I was recently asked my opinion on the timing of follow-up following a Networking Event.
What was the proper protocol? Should the person seek personal information if only given a business card, and how soon after the meeting can a phone call be placed?
Attending Networking Events is a good idea as long as you have the proper objectives in mind. They ARE NOT intended to sell your wares. They ARE NOT scheduled to acquire bags of business cards, so when you return home you can call people to sell your wares. So why attend in the first place?
It may be true that nothing good happens until you sell something, but this simple credo doesn’t mean you can speed up the process. And sales is a process. And sales takes time to cook. You know you can’t cook a steak by simply turning up the burners to “high.” This results in a burnt, flavorless disaster. Slow and steady does it. And Networking is the initial step, and nothing more.
Nothing good is going to happen until I feel comfortable and trusting of you and your professionalism. And yes, this too takes time. Your purpose for atteninding these events is to introduce yourself to as many people as possible with a single mission in mind. To isolate those who you feel drawn to as a result of their professionalism, personality, confidence level and business acumen. Trust me, there are not too many candidates in the room.
But once you do find one or two you want to establish a possible next step righ then and there. You do not want to set yourself up for failure by calling them at the wrong time, or to appear overly anxious to adhere to your personal agenda. So, how can you do this?
By suggesting a “next step” right then and there. “Mike, I find your views on this topic refreshing. Do you think we can schedule some time over a cup of coffee to compare some of the challenges we both may be facing?”
You will save both of you a bunch of time and uneccessary stress by confronting this question right from the giddy-up. Either way, you now can move on to your next conversation knowing that you won’t be wasting your time.
As an offshoot of this strategy, a couple of things will happen.
1. You will find yourself looking forward to attending future events.
2. You will meet more meaningful business associates who think and act like you do. And remember, people enjoy the company of people who exhibit the same traits they do.
But, what about the business cards you collected last night? I would send them an email before calling them on the telephone as a courtesy. I would word my email by first applauding their refreshing position on whatever it was you talked about, and then, invite them to a cup of coffee to continue the discussion.
You probably will not receive many replies. Send a second email worded the exact same way three days later. If still no reply, start looking forward to that next event where you can put into motion your new strategy… Finding the good guys!