Networking In Action: Listen for Valuable Content
Putting the Personal Touch into Your Follow-Up Correspondence
The most successful networkers are great listeners, not just great talkers. They know how to ask good questions and to engage other people in conversation. They are able to be fully present in the conversation, but also able to take mental note of the important information that the other person is sharing. Even the smallest details could be valuable to help you turn this new connection into a mutually-beneficial relationship for the future.
What kind of information is valuable?
You need to listen for the topics that seem of greatest interest to the other person, not just to you. What subjects do they seem most passionate about? What issues concern them the most? What problems are they dealing with right now? What happened that was memorable during your networking exchange with this other person?
I have found that asking open-ended questions is the best method of finding out what people care about. Open-ended questions cannot be answered by a simple yes/no response, but require a more in-depth explanation. Your job is simple – get them talking about themselves and listen for what is important to them.
Once you capture this information, your next task is to put it into play with your networking follow-up. This is how I have been able to turn casual conversation into future business opportunities.
The business card is an excellent resource for jotting down key information about your encounter with people while networking. I like to capture the date, the meeting or venue and one or two bits of information about the individual (usually personal). If there are any connections or follow-up action items I’ve promised, I will write this down too. I use my own style of shorthand to make it fast, but memorable.
Another place to jot down a few quick notes is in the car before you drive away (absolutely not while driving the vehicle, for safety’s sake). You can keep a small note pad in your car, similar to the mini booklet where you might record your business mileage or what a journalist might use. Think like a detective or a journalist; jot down key observations and thoughts, key facts of the event and the players and any important action items that you want to follow up.
Of course, then the key is to put those items into action. Follow-up helps not only with memory, but also with furthering the relationship and helping you stand out in other people’s minds. Consider sending a thank-you letter to the event organizers and a personal handwritten note card to the few people with whom you had meaningful connections. Pull up those business cards and refer to your encoded scribble. Try to include something personal in your message that demonstrates that you were paying attention to them.
The power of a single word
I attended a professional women’s networking after-hours event sponsored by a law firm. There I met many women and ran into others I had met on previous occasions (but didn’t know all that well.). Of the 50 women I conversed with that night, I came home with 20 business cards. On one such card I had a single word: “woodturning.” This reflected the piece of personal information that this particular woman had shared with me. I remember it being unusual that a female certified public accountant had a hobby of learning to work with wood. She was actually making spindles to build her own staircase. Her passion for the work was evident in the way she spoke about it. I was inspired to search for images of woodturning that would honor her interest.
I found a visually compelling photo and created a custom card. Inside the card I included an inspiring quote that said:
“Today is life – the only life that you are sure of. Make the most of today. Get interested in something. Shake yourself awake. Develop a hobby. Let the winds of enthusiasm sweep through you. Live today with gusto. ”
- Dale Carnegie
It felt good to send such a personalized card to this new contact. While we had met two times before, I had not yet had the opportunity to learn and appreciate the depth of her uniqueness. She called me shortly after receiving that card to thank me. She loved the image on the card as it reflected her personal passion. This was not your normal business EMAIL correspondence.
As a result of this personalized networking follow-up, she recommended me to her company’s HR department as someone who can help with workshops for their Women’s Leadership Program. All this from simply jotting down one single word on her business card, which prompted my memory and motivated me into action.
Note to self: do more of this.
About the writer: Kathy McAfee is known as America’s Marketing Motivator and is author of the book Networking Ahead for Business (Kiwi Publishing 2010). In her role as Executive Presentation Coach and Professional Speaker, Kathy helps her clients to become the recognized leaders in their fields by mastering the art of high engagement presentations and more effective networking and connecting. To learn more about Kathy, visit her web site MarketingMotivator.net. To receive free weekly networking tips, sign up at NetworkingAhead.com