One of the clichés we are want to trot out when it comes to networking is that it isn’t the turning up that wins work, it’s the follow up.
As with all clichés this has only written itself into BD folklore because it is absolutely true. If you are going to invest time in networking, you need to make sure you are ready, willing and able to do the follow up.
As we looked at in the first part of this series, networking is about making a connection and if that connection is going to yield results (in terms of direct opportunities or referrals or introductions) you have to stay in touch and keep building on your conversations. Here are some practical tips that may help:
1 Do what you say you’re going to do
One of the steps to successful networking is to skip the sales pitch (very unattractive and all too obviously self-serving) and try and help people.
If someone you are talking to mentions they are looking for a good accountant or property agent, offer to introduce someone from your network; if someone needs a local tradesman, be prepared to send them the number of someone you trust; if someone needs an opinion on something that one of your colleagues could provide, offer to put them in touch.
Any introduction you can make will save that person the time and hassle of tracking down themselves and your generosity should mark you out from the unenlightened souls still launching straight into their pitch.
2 Leave a foot in the door
Offering to make an introduction is an easy way to ensure you have a natural follow up step but if that opportunity doesn’t present itself there are many more. You could offer to send an article you or your firm has published, you could offer to send a link to a news story relevant to your conversation, you could offer to send a link to an album or a book you talked about or to a restaurant or pub you mentioned.
One of the best stories I’ve heard involved a Head of Chambers who having talked about an upcoming Majorcan holiday with a solicitor at a local event followed up by personally delivering an old guide book he had on his shelf. The solicitor was so impressed she immediately increased the number of briefs she sent Chambers.
It doesn’t matter how you leave your foot in the door, only that you do. The phrase I always use so that I know my foot is in the metaphorical door is “when I get back to the office what I’ll do is ….”; when I get that in, I know the door will remain ajar.
In the old days you used to send (or should have sent) a ‘nice to meet you’ email. Now I think it’s professionally acceptable to send a LinkedIn invite with a personal note.
It’s not only quicker and more efficient, it also makes sure your new contact is brought in to your network and reminded you exist every time you post or share an update or article without you having to expend any extra energy.
4 Add the name to the relevant marketing list/s
Your new business cards will do you no good at all sat at the back of a drawer or under the hole-punch on your desk.
Once you link in make sure you pass your new cards to your marketing team (or to the person responsible for your marketing admin if you don’t have a marketing person) so that they can be added to your marketing lists and receive all of your future communications, updates and invites.
5 Saw this and thought of you
The tips above are all things to do straight after you meet someone. This is something you can do at any point. It also gives you a great excuse to reconnect if/when a new contact has gone a bit cold.
All you need to do is send a link to (or better still) a cutting from a magazine or newspaper that relates to a conversation you’ve had with someone with a short note that tells them you ‘saw this and thought of you’.
And remember the link doesn’t have to relate to work. It could relate to sports, holidays, dining out or anything else you chatted about. In fact, the personal approach often works best as it a) flatters the recipient and b) marks you out from the work-related traffic they’ll be receiving.
6 Use Outlook
If you’re anything like me and hugely underestimate the time that’s passed between the last points of contact, sticking a quick reminder in Outlook to call/email someone to invite them for a coffee can be massively helpful in terms of managing your follow up. It only takes seconds but it will stop things falling between the cracks and again, the fact you’ve remembered them a few weeks or even months down the line will be flattering and help you stand out from the ‘only tried once’ brigade which will pay dividends.
7 Use lists
While I need a prompt to get back in touch with people, I do have a worryingly good memory for who likes what, drinks what, goes where and supports who. However many of our clients don’t and I have seen them use the notes function on their phones or tablets to great effect. They’ll put different lists together depending on who likes golf, rugby or football or who particularly likes to be invited to breakfast updates or to roundtable events or who likes to be told about the opening or discovery of a particularly good restaurant.
It may sound a bit OCD but it adds real relevance to your ‘saw this and thought of you’ activity. It also means that you know exactly who to invite to specific events which will immediately increase the take up and the likelihood their attendance will put them in the right frame of mind to introduce you to a potential piece of new work or a potential new client.
If you’d like to discuss some new ideas on how your team could follow up and/or reconnect with new or existing clients (or any other aspect of your business development) just send me an email and we can arrange your first free 45 minute session. Alternatively if you’d like a free copy of our networking tool kit, click please here