There are many, many books, videos and articles that provide us with multiple tips and techniques to help us be more effective at networking events. How to shake hands, when to exchange cards, how to join groups, how to ‘escape’ from the bore. But, for me, all these things are secondary to a clear understanding of why you are there in the first place. In six simple words, it is to:
“Earn the right to follow up”
These events are about making new contacts and catching up with old ones. Certainly. But where does the real business impact come from? That comes from the more complete and focussed conversations – days or weeks later – that you will have with these contacts when you follow up over coffee, lunch or a drink. Then you can really get to know more about them as a person, as well as finding out more about their business challenges and – as a result – more about the opportunities that may exist for you to sell your services or product.
So, back to the event. Everyone recognises the need to ‘follow up’, to contact the people behind all those business cards you have religiously gathered. OK, they have given you their card, but have you really ‘earned the right’ to get in touch and invite them out for that coffee, lunch or drink? What does that mean? Well, it’s about finding a personal ‘hook’ that you can use in your follow up call or email – something that will show that they are not just another box you have ticked. Something that will distinguish you from all the other people they met that evening and who are vying with you for a slice of your contact’s time.
Keep your ears wide open to spot those snippets of interest and information that you can use later. Which football team do they support? Which sort of restaurants do they enjoy? Did their daughter pass her driving test? Did their son get into his university of choice?
Even better if you can actually find something where you can help them. Send them through that restaurant recommendation. Put them in touch with the physio who will sort out their bad back. Dig out the brochure of that great villa in Portugal that you mentioned, and send it to them. Be generous…
So, it’s not just about saying good-bye with a cheery “We must get together soon”. It’s about making that real personal connection that will earn you the right to follow up. Remember, not many people sign a contract while nibbling on a sausage or sipping a mojito…