Sorting Out Who’s Who

So, let’s say you’ve just returned from a networking event where you met a lot of new people and now you have a pocketful of business cards that you’re not sure what to do with.  What’s your first order of business?  Your first order of business is to sort out who’s who.

You need to separate the people you think might become new clients or referral partners right now from the ones who might be valuable contacts sometime in the future but not right away.  Let’s call the first group your A list, the rest your B list.  (Sounds kind of Hollywood, doesn’t it? :))  When you enter them into your contact database, labeling each contact as part of group “A” or “B” would be good to include (along with type of business, address, phone number, event where you met, etc.).

Now that you’ve got your contacts filed away neatly, take a look first at your B list. You want these folks to know you enjoyed meeting them, and you want to keep the door open for doing business with them later on if a good opportunity arises.  You can do this with a quick note by either e-mail or snail mail.* If you find you need to reconnect with one of these people at a later time, you’ll at least have some traction in the relationship simply because you followed up with a quick e-mail.

Now, what about your A list? These are people who have immediate potential as referral partners.  You need to follow up with them quickly–within a few days, before you drop off their radars.  First, initiate a “coffee connection” with each of your new contacts, a follow-up meeting where you can get to know her and find out how you can help her.  Anything short of trying to find ways to help her will generally be treated as a sales call instead of a relationship-building contact.  To ask for this first meeting, either a handwritten note or an e-mail is acceptable.*

At this point, you may be asking, “What about the people I meet who aren’t potential clients and aren’t in a field that can refer business to me?  Should I follow up with them anyway?” Absolutely!  You never know whom other people know; even a quick little “Nice to meet you” e-mail is better than not doing anything at all and hoping these people remember you later when you discover a need to do business with one of them.

Now that you know how to sort out who’s who, be sure to do this each and every time with the business cards you gather in your daily networking activities and, I guarantee you, you will start to see greater results from your networking efforts.

*Come back on Thursday to read a blog entry with specific examples of what your follow up notes to group A contacts and group B contacts should say–I’ll give you two free follow-up note templates so you’ll have no excuses for not following up with your new contacts.  Trust me, following up couldn’t be any easier than this!


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6 thoughts on “Sorting Out Who’s Who

  1. Hi Ivan,
    insightful article – I look forward to the templates.

    Very often after an event, the urge is to just put the business cards in a box and deal with them later. The ‘later’ never arrives ofcourse.

    Often the task of inputing all that data is a big stumbling block in itself. Another stumbling block being to actually remember to follow up at regular intervals – especially with what you call ‘B’ contacts, which could potentially become ‘A’ contacts in the future.

    You do mention that one should enter the contacts into a “contacts database”. So I was wondering which contacts database do you use/recommend? what do you like about it and what do you find lacking?

  2. Thank you Ivan, for the permission to “sort” people out. Yes, treat everyone well, but make the extra effort for those who are potential business partners.

    And, whatever it takes to make our follow up more automatic and less likely to be dropped? I am all for it!

    My theme this year is “Follow Up.”

  3. Yes – follow up! If we remember to put time in the calendar for AFTER the event to make sure those cards don’t just sit there, then follow up happens. Follow up doesn’t happen accidentally.

  4. So true, Herr Professor Mizner, regarding timely follow-up with all. I learned through painful experience that an inconsequential seeming connection with a junior level person at a conference may be very important to me in the future.

    Just before arriving on your site, I read an article about using QR codes on badges at conferences, to help remember names and titles. Here’s a link to the author’s more detailed comment about conference follow-up, in case you’d find it interesting.
    Please note, this isn’t link spam, I’m not affiliated with that blog or company, was on the site for the first time yesterday.
    http://arnoldwaldstein.com/2011/03/technology-as-value-connector/#comment-159739743

    Nearly forgot! Bon voyage for your upcoming travels in India!

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