Don’t discard the benefits of networking

Networking for those on the way up almost always involves a degree of effort and angst. Not to mention your valuable time. But so many professionals drop the ball when it comes to following up on that outlay.

As Deborah Shane from Sales 3 says “Follow up has become a bit of a lost art.” She continues: “Following up with people in a thoughtful and strategic way should be the standard that defines your professional style, as well as the professional style of others in your network” .And while that’s all very nice, it’s actually the only logical way of reaping gain from your investment.

Deborah offers these tips to make sure that your follow-up is great follow-up.

(1) Practise the 3 Ps:  Be prompt, proactive and patient

Following up with people as soon as you can with your thank you, introduction, information or any request … shows your respect, interest and that there is value to be shared.

… Focus on preparing and sending a thoughtful note, letter, social media post. Let people know specifically what you enjoyed about meeting with them and what you see as the next steps.

An example might be: “Dear Bill, I really enjoyed meeting you at the ABC Group yesterday and our conversation about the importance of ‘branding’. I will send you a great article I saw about this.”

Also, (make sure you ) review their main social media platform and activities, blog, video or podcast and get familiar with what content they feature. Use this information in conversation starters or to feature … in one of your posts.

Be patient with people responding. There are so many things … going on in people’s lives. If they don’t respond in a few days, then send a respectful reminder or note that simply says: “John, I just wanted to make sure the information you asked me to send was received.”

(2) Start and engage in meaningful conversations

Communications should always begin and continue with authenticity and a willingness to engage so that you exchange knowledge and forge a strong mutual connection as a starting point.

Make sure your motives and intent demonstrate a desire to help others. The give-first mentality shows that you care about others, and that will lead to them caring about you.

Find and focus on your commonalities and shared values with people and that can set things in motion.

If you have done your homework, then opening a conversation with someone you like and know is as easy as: “Hi Judy, great to see you again. I really liked that sales article you recently wrote. I could really relate to the frustration of getting clients to be consistent with updating their marketing activities.”

(3) Find and embrace the unexpected …

Delivering good or great follow-up and service today is expected… (But) delivering unexpected …follow-up can really change perception. Companies and people that do unexpected things (to) make our experiences … more memorable, make us feel special and valued. So… take the knowledge you have of your customers and clients and think about specific.

Maybe you could?

  • Plan a get together in a unique place
  • Provide an endorsement or introduction
  • Help people when you see they need help
  • Be interested in people and ask about their interests, values, hobbies and family.
  • Send a simple handwritten, personalised follow-up note.
  • Remember names and specific things about individuals.
  • Always go the extra miles to make sure people have what they need.
  • Don’t assume, ask questions.

(4) Demonstrate mindfulness and gratitude

Some of the most undervalued and powerful qualities in business are respect, humility and kindness. Think about how those things impact you and make them a regular part of your relationship activities.

A kind word, encouragement, acknowledging people’s accomplishments, or a simple thank you are opportunities to show our character and personality. Never get too busy or too successful to be humble and grateful. You are successful because of others. Keep the ego in check at all times and rely on your support system to help you do this.

(5) Let go and move on

Be selective, strategic and persistent and respect people’s time, but know when it’s time to step away and move on.

… . Define and refine who is worth your time, energy and attention and focus on them. There are no excuses for not keeping in touch and following up today. Email marketing, social media, video, texting, podcasting, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or even the mail are all excellent tools and platforms you can use to connect.

Pick the platforms that work best for you and your customers, clients, (colleagues) and prospects and find the perfect blend of in-person and online networking and communication activities. Use them regularly and you will stand out.

(6) Remember to HEAR

Also remember to HEAR. HEAR stands for …

  • Humility
  • Engagement
  • Authenticity
  • Responsiveness

Now – as Deborah says – “go do some outrageous networking follow-up and watch what happens”.