This is the third of a series of blogs on The Art of Networking. The previous blog concentrated on the all-important topic of making introductions. Once you have started the conversation though you need to know how to exit with style, and the most important part of networking the Follow Up.
Once you’ve struck up a conversation with somebody, leaving the conversation politely can be trickier. You don’t want to appear rude: after all you are enjoying an interesting conversation. You don’t necessarily have anywhere specific to go next, or more commonly you don’t know what to say to stop this conversation and move on.
Three techniques I find useful:
- Have a few phrases in your mind
- I’ve really enjoyed talking with you, could we catch up sometime afterwards and carry on the
conversation?’ Swap cards.
- Nice to meet you. Enjoy the event. Shake hands. Move.
- Shall we mingle?
2. Bring someone else in “Do you know Amy? Amy, this is xxxxx, I thought you might be interested in her….” Then leave them to it.
3. Keep scanning for other groups or individuals to approach. Don’t wait to move.
Once you’ve exited your final conversation of the event, your mind needs to turn to follow up – arguably the most valuable part of any networking exercise. Provided you managed to collect a few business cards at the event, this is the part where you turn connections into relationships.
Human memory decay means that people, including you, won’t accurately remember much of what you did or said at that event. Some of my clients write brief notes on the back of business cards they collect to prompt their memory the following day, which could work for you. However, don’t worry for a second about whether you had a good conversation with this person. If you invest in follow up the impression they get from you taking the time will be more significant than what you said or didn’t say, or how elegantly you exited your first conversation.
Three of the most effective methods for follow up:
- Email – If you made notes after you met the person, drop in a few nuggets from your conversation to see if you can jog their memory too. Remind them where and when you met, and suggest an actionable next step.
- Connect on LinkedIn – Don’t just request a connection, add a personal message about where you met and ensure your profile has a photograph which will help jog their memory.
- Keep a tracking system. Mine is a simple spreadsheet: it tells me how we first met, the date of our last contact and what that contact covered, the date I will next make contact with them and what I should talk about when I do that. If you are disciplined about this, the next time you go to the same event you can quickly sort it and remind yourself of who you met last time and what you talked about. Then you have easy conversation starters and people are inordinately impressed when you open the conversation with “So how was your trip to Nepal?” or “Last time we met I think you were…..” But I promise you that we all have the same limitations of human memory, so help yourself out. A formal CRM system (e.g. Salesforce) is particularly useful when multiple team members are connecting with the same people/company as it helps to collect and share knowledge.
Follow up is the most valuable part of any networking event. Without effective follow up, you have simply spent time and money collecting a decorative stack of business cards. Follow up is essential to converting connections into relationships, and as relationships are the foundation of successful business development none of us can afford to neglect them.
The final article in this blog series will deal with how to deal with the impromptu networking opportunity.
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