I knew thirty-nine people when I started Roundpeg.
Ok, so counting friends, family and former coworkers around the country, my list of contacts was much longer. But here in Indianapolis, I had a list of thirty-nine people I considered good professional contacts, people who might be interested in my new business.
It didn’t take me very long to figure out I wouldn’t have much of a business if I couldn’t grow that list so I set out to meet people. Fortunately for me, I enjoy walking into a room of strangers and striking up a conversation. As I attended events, it became obvious to me that very little happened during that first conversation. Whether or not a business relationship developed depended on what I did after the event.
There were lots of follow up notes, phone calls and individual meetings that took lots time. Often the conversations went nowhere, but occasionally a random meeting at a networking event led to real opportunities.
Sometimes I think businesses starting today have it easier. No running around town, you can network from your desktop in the digital age. With LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and mass email marketing tools you never have to leave your office, or do you? While affordable CRM tools like Insightly, Zoho and others make it easier to track your contacts than a spreadsheet and a box full of business cards did, you still have to get out and meet people face-to-face occasionally.
Strengthen Networking Connections
When you do meet people face-to-face, all that wonderful technology will help you strengthen the connection with your new contacts. When you return to the office, use one of your digital tools to follow up right away. Remember if someone hands you a business card, this is an invitation to continue the conversation. That doesn’t mean adding them to your email newsletter. Do something more personal. Send them a short note letting them know you enjoyed the conversation. Remind them where you met or something you talked about. Bring value to the conversation by sending a link to something they might find interesting. No, your sales brochure is not interesting.
Streamline the follow-up process with standard emails which you can personalize. Having these set up in your CRM allows you to send a note as soon as you enter the contact. Or, if you connect your CRM to your email (Gmail and Insightly work beautifully together), as soon as you send the email you can forward it to the CRM and build the contact that way.
Another way to reach out is to send the follow-up note directly through LinkedIn with a request to connect. This is extremely valuable if you are a salesperson interested in B2B transactions with larger organizations. Creating a connection with one person in a larger company is likely to open doors and connections to others in the same firm.
Online Networking Profile
If you are going to use LinkedIn to follow up on a live meeting, make sure your profile is up to date. It should include your current job description and accomplishments, and maybe even a blog post or two. You need to present yourself as someone interesting, someone I would want to get to know. And please update your LinkedIn photo. Even if it is a great image, if it is more than a year or two old, it is time for an update.
So who do you want to meet today? You won’t meet them sitting behind your desk, so get out there, meet someone new. Then use digital tools to follow up.
Not sure where to get started? Download our networking guide: