Networking can be a grind.
Have you have ever seen the hit TV show The Grinder?
It's a comedy that features an impossibly dramatic individual that finds the good in every situation and never ever gives up -- because he's “The Grinder”.
You might be wondering -- what does The Grinder have to do with networking? …… Well, as we examined in our last post, “Why am I here?”, efficiently meeting people at networking events is only the beginning. How how you follow up with folks is a key link in the chain of connecting with potential prospects, clients, reciprocal colleagues or mentors who can help you achieve your ultimate goals. But it takes effort and you might need that Grinder attitude!
It helps to develop a system.
After attending several events, have you even found yourself unloading those business cards you stuffed in your pockets, backpack, wallet or purse, then realizing you have accumulated quite a stack? When you reach down to throw them into the file (shoebox) you keep in your bottom drawer, you suddenly stop and think … weren’t there some good contacts from each of the past couple networking events that could very well be HOT prospects….?
How best to tackle this? And easy way is to sort them into piles:
Priority A - These are the ones that represent the people who may be potential customers, clients or employers that showed a real interest in you or your services or may have mentioned having an immediate need to fill.
Priority B - These cards represent the people who may be potential customers, clients or employers that you spoke with but who did not mention an immediate need. However, in listening closely to them, you saw potential and would like to explore their situations because you may be able to help them in the future.
Priority C - These are the people who maybe mutually beneficial referral resources. They seem like quality providers that have supplementary competencies to you and service similar clients, businesses or contacts.
Priority D - This is our final group that have a common interest and seem fun, compatible, and would be interesting to get to know.
Use whatever system that fits your goals, but the key is to prioritize. You probably won't have time to follow up with everyone, so having a system will help make sure you follow up with key contacts.
Now you’re on a roll – next do a bit of quick research. Checking websites and LinkedIn profiles is a good practice. You may find you even have connections in common.
If the research checks out, then schedule follow ups.
If you use the system above, it might look like this:
Priority A - send an email in 1-3 days and/or Linkedin invite referencing the event where you met and expressing your interest in arranging a short getting acquainted meeting. If you get no response, schedule a follow-up email or phone call to them a week or so later.
Priority B - Send an email or Linkedin invite 2-5 days after your networking event asking to meet for coffee and discussion, or joining you at another event that you may be attending. If you get no response, schedule to send them a follow up email or letter outlining your services, products, resume, website link and/or how you may be of assistance to them.
Priority C - Same as B but emphasize what your target market is and how your relationship could be as reciprocal referral sources.
Priority D - When you have time, or are taking a break, keep a running list of these individuals to send a Linkedin message, group invite or email to meet for coffee / lunch when possible. If you dicussed a common interest, it helps to mention it.
Now you have your follow-up actions scheduled into your daily calendar and are ready to “Grind”! You may be pleasantly surprised at the positive response rate you get.
But remember, you’re in it for the long term. Some contacts may immediately turn into referrals or customers, but for many it will take time to build relationships. If you periodically send emails with informative content to your As and Bs, you’ll keep them aware of your value and motivation. In addition, once a quarter, send a note to the Cs and Ds on your list.
Keep "Grinding" and you’ll build momentum!
Thanks for reading. We hope you’ve found this helpful.
If you have insights and additions on what’s worked for you – please add them – they are valued and appreciated.
All the best,
You may be asking, what does networking have to do with snow skiing? Read on! Besides, it’s wintry cold outside so this blog post is in honor of the season.
Here's the situation: You have a stack of great new business cards in your pocket. You’re on the road to a new networking event with high expectations.
You arrive, braving the cold wind in the parking lot …. but then you hesitate at the doorway, eyeing the crowd. That inner voice is asking the same question it asked a few weeks ago when you were poised at the top of the black diamond mogul run your significant other had dared you to ski down:
Why are you here? This looks impossible! But I have to do it, it might be fun…
And then the doubter voice chimes -- isn’t this a waste of time? After all, networking is so random!
If this sounds familiar, then read on:
Research — If you are beginning to think networking is a waste of time, most probably in the past it was. You can avoid this by checking if you are attending the right events. Think about the people you most want to meet -- your target market, as you can call it, for networking. Your targets should be people who are decision-makers, influencers, folks who have complementary competencies, potential referral colleagues or possibly professionals that are further along in their careers who might help mentor or advise you. Networking events that are comprised of mostly professional peers or people “peddling” the same services are sometimes comfortable and good for continuing education but most probably not going to be the most helpful for leads.
