Here’s how it happens … You’ve just left a networking event or a community meeting.
You get back to your office, armed with one or more business cards and good intentions of following up. You take those cards, maybe flip through them to remind yourself of who’s most interesting, and then you put them somewhere safe, so you won’t forget. My “safe spot” was always on a bookcase just behind my desk. Yours might be your credenza or your desk drawer.
You think about how to follow up with your new contacts. You want to find just the right opener. It needs to be personal, to help recall your conversation, or better yet something you can share that your new contact will value and that’s connected to your conversation.
But then you get distracted by client work or writing this week’s sermon or newsletter. Your thoughts shift to the task in front of you, and you make a mental note to get back to that stack of cards.
You stay busy, and the cycle repeats itself over the next few hours or days or even weeks. You’ve delayed this long to get in touch with your new contacts, so you feel pressure to have a strong follow-up. “Nice to meet you” just doesn’t cut it after two weeks, does it? But the memory of the conversations is growing dimmer, and you’re finding it harder and harder to come up with a follow-up that seems good enough. Plus those distractions just keep coming.
And then, weeks or months later, you look at the stack of cards belonging to people you no longer remember clearly. You sigh and throw away the whole stack, resolving to do better next time. And then you rationalize your inaction. The contact wasn’t that interesting. The opportunity wasn’t that promising. Besides, they didn’t contact you either. Networking is a two-way street, and if they didn’t do their part, it’s okay that you never quite got around to the follow-up.
Success in any field of endeavor requires relationships, but if you only meet people and don’t spend time following up with them to continue your contact, those relationships will never have a chance to grow.
Try these three steps to shift this experience, follow up consistently, and get better results from your networking.
- Make a few notes immediately after networking so you can remember your new contacts. As soon as you leave the meeting, jot a few key words on the back of your new contact’s business card. You can even use a dictation app to send yourself a quick email. However you do it, make your notes within an hour of leaving the event.
- Have your own deadline for following up, with a personal “no extension” policy. Resolve that you will follow up within two days at the outside, no matter what. Extra credit: plan “connection time” at least twice a week, and use that time to follow up with new contacts or to connect with someone with whom you’re working to develop a relationship.
- Use a template to make your initial contacts easier. Create a template that you will adapt to each specific contact and circumstance, so your follow-up is always personal but never created from scratch. This one step makes it much more likely that you actually will follow up as you intend.
After you’ve initiated follow-up contact, calendar your next outreach. You may not get a response to your initial follow-up, so be sure you know when to be back in touch.
Networking without follow-up is a waste of time.
Consistency builds relationships, and growing a successful business or ministry requires relationships, not just contacts. Implement your follow-up system today—especially if you have business cards collecting dust!
About Julie Fleming
Julie A. Fleming, JD, ACC, principal of Lex Innova Consulting, teaches lawyers to use innovative and effective measures to build a strong book of business and a lucrative practice. A former patent litigator, she is the author of The Reluctant Rainmaker: A Guide for Lawyers Who Hate Selling, Seven Foundations of Time Mastery for Attorneys, and the forthcoming Legal Rainmaking Myths: What You Think You Know About Business Development Can Kill Your Practice,as well as numerous articles focusing on topics such as business development, practice management, work/life balance, and leadership development. Before launching her consulting business, Julie practiced law for over a decade in firms of 3 to more than 2100 attorneys, specializing in patent litigation. A graduate of the Emory University School of Law, Vanderbilt University (B.A.) and Georgia State University (B.S.), Julie is a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation and currently serves as Vice Chair of the ABA Section of Science and Technology Law.
Jory has invited me to write on how to grow a solid business, and I’d love to hear your questions! What frustrates you? What challenges would you like to transform into opportunity? What are you curious about? Comment on this post and/or send your questions directly to Julie@LexInnovaConsulting.com. Please let me know you’re a friend of Jory’s. Can’t wait to hear from you!