Imagine you plan a summer road trip. You pack up your luggage, fill the gas tank, buy the travel snacks, and you are ready to go. Then, you get into your car, put the keys in the ignition, start up the engine, and that’s it. There you sit, with your car idling in your driveway. You aren’t getting anywhere. Of course you aren’t getting anywhere. To get to where you are headed, you have to follow through with your plan.
The same can be said about nearly any plan you make. Once a plan is in motion, you have to follow through. Otherwise, you won’t gain your objective.
I bet you can see where I’m going with this. If you’ve been reading my blog recently, I’m sure you know that networking is about more than just attending an event and meeting new people. When we set out to make new connections, we have an end goal in mind. And, just like your incomplete road trip, if you don’t follow through by communicating with the people you meet at a networking event, you aren’t going to achieve that goal.
So in this article I want to talk about the logistics of follow-through. What steps can you take to make sure you effectively follow up with the people you meet to create a strong professional network? How can you get out of your driveway and hit the highway?
If you plan in advance to follow these three steps, following up with new connections will be a breeze.
Three steps to get you where you want to go
After you meet someone, you want to be able to get in touch with them. So the first step of your follow-up plan is information gathering. Before you say “goodbye,” take the initiative and ask how you can contact the person later. Save your connection’s business card, write down their contact information, or enter it via your smartphone while you are still with them.
This information exchange gives you a great opportunity to repeat their name and confirm the spelling, too. Making eye contact and saying the person’s name will help you remember them.
Your next step is a continuation of the process you began when you collected your new connection’s contact information. Take a moment either during the event or immediately after to jot down a few notes about the people you’ve just met. Be sure to include information that will help you recall how you met them and why you want to follow up with them. If you use a digital system to store your information, add a link to the person’s website or social media profile, preferably one that features their photo.
I use an Excel file to keep track of my contacts and make notes. But there are several CRM (customer relationship management) apps that can help you streamline this process. Choose a system that works for you. Then commit to using it.
Speaking of commitment, your follow-up system only works if you commit time to making it work. Whenever you plan to attend an event with a networking component, also plan to spend time engaging in follow-up. Without intentionally setting aside time to record information and make contact with the people you’ve met, these tasks can easily fall to the wayside.
Set a goal to communicate with the people that you want to add to your network within 48 hours of meeting them. Send them a quick email, Inmail, or some other communication. Your prompt attention informs the other person that you are serious about staying in touch and also helps to cement both of your memories of meeting.
Making friends along your journey
Of course, there’s more to following through than just managing the logistics. You’ll want to employ methods like the ones I wrote about here to help nurture your new relationship. To summarize, building strong networks takes time and a sincere interest in helping the people you meet. You should be generous in giving value and appreciative when receiving assistance. If you aren’t a likely candidate for your connection’s product or service, ask them who among your network might be.
Sometimes we can feel alone as we struggle to achieve career success. But if you remember to nurture your relationships intentionally, you’ll find lots of friends to join you on this road trip called life.
Want to learn more networking tips? Check out this BostonSpeaksTalk featuring my friend Cami Baker. She rocks!