They say you should network. They say you should build a portfolio of potential clients. What they don’t say is that in order to win this networking game, there is one principle you must adhere to–follow-up! This blog post will help you understand the why, how, and when of follow-up.
WHY? After attending a career fair, having a job interview, or attending a networking event, you have to opportunity to demonstrate that you’ve got follow-up skills. These skills matter because most sales don’t close, most clients don’t ripen, and most deals don’t happen upon introduction. The magic happens afterwards. I met Gretchen McClain at a luncheon when I happened to sit at the same table. She shared her business card, I sent an email, we scheduled an interview a month out, and WHAM-O. I now have this incredible person in my network! It’s like magic! Pay off for your hard work comes most often after persistent follow-up. Follow-up takes practice, and your strategy will need refining, but this is how you win the game.
HOW? There are several good techniques, and which one you use will depend on the situation. During the interview with Beatryx Washington, she reminded me of a classic follow-up strategy that is often overlooked by us millennial kids–a hand-written thank-you card. Especially if you include something business and something personal that y’all talked about. I’ve employed this technique lately and found it to be effective. You may also set a lunch appointment with the person so you can continue talking. Gretchen McClain taught me to set a calendar reminder every six months to have lunch with my mentors, the people I want to keep in touch with over the years. I’ve also followed-up by making introductions between the person I met and someone in my network who has a solution to their problem, or will be a good partner, or potential client, etc. After the initial follow-up, I try to occasionally share relevant research/news articles, jokes, or event invitations to show I’m still thinking of that person. By “occasionally”, I mean no more than three or four times per year. People have lives, you know? Can’t always be up in their space!
WHEN? RIGHT NOW…and later. The more time that goes by, the more likely your target will forget your existence, and the more awkward your email of “Sorry it took me six months…” will become. Your initial follow-up needs to be fast. Met somebody at a conference? Cool. During the next session, hop on LinkedIn and send them a connection request. Now you’re on their radar, and they know you’re wicked fast with mobile tech. Just finish a career fair? Nice work. On the next business day, go through all those business cards you collected and send an email or lunch invite. That’s all in the NOW component. The later part is how you really build relationships. See, six months after having had lunch with somebody, you won’t be at the front of their mind anymore. If you want to get new clients or want to keep the door open for a new job, you have to have the 6-month follow-up as part of your strategy. I once met with a marketing guy, and although I didn’t have clients for him at the time, I said he could follow-up with me later. Well, he did. Every month, like clockwork, he sent me an email. Yes, it did get to be a bit much, (because he was always asking me for help instead of offering me help) but I admired his follow-up skill. And, I still remember his name. So, the timing of a winning follow-up is both NOW…and later.