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!