I have, as mentioned in an earlier post, recently attended a networking event. I met with a few dozen people, and a few have tried to follow up with me, but most have not. Personally, however, I have not followed up with very many, and of the few who did try to follow up with me, I have only agreed to further a connection with one so far.
I will address the last part first. Two people in the same line of work contacted me, asking for a follow up meeting. Both said similar things, that they had been impressed by me at the event, and wanted to see if we could work something out together. The difference, however, was that one fellow stopped there. He did not mention my newly started business. He did not mention anything specific about me beyond my name. I turned down his request for a meeting. The other fellow commented on my new status as the owner of a business, on policies from my business that impressed him. He had clearly visited my website to find that out. Granted, that took him a total of two minutes to get that information, but at least we had something to talk about. I knew what he did, he knew what I did, and so we had a reason to meet.
This example has illustrated some of the criteria for arranging a follow up with anyone you meet at a networking event, or any event in which you meet new people, for that matter:
- If you have their card, you can get some information about them off the internet easily enough. Do it, and then when you follow up, provide enough information about them that they know you looked them up.
- Don’t make the follow up sound like a sales call. You’re not trying to sell them something (although, of course, you are likely hoping for a sale to come out of this). You’re looking to establish a relationship that will result in many sales, not just for you, but for them as well.
- Spend time talking about what they do, what their needs are, and how you might be able to help. Talk about their business, the types of people they likely deal with, and how you can help their clients as well. Talk about working together to help each other, and to help others. Don’t talk about your latest product that they really need. Save that for after you meet.
- Give them a reason to meet you. For example, if you’re in marketing, and they started a business in social media advertising, explain that you would be interested in sharing notes. Now they have a reason to meet you: you will tell them about marketing their product, and they will tell you more about the product. Both people gain.
Back to the original point, though. I did not follow up with very many of the people I met, because I don’t think most of us have anything in common. Many of the people at the event came to sell. I wasn’t there to buy. Others are in business that in no way connects to what I do. I don’t know people who might need their services. Or the impressions I got off them did not impress me (and in some cases, I made a note to avoid the person).
Image is extremely important at networking events. You need to convince the people you meet that working together can build a mutually beneficial relationship. If it seems like only one of you will gain out of the relationship, even if in the long run that may not be true, you will see the potential buyer run from the seller.