When I moved to Charlotte, North Carolina to work with Jeffrey Gitomer, I worked my tail off to connect with influential business and community leaders, to build a local reputation as a person of value, and to fill my sales pipeline with people with whom I have already established a friendly rapport. I attended somewhere between five and ten business networking functions per week. Sometimes three on the same day. Yes, it was a big commitment. Yes, it took a ton of time. But it beat cold-calling any day.
As a result of putting myself out there, I had the pleasure of meeting new people on a daily basis. That pleasure also comes with a challenge: I left each function with a stack of business cards, often as many as fifty, and often struggled to keep up with follow-up. That is, I struggled until I created a process.
Through trial and error, defining and refining a process, and observation of how others follow-up, I created a best practices list that I now follow. Before I share that list with you, however, you should know there are two major considerations with regard to successful follow-up.
The opportunity for impactful follow-up is limited by only two factors: The time between the meeting and the follow-up – and your creativity.
Quite simply, the more creative your and the sooner you follow-up, the more impactful the impression you make on your new contact will be. There’s an old cliché, “Out of sight, out of mind.” It’s old and it’s a cliché because it’s true. Your greatest opportunity for impactful, memorable, and effective follow-up is within the first 24 hours after your meeting. And, the more creativity you employ, the more likely it is that you will stand out from the other 49 people your new contact met yesterday.
I have developed a 7-Step Process for follow-up that is not only impactful, but it is efficient and organized. I challenge you to adopt it, master it, and then modify my process to fit your own personal style.
1. I get the contact’s business card, double check for an email address, and tell the contact that I will be in touch shortly.
2. I write something on the back of the card that will jog my memory about my conversation with my new contact. Sports fan? Grew up in Milwaukee? Really loved the appetizers? Interested in new technologies? Something personal and relevant.
3. I scan the business card into my address book with CardScan. I find that if I scan the card, I can often trigger a specific memory when I look at that image in the future. As I’m scanning the cards, I put aside the few that I want to build a relationship with. Although I want to stay connected to everyone, I can only be personal with a few.
4. I then import the entire batch of scans I just completed into Ace of Sales. I’ll send the majority of contacts a “Branded Email” with a few comments about the networking function and a call to action to connect with me via any of my social media profiles.
5. For the contacts that I am interested in building a deeper relationship with I create an “Email Greeting” that I personalize for each recipient. I use the stock images from the Ace of Sales gallery, or pictures I snapped at the event (a photo of your contact ALWAYS gets his/her attention), or even something relevant from Google Images.
6. In that “Email Greeting” I always ask for an appointment or a commitment to meet for coffee. But not before I deliver value first. If I had an interesting conversation with the contact, I’ll attach an article that discusses something relevant. If I know someone who would be a good prospect for my contact, I’ll introduce that prospect right in the email. I give my contact a reason to want to connect with me beyond what I may have established the day prior at the event.
7. My inbox gets flooded, my phone rings, and I fill my calendar with appointments and my pipeline with prospects.
There’s one more secret I want to share with you, and it is the key to maximizing the opportunities you encounter after a first meeting. Lots of people follow-up. The call or the email sounds something like, “Hi, Noah, this is Joe. We met at the networking function last week. I just wanted to follow-up and say that it was great to meet you. If you ever need anything, just call!” Nice, right? Joe took the time to reach out to me. But Joe also failed to stand out from every other contact I made last week.
I have found that the secret to successful follow-up is all about follow-through. Look at the difference in the power of the following two opening lines of an email:
“I’m just following up to say that I enjoyed meeting you and look forward to seeing if there’s a way we can work together.”
“I just mentioned your name to a friend of mine that would be a perfect customer for you…let’s meet for lunch.”
Which one gets a reply? Which one gets the appointment? Which one leads to the sale?
One final tip: Remember to bring your business cards to the event! I cannot tell you how many times I failed to bring enough cards (or any cards at all, on occasion) and how frustrating it is to have to tell a new contact that I “forgot my cards at the office.” When you forget your cards, you look unprepared and uninterested in connecting. I know this is a weakness of mine, so I took a proactive, creative approach to ensure I would always be ready to connect—anytime, anywhere. I bought a domain name for $8 and built a simple one page website in less than an hour. Now when I forget my business cards, I tell people to visit IMetNoah.com. If you want directions on how you can create your own online business card, visit IMetNoah, connect with me on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter and send me a note. I’ll be sure to follow-through on my offer to help!