Date: Monday, June 02, 2014
The topic is timely as we just finished TiEcon 2014, the largest Entrepreneurship Conference in the world at Santa Clara Convention Center in the heart of Silicon Valley. The Tag line for the conference this year was Learn, Connect and Prosper. As we all professionals know, connecting or networking is critical to growing your business. If you do not go out and meet people, nobody will know you exist. If they don\'t know you exist, they cannot hire you or use your services. Now, you can be the best networker out there but unless you follow up with the people you meet, you are letting go of some future opportunities that may arise from it. Connecting with other like-minded fellow entrepreneurs is as critical as learning and prospering. Without a sincere follow up to create another opportunity to interact, a relationship can never develop. You must be proactive and diligent in connecting with people you meet. This can set you apart from the vast majority. The appropriate and sincere follow up may ultimately lead to meaningful and fruitful relationships and also send a message that you are serious towards developing a relationship. The follow up process is more of an art than science and hence, there is no single best way. If you want to develop a mutually beneficial relationship, you have to take action immediately. Now as you begin to think about developing these new connections into long term relationships, here are four key take away (4KTA) points based upon my own experiences, insights and observations.
1. Organize – The first step would be organizing the new contacts that you have made into various categories and prioritizing them from high to low. Review all the business cards by priority that you have assigned. The high priority ones should be contacted within one or two days of initial meeting followed by next priority list consisting of those that you want to contact within a week and remaining after few weeks. Establish a goal for the follow up. It could be like getting a face to face meeting, suggesting someone or something that may benefit them or someone they may want to meet or even requesting to send relevant information or extending an invite for coffee or lunch. Always think from the value you are going to provide to your contact than other way round. Make it a win-win goal. Be sure to highlight this as a way to get to know each other\'s businesses and goals, and uncover ways you might be able to complement each other. The goal is to ensure that the other person will feel there is something of value in it for them.
2. Initiate – Now your follow up must be creative and sincere. Always work on making yourself memorable and project yourself in positive light. While following up, reference a part of your conversation that you had with the person that was funny but not off-color or remind of something that person told you about from his or her life. Send an article that is a good follow up to most of your conversations that represent what you do and is of value to your contact. This must not be a sales brochure. Making it personal will help you build rapport and create the connection. It will also convey the fact that you were actually listening and interested in that person. Indicate your goal into the follow up communication and your desired outcome. Write out and read your intended message before you call, mail or email so you leave a positive impression. For voicemail, it may be worthwhile to practice out loud.
3. Approach – With all kinds of social media tools these days and handwritten notes or letters almost becoming extinct, my suggestion is to be as different as you can. That\'s why many experts still recommend sending handwritten notes in mail. They will certainly portray your personality and your keen desire to invest time and efforts in fostering a relationship. You may want to use this as first choice for your highest priority contacts. However, in practice, it may be easier to send emails, use LinkedIn to send a short note and connect and finally, even phone and text could be used as your last option. Using voicemail can convey your taking time to call and then leaving a message in a positive tone with warmth and high energy can leave a memorable impression. Make sure you smile and are in a good mood as your voice will reflect your state of mind. While emailing, craft a clear and attention grabbing subject line. As they say, subject line is what opens your email and read by your audience. You can combine an email with a voicemail or even a handwritten note.
4. Respect – Not everyone will reciprocate and respond to your follow up attempts as some of them may not see the value in fostering a relationship. Try couple of times and after that, let it pass as opportunity may cross paths again. At some point, being persistent can almost turn into annoyance and aggravation for the recipient, so you may want to apply sound discretion when to stop following up. Also, you must note that reaching out one time after meeting them is not enough. There is a saying in sales that it usually takes seven or eight meetings before someone decides that they are ready to engage with you. You need to find a way to touch base with them regularly. Continue to give information of value and interest to them. When you follow up regularly and share information of value after meeting someone, you become someone they trust. You will naturally build a solid relationship and before you know it the cards on your desk will become your best customers, partners or possibly even good friends.
In summary, the four key take away points are organize, initiate, approach and respect for doing an appropriate and sincere follow up to form meaningful and lasting relationships.
The author is Co-Founder of AURISS TECHNOLOGIES INC., a serial entrepreneur and Board Member, Chair Programs, The Indus Entrepreneur (TiE) organization, based in Silicon Valley, California. Learn more at www.4KTA.comand follow Naveen on twitter @Naveen_4KTA