What is The Perfect Follow-up Strategy for Today’s Active Networker?
Just a few weeks ago I asked this magical question to all of my contacts on LinkedIn. The answers that I got were absolutely fantastic! I can’t wait to share them with you here. If you would like to see all of the answers in detail check them out here. After I throw my two cents in, I’ll be summarizing some of the best answers. Here we go!
When I think of follow-up, my mind naturally begins to remember methods that pushy self absorbed sales people have used on me in the past. Here are some of the issues I’ve had to face. I’ll bet that you will identify with at least a few:
* They don’t even know my name
* They haven’t gotten my permission to contact me
* They talk to me only about their offer or why I should be interested in them
* They don’t prove any level of competency that even a reasonable person would trust
* They fumble through a canned presentation
* They’re too familiar (I don’t even know you for heavens sake)
* They don’t even tell me how they came to contact me (I really want to know which of my idiot friends put you up to contacting me)
* They ask stupid questions like “would you like to save money or make money Mr. Powell” (my answer is “NO-click”)
* They follow the same old sales tactics that didn’t work when I actually did answer the phone
* They offer no real value up front (really why should I listen to you or call you back?)
* They pass me on to someone that really knows what they are talking about (Did I say that I hate that? Just in case, I HATE THAT!)
* I know more about their products or services than they do
* They argue with me about what I want (If I don’t know what I want by the way, they tell me that their product is the solution for everything I could want)
* They make outlandish unsubstantiated claims
* They make no promises or interesting claims at all
OK, so what should you do to follow up with a potential client or referral partner after you’ve met them at a networking event or conference? It’s simple, follow my proven system for creating a strategy and you will win so much business and interest that your head will spend. I believe in “the three Be’s concept to follow up.” That is: “Be Purposeful”, “Be Interested” and “Be Worthy”.
Remember purpose not only helps you know what you are doing, it helps others to understand and trust you instantly. You need to be as open and forthright as possible in all networking venues. It will help you attract the right people to talk to and motivate others to introduce you to people that you’d want to meet. Purpose always creates inspired action!
Do your homework before you pick up the phone to speak with someone. Let’s face it, there are certain “types” of people that would naturally feel a connection with you. For some reason, you are not the only person that is interested in the same sports; others actually read the same books that you do. I’ll bet that there are even folks that tune into the same radio station that you do. I know that it’s hard to believe but thousands of people enjoy the same stuff that you do! Wouldn’t it be fun to connect to people around your favorite sports team or hobby? Here’s a novel idea, why not ask your networking contacts to tell you what they are in to. I haven’t met an 80’s teenager yet that didn’t get a kick out of talking about the clothes we use to wear or finally acknowledging that we didn’t have a clue what the lyrics in any “Boy George” song meant. Did I just out my age? Oh well, yes I’m old. I’m 42 and proud of the fact that I’m not as stupid as I was just last year.
Anyhow, the point is we spend too much time talking about ideas to people that are absolutely irrelevant to building a connection. If you want to be a Foreign Service officer or something go ahead and talk about the peace problem in Baghdad. I would suggest however that you find a peace rally or something similar to network in. Bringing this kind of talk to a business networking function is probably a sleeper. And stop talking about the weather or the road conditions that you experienced before you entered the room. I don’t need to know about that! I just experienced the same stuff. I’d be so happy if you’d just ask me what I do or how did I ended up here today? That’ll help us both get right to the point and stop wasting time. Develop one or two questions that drive to purpose and let it go.
It’s funny how being interested is absolutely the same as being interesting. I’m a natural introvert and I don’t usually talk much at networking events. I am however a master listener. I am good at asking the right questions and getting down to the nitty-gritty when it comes to being relevant to others. Most people find me interesting and engaging never knowing that I actually said very little or that my responses to their questions where a well planned almost scripted dialogue that highlights the best of my character and competence in just the way I wanted. Now that’s branding!
