Now you may be thinking, “I know some pushy people who follow up way too much and they are far from influential master networkers!” Yes, for sure, there are those people too and upon reflection; here is what I see as the difference between the follow-up masters and those who come off as pushy.
The Differences Between Master and Pushy Networkers
The master networkers are able to recognize where a potential contact fits in his or her network and matches the follow up appropriately.
The annoying networker treats everyone as if they are in their target market and enters the sales cycle without any qualification if there is a need or want for their product or service.
There are 3 main categories of people who you’ll meet at an event:
#1 Target Market: Your ideal candidate to be considered a potential lead (please don’t tell me “everyone” is in your target market, it’s not true and I mean that with all the love and respect possible).
#2 Connectors: These are the people who may not need or want what you have to sell but who can offer so much more to your life than just that. They may be able to connect you with others, mentor you or stretch your vision for life. Or maybe you just really “click” with them and want to develop long-term relationships.
#3 General contacts: These are the people with the lowest priority for follow-up. They are people who you will (or maybe won’t) remember meeting but there is no identified reason to follow up again; at least not at this time. Unless you threw out a “let’s do” in which case they are a priority to follow through on that task.
After an event, when you collect the business cards from your purse, categorize them as a category 1, 2 or 3. Usually I just put them in their respective piles and move into follow up right then.
Now I know some of you may think this is not very nice to put a new contact lower on the priority list. I understand this as well. As women we want to be nice, but as entrepreneurs we need to be strategic about our networking if we want to see results in the least amount of time. Determining where contacts fit into your overall network is extremely important – especially if you are strapped for time!
In terms of setting priorities for follow up when you return from a conference or local networking event this type of simple categorization system makes it really easy to determine what steps needs to happen next.
If you can, schedule an appointment after the conference to manage all of your follow ups. Then, you have time set aside to make it happen and you can become one of the rare few who actually follows-through on the follow-up.
This is Part 3 of a four part series on networking at conferences. Please read Part 1: Networking: How To Effectively Mingle With People at Conferences. Also you may be interested in Part 2: Networking: What To Do With All Those Business Cards.
When trying to network with new contacts, what techniques do you use to follow up with people you just met? How do you make sure you follow-through on the follow-up?
Allison Graham worked as a receptionist during the day and a bartender at night. Thanks to learning how to network effectively in a short period of time she changed her life’s direction creating a huge network and a successful career in the media, politics, business and charitable sectors. Realizing the power of networking and being forever grateful to the people who showed her the way, Allison Graham has made it her personal mission to help others reach their true potential by teaching them practical networking strategies that actually work!
Allison Graham writes the column and blog for the London Free Press & syndicated throughout Sun Media called Getting Connected: The Art of Networking and has been featured in the Financial Post, Globe and Mail and on BNN’s MoneyTalk. You can learn more on Allison’s website ElevateBiz.com, you can chat with her on Twitter @AllisonDGraham, and connect with her on FaceBook at ElevateBizTraining.
Photo courtesy of Flickr.