I haven’t had much sales training in the past, but I have come to realise that the follow ups and 1:1 sessions outside of the networking events are even more important than attending the events themselves.
However it is very time consuming and often ineffective to meet for a coffee and chat with everyone you meet. But there are many other ways that you can stay in touch with people – especially in this technology dominate world we live and work in.
A handy tip that I picked up many years ago, I think from Caroline Coward from the Business Network, was to write on the business card the event name and the date you met the person. An invaluable tip! Especially if you attend a few events in one week! With all the will in the world, especially at very busy active networking events, how many times have you put the cards in your pocket or bag and found them days later thinking “who were they again?”.
Another tip I picked up, from Mark Linton from the Business Growth Show, is to mark the card according to whether there was an opportunity for you, they were someone you could potentially refer business to etc, or perhaps they were bonkers and you never want to meet with them again (I’d urge you not to make snap decisions, everyone can have their off days – although there are some total cranks out there to stay well away from). So maybe you want to develop your own key using * or £ or @’s.
After the networking event I then type up the contacts into an excel sheet and load them in to my email marketing tool, I then send an email saying it was nice to meet them, reminding them what I do and let them know I have added them to my mailing list which they can unsubscribe from. To clarify, in my mind when there has been an exchange of business cards I assume that permission to contact has been given, however I wouldn’t do the same with a delegate list. (But that’s another story for another blog).
I also add them on Linkedin, again trying to send them a personal message letting them know where we met and that I’d like to add them as a connection, however Linkedin nowadays sometimes just adds connections without asking you to send a message. I don’t really use Facebook to make connections with business contacts, however many others do and I often receive Facebook Friendship requests following networking events.
Whilst doing all of this I will also mark the cards to indicate what I have done and then I file them. Up until now this has just been in a series of piles or in folders etc; however I am in the process of creating myself a binder containing the business cards in industry / business sector order – but that might be easier said than done!
I will then, and this is a weak spot of mine, try and make contact by telephone with some of the key people that I have met at the networking events and try to arrange a 1:1 with them. I do also use a CRM system and put the appropriate contacts in there, setting tasks and reminders to follow up. However if I am honest this is more organic than the rest of my process and is an area which could possibly do with more time and attention … when I can find more time that is!
Whatever you do, there is no right or wrong way of doing it, but I would strongly advise you not to just rely on the effort made in the event and don’t for heaven sake think it will happen off the back of one event … unless you are very lucky of course or simply in demand!
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