I’ll bet you have a stack of business cards in a snarl of rubber bands on your desk. It’s right next to that pile of spare change and the cell phone charger that doesn’t go to your current device.
Anyway, those business cards are a constant reminder of all the following up you’re not doing. Would be doing, could be doing, should be doing.
Follow up is so important. That’s why I write about it often – I guess my way of following up.
Of course, without following up with connections you make and the people you meet, it’s kind of like not connecting or meeting them at all. By the way, following through is just as important as following up. Following through is just another form of following up. And without following up there really is very little chance of following through. By not following through, no one will ever follow back up with you. Naturally, you’ll be less inclined to follow up with them if they haven’t followed up with you in which case there’s very little follow through.
Then there’s following someone on LinkedIn. Or Twitter. Or Instagram. Or at the mall – which might be considered stalking.
Anyway, probably best just to follow up. Or follow through.
So, when to follow up.
If you meet someone at an event and they tell you they’re interested in becoming a client, you should definitely follow up. But you already knew that. Of course, if you can become their client, get in touch with them. But again, you knew that too!
If you meet someone you like and can help them, you should follow up – or invite them to do so.
If you meet someone you like and they can help you, yes, you should follow up.
The best scenario is if you can help one another. Even better if you can refer each other business. Or job opportunities. Or recruits to be hired.
If none of these scenarios apply, then there’s no reason to follow up or follow through.
Unless it’s purely social – and you both know it.
Also, and this is important. You don’t have to follow up with everyone you meet. How many of those business cards on your desk do you really need to keep?
And “meeting” with someone can be a face-to-face meeting (best), a Skype or Zoom call (still face-to-face but not as good), or a phone meeting. Whatever makes the most sense.
Here are some best practices!
Start in the Presentation Phase
There are four phases to networking – Preparation, Presentation, Follow Up, and Maintenance. Preparation is doing your homework before an event or meeting. Presentation is introducing yourself (or getting yourself introduced) to others, having great conversations, offering the infamous elevator speech, and exchanging business cards. The follow up starts there! “Does it make sense for us to exchange cards? I promise to follow up with you to explore ways to refer each other business!” The follow up should actually start in the Presentation phase. Now when you follow through with an email, phone call, or text (no, really!), you’ve already established yourself as reliable and serious and will get that email, phone call, or text returned.
Reconnect the Next Day
It’s a great practice to follow up in 24 hours, the next business day, or whenever you both decide makes the most sense. Here is an example of a follow up phone message I would leave; “Hello Sam! This is Michael Goldberg! We met yesterday at the Wholesaler Marketing Meeting. We discussed reconnecting to explore ways of helping one another. As mentioned, I’m calling to coordinate with you. At your convenience, please give me a call back at…I look forward to the prospect of reconnecting!” Of course, I would write a more polished version as an email. Or I would simply write an email to schedule a call. These outbound messages almost always get returned the same day!
Another effective way of continuing a dialogue is through LinkedIn. Through an Invite you can write a quick personal note “inviting” the person you met to Connect. And yes, always make it a personal note. It takes 10 seconds. “Hello Sam! Great meeting you last night at the event. Let’s connect so we might better prepare ourselves for a follow up conversation. –MG” After connecting and doing some legwork, you might be able to help each other connect with valuable personal introductions.
Place of WE
In some cases, you might be able to help the other person way more than they can help you. Sometimes, the reverse is true. Recognize and embrace that dynamic. That said, always recognize that relationships (good ones anyway) are a two way street so it’s best to let those that are in a better position to help you know you appreciate them and that you’re willing to do whatever you can to help them right back. It’s not about keeping score (I helped you so now you help me!) and if it ever comes to that, the relationship might lose steam.
The more specific you are, the more others can help you. There’s a big difference in being referred to “Anyone that needs my services.” and “I’m looking to meet owners of manufacturing companies like ABC Manufacturing.” People in networking circles almost always want to help. By being specific about who you are, what you do, and who you want to meet, you’re allowing people to get to know you and help.
Stay in Touch
Following up is not a “one and done” deal. If you’re good, it’s about staying in touch, developing fun relationships, and expanding your network. If you’re good. Having a system in place to stay in touch with your “best in network” (I just made that up) will absolutely put food on the table. Simply establish a system to speak regularly with the most important people in your network. Maybe it’s your top 50 or 100 list. Scheduling monthly or quarterly calls works well. Maybe regular lunch or dinner “dates” works better.
The key to all of these approaches is for you to take the initiative. Don’t ever wait for the other person to make the first move. Of course, if they do all the better! Hopefully the response you get is always positive, appropriate, and fun.
Result – more business, better relationships, and more room on your desk for spare change.read more