Many event organizers post a list of attendees. Check the event site and if they do, this can be helpful to determine if you want to attend. You can also see if there is someone on the list to make a special effort to try to meet.
Have a goal — When I first started networking, I found having an attainable goal of just connecting to two people helped propel me into the room full of strangers. After all, it was only two people – how hard can that be? As you become more comfortable in the networking situation build on your goal. Say, I won’t leave until I have the contact information of two people that I could possiblely assist or they could possibly be of help to me. REMEMBER: It is always worth the time to help others in their situations. You never know whom they may know and besides, good karma really does come around eventually!!
Be interested and REALLY listen — Asking good questions can be another networking objective. Not sure what to ask? Click for suggestions. Remember, ask questions and then really take the time, energy and focus to listen to what the other person has to say. A rule of thumb I have is to challenge myself to ask at least two follow-up questions for clarification or investigation. This helps my understanding of the other individual’s situation and demonstrates you really care. Genuine interest is appreciated and guess what?? There are many fascinating people to connect with out there.
Try not to monopolize someone’s time at the event or let them monopolize yours. Remember, networking is about numbers so the more folks you meet, the better the odds for a complementary match. Unfortunately, sometimes it is necessary to tactfully cut someone off – this is tough, but your doing both of you a favor as this is time spent that will really not help either of you. I once read that everyone you meet has a nugget of gold to offer and it’s up to you to find it. That may or may not be true, but after you’ve gotten a good sense of the person, move on, so both of you can mingle and accomplish your networking goals.
Efficiently meeting people at events is only the beginning of networking. How you follow up is a key link in the chain of connecting yourself to potential prospects, clients, reciprocal colleagues or mentors who can help you achieve your ultimate goals. Watch for next week's blog for tips on how to make your follow-up effective and productive.
Just like skiing down that dreaded mogul ski run, timing, technique and confidence will get you successfully to your goal (Or in this case to the lodge next to a crackling fireplace) and you will feel great!
Your insights and additions are valued and appreciated. Please respond to our networking tips with any experiences, techniques or insights you have from your successful networking activities!
Thanks for reading !
Don't overlook this small but powerful tool
Like me, you probably realize that social media, LinkedIn and letter campaigns can’t do it all for your business or career. Networking is a necessary evil for your success.
Perhaps you’ve practiced your elevator speech, smiling and extending that ever firm hand shake over and over and over. You’re sure that the on-line networking Webinar has armed you with everything you need to whorl into that crowded room and command attention. You got it all down and you’re feeling confident!
And yet, after handing out mounds business cards and “connecting” so well with professionals from all types of businesses -- the phone still hasn’t sang the happy song you programmed in for the ring tone.
Could it be your cards were lost?? Or worse yet, ignored or forgotten??
Well, believe it or not in this world of tablets and smart phones, the legendary BUSINESS CARD still plays a key role in connecting with our prospective and current customers/clients.
Five characteristics of a productive and effective business card:
Eliminate words and images that either confuse or detract. Quickly glance at a number of cards to see what catches your eye and what you remember. Your card should not have any distractors that can dominate your prospects mind except those that are key to the communication. The size, color and font of the words you want remembered are critical.
Think carefully about the words you add, One card I recently acquired carried the tag line: "energetic bikini wearer" -- for a middle-aged female career coach. Now when my husband was glancing through my stack of cards, he busted out laughing and said he wasn’t sure what kind of careers she coached. An hour later for fun I asked him if he remembered that “card” -- all he could recall was an image of a “bikini wearer” sunning on the beach! Now this is could be a statement on my husband’s mindset (and he wasn't the target market for her) ... but it also demonstrates how images and words can either add or detract from your overall message and brand.
A good rule of thumb is: When you think about adding something to your card, ask "Is this critical"? Will the people I want to do business with understand it? For example, if you are in a business where it's important for people to recognize you, then a picture is appropriate.
Test! One last thought, given the potential positive and negative impacts a business card can have, it is well worth your time to print a couple of drafts and test them out on friends, colleagues and even potential clients. Have some of your test cases study them before offering their impressions and suggestions. Then have some folks quickly glance at your card and ask them what they saw first, what they remembered, and their overall impression.
Details, effort, and feedback are always key in any successful adventure and even a little thing like your business card can help along the way! Compare your cards to the items on the list before you order a new supply.
If you have additional Business Card “Golden Rules” you've learned along the way, please add them!
For more tips,check out our post on following up....
Thanks for reading and sharing!
Not sure if your business card is working for you? Contact us for a free business card evaluation.
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