How to follow up and develop your relationships
“It was nice to meet you, let’s meet up for coffee someday!” Quite often this phrase is followed by the exchange of business cards, a handshake, and … the two people part forever. Why is this happening?
Perhaps each party hopes that the new acquaintance will be the first to follow up. Or one is shy, and the other is waiting for a good reason to call the number on the business card. But most often the real reason is the lack of the follow-up system.
Networking is not just about meeting new people, it’s about developing relationships. So let’s figure it out how to properly develop them.
Dealing with business cards
If you received business cards from 40 or 50 people at an event, you don’t have to contact all of them. After the event, carefully study each card and select those people who you would like to keep in touch with.
Digitize important contacts with a special app, for example, ABBYY Business Card Reader. This is one of the best business card scanners. Just take a picture of the card, and the app will transfer all the data from it directly to your smartphone or to the cloud storage. Moreover, the program will even find you the right person on social networks. Thus, the names and contacts printed on a piece of cardboard will now always be at hand.
Photos here and further: www.unsplash.com
You can find more tips on how to handle business cards in my article “5 Rules of Working with Business Cards”.
If the chat at the event invites to further conversation, you can ignore business cards and add each other as friends on social networks right away. Just take out your smartphones and do it. First, it will save you the time that you would have spent looking up the person on social media. Second, it gives you the green light for following up. You are already on the friends’ list, which means you are allowed to send private messages and set up offline meetings.
The 48-hour rule
The best time for the first follow-up is the next 48 hours after you met the person. Otherwise, there is a risk that he or she will not remember you. Getting in touch does not imply offering him or her a business partnership or taking part in a tender. Just a short message will do, for example:
“Hello, Peter! I was very pleased to meet you at yesterday’s conference. I found the project that you are currently working on very interesting, and I am sure that I can be helpful in that regard. I would be happy to keep in touch with you.”
When following up with people remind them where you met and what you talked about. You can also invite them to meet in real life again:
“I really enjoyed our conversation yesterday. I’m sure we have topics for further talks. What do you think about meeting for a cup of coffee next week and discussing how we can be helpful to each other?”
Another possible scenario for a follow-up is to bring value right away, even if it’s something small, for example:
“You mentioned that you are flying to Barcelona in a couple of days. With your permission, I would like to introduce you to a friend of mine who lives there. I’m sure he will recommend you some great restaurant.”
Social networks as an effective networking tool
One of my friends recently said: “Not having a profile on social networks is not only unoriginal, it’s just bad manners.” I happen to agree with that. After all, social networks have turned into one of the most convenient ways of keeping contacts active. If you are not registered there, do not be surprised that you were not invited to an important event or some people forgot to wish you a happy birthday.
And, of course, social media is the easiest way to follow up. In addition to sending personal messages, you can tag people, comment or share their posts, thereby gaining visibility, being recognized, provoking interest and establishing connections.
You can also send links to the resources that you think might be interesting to them. Follow their news and congratulate on the new achievements. In short, do not use such a valuable resource as social networks only for sharing funny pictures and posting photos of food.
What to do offline?
The option of meeting in a cafe is not the only format of live communication. For example, you are going to visit or speak at an event which may be interesting for your new acquaintance. Invite him or her there. Just don’t do it through the Facebook notification “Sam invites you to like the page”. Send a personal message explaining the benefits or the fun of taking part in this event.
If your acquaintance accepts the invitation, it will give you both many topics for discussions and reasons for following up.
By the way, the occasion for the meeting does not necessarily have to be business. For example, sports is a great way to unite people too. If you learned that your new friend is fond of skiing, snowboarding or tennis, just like you, why not invite him to join you on the court or a ski slope. That way you will have even more chances to build a personal trusting relationship.
Another way to do this is to be useful in matters not related to business: for example, helping a person find a babysitter or a maintenance man.
Could not find a great networking event? Organize your own!
You can get all interesting people together in one place at one time. For example, invite them to a networking party at your house, a BBQ in a park or an informal gathering at a restaurant.
That way you will kill two birds with one stone: connect with the people you want and introduce them to each other which they will be grateful to you for.
“I want to reconnect with the person I met a year ago. What should I do?”
If you did not follow up within the first 48 hours, this does not mean that you have no chance to restart communication. Here’s what I would advise in this situation:
- Remind the person where and under what circumstances you met.
- Explain the reason why you have not been in touch for so long, for example: “Today, I put on the jacket that I wore at that event last year. And I found your card in the pocket!”
Or: “All this time I was engaged in a big important project. I am sure that it will interest you, and I would like to tell you more about it.”
- Then use the tools I mentioned earlier. I would also recommend scheduling an offline meeting or at least a Skype call.
The main goal of following up is to bring the person to the desired level of your networking funnel. Have you decided that he or she will just be your contact? Or are you looking for a business partner like him or her? Or maybe you need a mentor?
The frequency and length of follow-up contacts will depend on your goals. You can find more about the levels of communication and the role of each person in your network in my article “From Acquaintance to Partnership. 6 Levels of the Networking Funnel.”
In the meantime, here are the follow-up stages we have examined:
- Go through the received business cards and decide which of these people you would like to stay in touch with.
- Digitize important contacts. Download a business card scanner app to your smartphone like, for example, ABBYY Business Card Reader.
- Follow up within the first 48 hours after you met someone. Send a nice friendly message, reminding the person where you met and what you were talking about. You can also suggest meeting in person.
- Keep in touch on social networks: comment on the posts of your new acquaintances, respond to their public requests, send them useful links and congratulate on important achievements in life.
- Invite to meet in person. Possible places: cafes, restaurants, business events, sports centers. You can also arrange a networking event for several people at home or outdoors.
- If you want to reconnect with someone who you met a long time ago, remind them of the circumstances of your acquaintance and explain the reasons why you haven’t been in touch.
- Decide on which level of your networking funnel you want to see this or that person. Based on this, determine the frequency and length of follow-up contacts.