After you’ve developed some key questions that you want to ask people about themselves; be careful to listen. No, really listen! Try some reflective listening techniques; summarize what you think you heard them say. Congratulate them on their unique perspective or interesting methodology. Resist the temptation to cut them off and begin the “it’s all about me show”; your time will come. If you’ve asked the right questions a fair person will return the favor and give you a chance to share your rivetingly interesting ideas (Was that a hint of sarcasm? Why yes, thank you). Seriously, people will be interested in you, if they know that you are interested in them. You can’t fake it, so I suggest networking in places where you don’t have to (back to the first section on purpose).
Don’t forget that the law of reciprocity is always at work. Try to pay it forward every time. Once you’ve identified someone with whom you feel a connection with, make an offer that will demand a follow-up. Maybe you’ll send them an article that you’ve read on a mutually beneficial topic. Perhaps you’ve agreed to introduce them to someone with in your LinkedIn network or promise to invite them to your personal networking meeting next week. In any case, the point is to make a commitment to do something that keeps the party going. Commitments made and kept increase your level of trust in every relationship as well as improve your own personal self-esteem. That brings us to our last section.
If you want to be masterful in your networking skills you are going to have to be worthy of the attention and then the energy that you’ll ask others to give to you. Of course you are going to have to pay it forward by giving the kind of attention, respect and patience that you’d like to receive. In his book “Business by Referral” (which in my view is hands down the best book ever written about networking), Dr. Misner mentions eighteen various strategies that you can use to motivate your sources to assist you in your personal and business endeavors. They are best left for another discussion but check them out and find out which strategies fit your personal style and that of your networks. Developing these skills will shine a spotlight on your ability to be relevant; to deliver the right goods exactly when they are needed most.
Always try to create synergistic relationships starting with what you can do for others. The more you are in touch with your unique talents and skills the more you know what you can do. The more you are in touch with your deepest values and convictions the more you can tap into that which you love. I for one can talk about networking all day every day. It’s a competency that I’ve enjoyed over the years that has helped me forge and solidify relationships both business and personal that have lasted fruitfully with no end in sight.
You’re going to have to create at atmosphere of extreme competence. When people see you as competent at what you do and understand why you do it, their confidence in you increases dramatically. Their willingness to assist you without fear of embarrassment or backlash will make all the difference in the speed of your success. It’s important here to use as much third party influence (TPI) as you can. Remember you can never say about yourself with any credibility that which can be said about you by others; so use this tool well. Have others write testimonials about you and your work. Then let your future network partner’s critic your testimonials for you. They’ll soon become champions for you and help you get to where you need to go. They may even submit testimonials of their own. My testimonials on sites like LinkedIn have done far more for me than I could have done for myself.
There is nothing more relevant to your networks than creating synergistic goals that contribute to the health and growth of all. You have to be willing to make the investment of your time and skills to help each other become mutually accountable. Countless business and personal development books have been written about this and the one true constant remains the same. Commitment and accountability breads superior results!
Here some of the add-ins from my guest coaches on LinkedIn. Again, you can check out all of there answers in detail here. You can also find links to their profiles.
Neil Kossler CPA reminds us that diligence is important to all follow-up strategy. You never know where the next BIG fish is!
From Octavio Ballesta we really key in on the importance of passion in all that we do where people are concerned. I never read such an eloquent response.
My favorite gunslinger Hazel Walker makes sure that we don’t forget to systematize our approach to follow-up and to work with those that fit within our scope.
The great Marc Isikoff reminds us how important it is to think about the needs of others and make the necessary effort to serve those needs.
From my good friend and high school chum Rachael Wright we learn to make sure we keep it personal and don’t forget the details.
Coach Juli Monroe inspires us to stick to our plan with a brilliant story about a realtor and financial planner.
Dr. Smith my favorite mentor says to ask the right questions and be consistent with it. How else will you know what works or in his example what doesn’t.
Vince Golder say’s “don’t forget to eat”! Just kidding, he does remind us though that food relaxes the atmosphere and it helps us to bond over a meal. “Amen” says the choir Vince.
Finally from Eugene Rembor we learn to hold back the pitch until the batter swings out of frustration. No really! We’ve got to do more networking and less selling if we want quality results with people.
Thanks for all of your attention and responses. Stay tuned next week because the Coffee, Tea, You and Me question is a real winner!
Welcome to the revolution!
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