You can spend a lot of time at networking and social events, shake a bunch of hands and have loads of "what do you do?" conversations, but then don't really feel like you're getting anything out of the time you're spending. It's not because you're meeting people that lack the ability to help or broaden your reach, it's instead because your follow up just plain sucks.
The good news is that most people lack the ability to effectively follow up, so it’s not particularly difficult to rise above the noise. Let’s take a look at a handful of reasons you're leaving tons of opportunity on the table with your poor follow up and what to do instead.
1. It’s late.
There’s really not much worse than saying you’re going to do something, then failing to do it. So when you meet someone new and casually tell them you’ll “shoot them an email,” then fail to do so until weeks later, you are really just telling them that you’re irresponsible and can’t keep track of your own tasks, or that when you say something, you don’t really mean it. Both are bad.
This is one of the easiest to correct, as all you need to do is what you said you were going to do. That’s really it. Send a simple note via email the next day and you’ll be in a great position to begin building trust with your new connection, which will lead to opportunities when you’re in need of something down the road.
2. It feels dishonest.
Have you ever met someone, forgot to follow up and had something happen weeks or months later that made you think of him or her and how he or she could have been suddenly helpful? Well, guess what? You blew it as going back to them now to follow up and ask for help just screams “I don’t care about you.”
Sure, there are some people that are less sensitive to this, but you really aren’t doing yourself any favors by waiting to follow up until you need something. Instead, reach out to them within a day after meeting and ask them how you might be able to help them with their efforts -- whether you’re able to is irrelevant -- after which they’ll be much more likely to offer the same to you.
3. You’re asking for something too soon.
This is a classic mistake that is constantly made: You meet some interesting people that you fully realize is capable of either introducing you to another person of interest or they possess something of potential value to you -- for example, they own a company that is a potential buyer of your goods.
The typical, and terrible, follow up is to send an email the next day and straight-up ask for an introduction to their valuable contacts or for an appointment to pitch your product. It's awful because you just met, have done absolutely nothing for them and haven’t established a relationship. From their perspective, if you’re already asking for things this early, prior to even getting to personally know each other, you are clearly only interested in taking advantage of the relationships.
Take the time to get to know the other person by following up casually and offering to buy him or her a cup of coffee so that you can learn more about his or her experience in building whatever he or she has been building. People love talking about themselves and they’ll love you for letting them, so don’t forget to ask about their family too.
Related: How to Be Remarkable at Following Up