You’re at a conference. You are constantly meeting people, collecting business cards or LinkedIn connections. And then you get back to the office and try to catch up to the slew of email and neglected projects… putting the networking follow up on the back-burner for a bit.
And you never really get back to it.
Let’s fix that!
There are many templates for networking follow up language (for example, here and here and countless other places).But I’d like to address the most typical objections to doing this follow up well, and show that it’s not as burdensome and time-consuming as you might initially believe.
Do networking follow up activities in a productive way by focusing on the ongoing potential of your opportunity, rather than any time already lost.
Resistance #1. Too much time has passed, and now it would be awkward to follow up.
No, it wouldn’t.
This is really a perception issue. Your concept of “too much time has passed” might be a week, and someone else’s might be a month. You might have an expectation of yourself operating under some idealized timetable. But the reality is that life happens. So just be frank.
“I meant to follow up with you right away, but … life. Would you be up for a catch up call?”
“I got back, and I got slammed. I’m slowing digging myself out. What about you?”
“I just realized 3 weeks have passed since we connected. Let’s not leave it so long next time! Coffee?”
Part of networking follow up best practices is being authentic. So keep it real!
Resistance #2. Honestly, I don’t remember exactly what we discussed when we first met.
This is a tough one, and it used to be tougher before LinkedIn gave us photos and work histories. Now, you have less of an excuse. Here, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
- It’s old-school, but ask for a business card. That way, you can write a reminder on their card after you walk away from each other. Note a compelling or unique physical feature, usually around the face, such as curly hair or bright green eyes or a salt-and-pepper goatee, as well as a note about the content of your discussions.
- Generate a draft message on LinkedIn to the person you met which includes a note about them and the potential opportunities. Later, refine a simple message to connect. “Ann, it was nice speaking to you about [topic you made note of in draft]. I’ll look forward to discussing more later. -Jim”
If you really can’t for the life of you remember what you discussed, and the photo and LinkedIn profile don’t provide a clue, then see if your colleagues had interactions with the individual, which might help to jog your memory.
Resistance #3. I don’t see the benefit.
When most people think of networking, they think of what I call “advocacy” networking – networking for the sake of immediate, professional gain. If that immediate gain isn’t present, well, general networking follow up can fall to the wayside.
You should exercise a considerable amount of “discovery networking” long before you are ever under pressure to exercise the necessary “advocacy networking.”
There is a different kind of networking, which I call “discovery” networking – networking for the sake of cultivating and nurturing meaningful business relationships without an immediate gain. Here, you’re trying to be helpful, learn something new, gain insight on a problem, understand the market, or keep your options open for downstream opportunities.
The benefits are enormous if you take the broad view, and they are certainly not limited to getting a job right around the corner.
Resistance #4. I don’t really have time.
But yes, you do have time. You know why? Because it turns out that doing good networking follow up and nurturing your business relationships isn’t terribly burdensome.
The way to do it is a simple email or call, asking for a conversation in the coming weeks. “I thought about you the other day and would love to catch up. My schedule is hairy through the end of the month, but can we reserve a time next month?”
How many of those emails or calls can you make in 15 minutes – while you’re in line for a salad, while you are sitting on the commuter train heading home, at night before bed?
The answer is – a lot! And you can decide to send 2 instead of 20.
With 2 new networking follow up interactions on your calendar for next month, especially compared to where you are right now, you are well on your way to mastering networking follow up in the future!
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