Relationships take time to grow. The Supremes understood this well when they sang, “You can’t hurry love / No, you just have to wait.” As with friendships, business relationships need time to flourish.
You have to attend more than one networking event to create the kind of rapport that will produce new business opportunities. A bond and trust must form before someone will feel comfortable enough to recommend you and your business to others.
Networking events provide an introduction to new professional connections. They plant the seeds of a professional relationship, but it’s up to you to show your commitment, trustworthiness and competence as you patiently cultivate the relationship. Eventually, your commitment and credibility will lead to a growth in your popularity.
If you want to build a strong network of professional contacts, you must master the fine art of follow up. After a networking event, use these tips to stay in touch with new connections.
1. Follow up immediately.
Don’t wait a week or longer to make the first contact. Your new connection may vaguely remember you, but the impact of your meeting will have dramatically diminished. Instead, reach out the next day with a short email. Say something like, “It was a pleasure speaking with you at yesterday’s event. I'd love to meet for coffee next week if you're available.”
2. Take notes.
Immediately following a networking event or cocktail party, write notes about the people you spoke to and what you talked about. Include superficial details that may help jog your memory, such as what they were wearing or what they looked like. Use the business cards you collected to connect names to faces.
3. Connect on LinkedIn.
No other social media platform has the same professional reputation as LinkedIn. When you send your request to connect, remind the person who you are and how you met. If possible, mention something you talked about such as, “I enjoyed learning about your passion for golf and how I can improve my golf swing. I’ll put your tips to good use this weekend.”
4. Use your calendar.
After your initial follow up, set a reminder in your calendar to follow up again in a few weeks. Reconnect with clients, colleagues and customers on a monthly, quarterly or annual basis. Call, send an email, send links of interest, or mail a handwritten note. Holiday cards are also a personal way to create a lasting impression.
5. Keep it short.
Your communications don’t need to be lengthy. Keep your messages short and to the point. You could write something like, “Just a note to say I was thinking of you today. I hope business is going well. Let’s get together for Italian food next time you’re in town.”
6. Host an event.
A casual happy hour or dinner party can be a great way to entertain and build rapport. Invite clients and colleagues you think will get along or be able to do business together. When you generously help others connect, you’ll create new business opportunities for yourself as well.
7. Send congratulatory notes.
If you read an article about someone you know who has received an award or promotion, send a note to congratulate him. Include a clipping of the article and say something such as, “Congratulations on the award! I thought you might appreciate an extra copy of your honorable mention. Best wishes for continued success!”