Networking is the most important way to build business relationships. How else will you meet the people who will become your customers or people who can help build your business?
But how often have you gone to a networking event or a business conference, brought back a handful of business cards and done nothing with them? How would that increase your return on investment? It wouldn’t!
How often have you given up before you should with that hot prospect you met? It happens a lot. The National Association of Sales Professionals reports 48 percent of salespeople never follow-up. They also found that 80 percent of sales are made on the fifth to twelfth contact. So not following up has obviously cost your business.
That’s why making a follow-up system (and following it!) is so important. Not sure where to start? These tips will help.
Do you know of any clients, vendors, friends, or friends-of-friends who are attending the same networking event or conference that you are?
Reach out to them a few weeks in advance! Touch base, share your excitement, and schedule a time to have coffee – or otherwise meet up at the conference to say hey.
You can put your feelers out to your network on Facebook, LinkedIn, and even your business’s email list to find out if anyone you know is heading to the same place you are.
2. A Clever Hack for Remembering Names
This tip comes to us from author Andy Boyle, from an episode of Lifehacker’s The Upgrade podcast.
Andy has a neat trick for remembering those pesky names! When somebody introduces themselves to you, immediately imagine 2 celebrities with the same first name duking it out in a comic book hero-style battle.
For example, if someone comes up to you and says “Hey, I’m Jamie! Nice to meet you.” You can imagine Jamie Lee Curtis and Jamie Foxx stepping into the ring!
What if you can’t think of a second celebrity? Feel free to Google it on your phone! Andy says that the act of sometimes needing to Google the 2nd celebrity for this mental hack helps him remember the names even better.
3. Hold On To Cards and Write Notes
First, when networking, after you get someone’s card, don’t put it away — hold onto it. Why? After you finish the conversation, write notes on the back about who and what. Note what you talked about, but write down other context clues as well so you can remember the face to go with the name. Then, when you get home, prioritize the contacts as to who gets called first. The notes you wrote will help you remember who and what for prioritizing.
Are you an Evernote user? Free and paid members have access to a feature in Evernote that allows a “smart scanning” of business cards in the app. When you connect your Evernote account to your LinkedIn, you can then pull out your phone and scan the business card! Evernote will automatically populate it with their name, company, phone number, and it will attempt to pull the person’s social media profiles (LinkedIn and others). There’s a space for notes in there as well.
If Evernote is a little too fancy, you can use any note taking app for free, snap a photo of the card, and add your notes underneath!
4. Speaking of LinkedIn…
While you’re in-conversation with someone at a conference or networking event, ask them if it’s okay to connect on LinkedIn!
When they say yes, the act of taking out your phone, looking them up, and seeing their name with a photo next to it will further reinforce your memory of your connection to this person.
It will also make reaching out to them a breeze in the future!
5. Check out the Event’s Networking Opportunities
Many conferences have special networking events before and/or after the conference day.
During the first day of the conference (or before), be sure to double check the event’s itinerary and identify any networking breakfasts or after parties!
Also, be sure to make use of the lunch break to chat!
6. Chill Out!
Research the city where your networking event is taking place, especially if it’s a multi-day event. Pick out a couple of bars or restaurants that seem interesting on Yelp (or TripAdvisor).
While you’re chatting with your fellow event attendees, ask them what they’re up to! You can ask them if they have had the chance to check out anything in town, or if they’re planning on going anywhere afterwards. You will be surprised how many people are open to inviting you to tag along!
Since you’ve done a little bit of research, you have your own options you can talk about too.
If nobody else that you’re speaking with has any definite plans, take the initiative yourself and invite people to gather at your hotel bar, or another bar close to the event center!
7. Be a Good Note Taker
With even one day full of presentations, there’s going to be A LOT of information to take in! You’re probably not going to remember it all when you go home, and neither will your fellow event attendees.
If you’re a paper note taker, when you have downtime collect all of your materials and type them up! Or you can try taking photographs of your notes and sharing them using a software like Evernote, or Google Docs.
If you type up most of your notes, then this process is even easier!
Use a URL shortener like Bit.ly or Goo.gl to create an easy to remember link that you can share with your fellow event goers!
Try to format it something like (www.YourURLShortener.com)/YOURNAMEsCONFERENCEnotes. It may look like something along the lines of bit.ly/LisasInboundNotes.
Try to keep it simple, so you can help people navigate to your notes by memory on their own phones.
Now you have something of value to share with your fellow attendees!
8. Nervous About Networking? Have Some Questions In the Bag!
This is the perfect networking hack for introverts! Having conversation starters ready can help you take the pressure off networking. More importantly, some well thought out starter questions can help make a great conversation by giving the other person a good place to jump off.
Some questions you can think about asking are:
- Which session are you most excited to attend? Has anything stuck out to you?
- Are you already familiar with any of these speakers?
- How did you hear about this event? Did you come with anyone?
- Have you read any good books lately?
- What is on your reading list?
- Are you working on a project right now that you’re excited about?
- What did you think about [specific session]?
- What’s your story? Tell me about you!
When in doubt, try to get the other person to introduce themselves – and try to find out more about them.
Prepare a short response for yourself to some of your ice breaker questions too, that will help you keep the conversation rolling.
9. Know How and When to Follow-Up
Next, draft a follow-up letter or email, making it personal using the notes you took. It will show them that you listen and pay attention to detail.
Nicole Walters has a great template for sending follow up emails that you can view here.
Invite them to connect with you on your business social media sites, like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn – if you didn’t already do this at the event.
After you send it, follow up with a phone call. For the people you connected with well and they were truly excited to get information from you, call them before your mail or email to them. Schedule on your calendar to follow up. Set a reminder a week after you send the letter, or a few days after the email to call by phone. Schedule others depending on how that conversation goes. This will help you get a great return on investment.
If they take up your invitation to connect on social media, interact there with them, and with their friends. It’s a great way to enlarge your pool of prospects. It’s not who you know, but who they know. Return the favor and introduce them to those you think will be a benefit. Networking on social media is another good tool for you.
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