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,
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