Posted on: December 1, 2022
It’s lovely that this December will be the first in a while where events are returning to a face-to-face format. As the Christmas networking invites flood in, you can easily fill your diary. This can mean a significant time commitment during a naturally busy period, so it’s important that the effort you invest does indeed generate the outcomes you want.
Some professionals tell us they’ve been disappointed by the results they’ve achieved in networking. In particular, they haven’t really won much business as a result of the time invested.
When we delve deeper into this, it’s clear the act of following up the contacts at events made is patchy. And while many think nothing of putting a networking event into their diary, only a savvy few also allocate time after the event to action a decent follow-up
This is essential as to…
- build rapport
- strengthen the relationship you’ve started to forge at the event and
- ultimately win new work
…you will need a number of interactions with that contact.
Recognise this is step 1 of a longer journey
The networking event is typically step one of your longer relationship-building journey. Some say that done well, that journey can take 7+ positive interactions to build trust with a contact so they’re comfortable working with or referring work to you. In other cases it may take longer.
So in this article we’ve shared several practical tips to help your networking efforts bring the results you seek.
5 ways to master following up events
1. Be timely with your timing
– When’s best to follow up largely depends on your contact and what’s going on in their life. Left too long, and they may forget you. They might also think you’re desperate if you contact them the minute you’ve left the event. The Christmas break can make this even trickier as, although people are busy come the New Year, the event may be a dim and distant memory.
As a rule, it’s better to wait a working day to demonstrate they are quite high on your agenda but you, rightly, needed to deal with other priority matters first. If the nature of your follow up is more urgent (for example, you have some information they need in a hurry) then send it across to them quickly. You should demonstrate you definitely deliver on your promises.
At the event, why not enquire when would be good to contact, and let them guide you?
2. Make it personalised
– Just sending a LinkedIn invite to connect doesn’t do much to build rapport and strengthen the relationship between you and your contact.
So consider emailing or sending something of value that will strengthen your contact’s interest. It should touch on something from your discussion together and you should have gained their buy-in to the follow up.
For example, why not ask ‘Would it be helpful if I sent you some further information on that?’ or ‘Shall I drop you a line so we can fix a time to discuss this in more detail and in a less public environment?’
Having relevant and useful resources to send as a follow up really helps. Draw on any relevant articles or tools your firm, or others, have produced.
Where possible, try and use this point of contact to propose your next interaction. A face to face one – such as a coffee, lunch or a formal meeting – is ideal. This is because it is going to help you build rapport with the contact, and enable you to uncover ways to work together in some capacity. If you can’t get together in person though, opt for an online get together (MS Teams, zoom etc) or call.
3. Give a helping hand
– In the course of your discussions a business opportunity may become apparent, but it won’t always be for you. If appropriate, offer to introduce this contact to others in your network that could help (but pick people who can be relied on to deliver).
Alternatively, put yourself in your contact’s position and do them a favour with no expectation of it being returned. The personal reward comes partly in the giving and, surprisingly often, from opportunities generated directly from the contact or indirectly through referrals they are able to give.
– You really start to build a bond with people when you’ve met them several times and shared some experience of working or socialising together. Think about what opportunities you can use to get together with them.
As well as coffee catch ups, meetings and lunches think about other events or activities they might be interested in and whether you can go together.
Can you suggest a meeting at this stage to learn more about their business? Would they be keen to come and meet you and other colleagues?
5. Liven it up on LinkedIn
If your connection is on LinkedIn then it’s sensible to connect. Connecting brings the benefit of unlimited messages (as opposed to the social network’s restrictions on InMails) and your contact being alerted to any posts you share.
Sometimes LinkedIn messages will get a quicker and better response than emails. This is because they’re less frequent, not buried in a bulging inbox, and the person is notified via their app or desktop account.
Once connected, it’s important that you strive to be a worthy connection (and not one of the silent group a person soon forgets they’re connected to, and possibly can’t remember who they are after a few months).
Being a worthy connection means being active by:
- Striking up a conversation via messaging when they accept your invitation to connect. Can you use it to share something of value or fix a meeting or call?
- Following their posts and activity regularly and supporting them with likes and positive comments (they will get notified about this)
- Posting interesting content yourself which they and others in their network will appreciate. Don’t however simply rely on liking other people’s updates to keep on connections’ radars. It’s better to have something fresh to say, so either post, comment or (if you are sharing someone else’s update) be sure to add a positive and insightful comment with it. This will help your own professional persona to come through when you send it round your network.
- Thanking your connection if they comment or share one of your posts – and use the opportunity to further build a conversation.
- Seeing if there’s anyone in your network they’d like to be introduced to.
Networking will always be a popular and effective way for people to widen their network and win more business. And even though it’s important to master creating a good first impression at events, it’s also important to master following up so you do indeed strengthen relationships with contacts afterwards and create opportunities to work together.
Remember you will need a number of interactions with a person in order to strengthen your professional relationship with them. That means, building in the next follow up into the current one.
For starters, make a commitment to yourself that next time you meet a potentially valuable contact you will be the proactive one in following up. If you’re not going to follow up, perhaps reconsider why you’re investing time in networking events?
For more advice on networking and building your network, do contact us or tel. 01483 429111.