Make a Plan & Follow the Plan.
Going to a networking function and handing out business cards is never enough to ensure your new contact will call you. You have to have a follow up plan.
In traditional networking, you go to events and hand out your business card. Perhaps you tell them a story. If your next step is to hope that your story was so memorable that they will automatically reach out to you for more information, then think again. Hope is not an effective networking strategy.
It doesn’t matter how good your story is or how unique your business card is, you cannot escape the need for follow-up. You cannot rely on them to follow up with you. You have to have a process for following up with them. If you don’t have a system in place already, here’s one that may work for you.
Follow Up Actually Begins Before the Event.
Always prepare for the event in advance. Be clear on why you’re going to this event – what do you hope to achieve – and who is going to be there that you need to meet. Don’t ever network just for the sake of collecting business cards. You need to be direct and precise about networking and evaluating events in advance is key. Once you establish that an event is good for you then be sure you have plenty of cards with you and practice your introduction. Even if you know it in your head, practice it out loud and other people before the real “event”. It sounds a lot different when you actually speak to someone.
Actively Engage at the Event.
Once you are at the event, don’t be shy. Connect with the event organizer right away and let them know why you are there – who you would like to meet. This is your best chance for an introduction. It might seem a bit forward but remember this: the organization created this event to connect people in their network so when you ask for a connection, it’s not being forward, it’s doing what you came there to do! The advantage of having them do the introduction of course is that it is a warm introduction rather than a cold one plus you’ve got a built in “wing-man” (or woman).
The Event Isn’t Over Until You Follow-Up.
After the event is over, if you’ve done what you intended, you’ll have a pocketful of business cards. Take those home and enter them directly into your CRM. At least get them entered within 24 hours because you definitely want to follow up with prospects within 24-48 hours. The sooner you do this, the better the chances are that they’ll remember you. Plus, you don’t want potential competition to beat you to the punch! Have a template ready that you follow after such an event so that it’s pretty much cut and paste. Bottom line: if it’s someone you want to do business with or deepen the connection with, you need to reach out first. If you wait, they may not reach out at all, thinking that you aren’t interested. Even if you both reach out to one another, that shows you that you’re both committed to the connection.
Again, Make a Plan & Follow the Plan.
Having a plan from prep to post for your networking will not only make it easier for you, it will make it more productive. Know your steps and follow them each and every time.
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Holly Kile – Marketing Assistant