Many people fail to generate revenue from networking — not because of what they do at the event, but because of what they fail to do afterward. Excuse me for saying so, but, their follow-up sucks. And networking is a waste of time if you don’t follow up. So much time and money is spent attending conferences, trade shows and professional organization meetings.
I teach networking to many people, often to people who think they already know how. These people tell me that they go to events and rarely get any business from them. Wow, why would you keep going to events if you are not getting results?
Generating business from networking comes down to being effective in three ways:
- Building relationships
- Clearly stating what you do in an interesting way (but not selling)
- Following up
After working with me, people understand they should ask questions instead of immediately trying to sell their product or service. They know how to describe their business in 30 seconds in an interesting way. I can even teach them to ask for the type of leads they need. But, follow-up seems to be the most difficult skill to master. That’s unfortunate because a solid follow-up makes networking fruitful instead of fruitless. Here’s my method of following up after a networking event.
Follow Up Starts Before the Event
Making networking events profitable is dependent on what you do after the event. But to follow up after the event, you must build relationships so the people you meet will take your call. If you irritate people by trying to sell to them, no amount of great follow-up will help you. Planning is the best way to make sure you are ready to build relationships.
Before you get to the event do some research, asking the following questions:
- Who is your target audience?
- Who’s going to be at the event?
- What kinds of questions will you ask other attendees?
- What will they be interested in?
- What is the brief message you want to give them if the opportunity arises?
- What do you want to ask for if you get the opportunity?
Here’s a big pro tip: When you block off time to attend the event, also block off a few hours on your calendar 24-48 hours after the event to follow up. Once you’ve missed that window, you’ve also missed your chance.
Tailor Your Message For The Event’s Audience
If you sell IT services and attend a Nevada’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology meeting, it’s safe to assume that many attendees will understand technology well. So, you can use technical language when you speak to other attendees.
Your message would be different at a Commercial Real Estate Women meeting. At that meeting, your audience is women who may own small businesses and need to outsource their computer needs. In this instance, using technical language, jargon or even the word “IT” may not jive with many attendees.
As you mentally prepare to meet people at a networking event, think about your audience and what you want to deliver to them. Be specific in what you want. For example: “I’m looking for companies with 5-10 employees and computers on a network. My ideal customers would like to stop wasting time on computer problems. My company can help by providing preventative maintenance.”
Being prepared for your audience is critical. It will insure you make a positive impression. Preparing topics and questions that will engage the attendees will make you one of the most interesting people in the room. As you move around the room and talk with many people make sure to get their business cards for follow-up.
Pro tip #2: Make notes on the business cards you collect to help you remember specifics to use when you follow up.
Put Those Business Cards To Work
You took my advice and made connections with many new people at a networking event. You engaged them by asking relevant questions and discussing topics of interest. Now, their business cards are stacked on your desk. If you leave them there, then your results will be limited. Some of them may reach out to you but why not guarantee your results.
Your next task is to learn whether or not these people are prospects. You’ve already set aside time for the follow-up process, so start sorting the business cards you collected. New contacts usually fall into these three categories:
- Throw Away: Toss the cards of people who don’t seem likely to do business with you or refer business (or you just didn’t like them). Throw them out, get rid of them. It’s OK! Really.
- Priority: These new contacts may help you get more business via referrals. It’s important to develop and maintain a relationship with them.
- High Priority: These are people who gave you a sign that you have a need you can fill and could directly result in revenue for your company.
Enter your contacts into whatever system or database you use. Make notes regarding who the contact is, what they do and what you discussed. (Pro tip #2 comes in handy here.) Along with the person’s contact information, also add the date and name of the event. You’ll reference this information later when you follow up.
In addition to inputting this person into your lead system, make sure to follow them on social media like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram or Snapchat. If they have a blog, be sure to follow and maybe even take a minute to make a comment. People love it when you comment on their blog. These things help to continue building the relationship.
Now that you’ve sorted your new contacts, it’s time to reach out to each person individually. Start with your high-priority contacts and work your way to your list.
An excellent way to follow up is by sending a hand-written note recapping your meeting and confirming that you want to schedule a time to talk more. Here’s an example of a note I’ve sent:
It was a pleasure to meet you at the Get Connected event. It sounds like your business is growing and you have lots of things on your plate. I’d love to learn more about your business and any ways that I can be of help to you. I will call you to follow-up and schedule an appointment.
It’s best to call to follow-up and schedule an appointment with three days of sending the note. This way it is fresh on their mind. Of course, your new contact is under no obligation to respond as promptly. Their lack of response is not because they don’t like you. They are busy, you’re not their top priority. That doesn’t mean they are not interested in meeting with you. They may want to connect and feel bad that they haven’t responded quickly. Be polite and persistent and give them plenty of opportunities to respond.
In another three days, call again, and leave a voicemail something like this:
Hey Jen, sorry I missed you again. I would love to connect with you and continue our conversation. Maybe phone isn’t the easiest way for you to connect. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or text me on this number. If next Tuesday at 2:00 p.m. works for you, let’s have a quick call. Let me know if that works or suggest another time.
If you still haven’t heard back in three days, try one more phone call. If you don’t reach them, leave a message like this:
So sorry we’ve been having trouble connecting. I know from our conversation you must be busy with your growing business. I’d like to learn more and I have some ideas to share with you about how to make that process easier. Give me a call if you’d like to get together. I’d love to help!
Pro Tip #3: At the same time you can send similar messages via email or social media. You may find they are happy to communicate that way.
If they don’t call you after that, that’s fine. Make a note to send a follow-up email or make another call in a few weeks and try again. Stay visible and top of mind. Social media can be a great way to stay in touch during this time. You’ve already followed this person on Twitter or LinkedIn and found their blog. Make a comment or like one of their recent posts to build your relationship with this person. For more tips on how to use social media to sell, check this blog post.
To recap, here’s how to make networking worth your time:
- Prepare for the event by researching the audience and developing your questions and talking points
- Engage with new people at the event and get their contact information
- Follow up quickly and be politely persistent
- Continue to build relationships with social media
For help training your sales team how to follow up after attending events, call Alice, 775-852-5020.
Alice is nationally known for her expertise in elevating sales to increase valuation for companies with a B2B complex sale that have exceptional growth potential. She’s originally, from the widely known Miller Heiman Group. Spending her time strategizing with CEOs and their leadership teams to build the strategies that find new business and grow existing accounts is her passion. Her clients love her spirit and the way she energizes their sales organization.