Networking Dilemma: What’s Your Next Move?
Let’s say you meet someone in the course of networking. You find them to be quite impressive. You feel good about the rapport you were able to build with this person in that first meeting. You sense that there could be potential business opportunities if you could manage to build a stronger connection and relationship with this person over time. What do you do next?
Do you text them, email them, send them a LinkedIn invitation, call them on the telephone or send them a letter in the mail? How can you express your thanks for the time they took with you and your desire to stay in touch with them? What kind of follow up communication can you send so that your intentions are positively received and acted upon by them?
Fortune’s in the follow up
You know that the “fortune is in the follow up,” but you are busy and get easily distracted. You have a lot of people that you need to keep in touch with. Your network seems to be growing exponentially, especially with the new social media sites that you are now using (Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter).
How much energy should you put towards this new connection? What actions should you take now and in the future? Whatever you do, do it quickly before you forget.
What’s a modern networker to do?
Text, Tweet, Like, Link, chat or write a good old fashioned personal letter? How will you reach out to this newly formed contact and express your intention to stay in touch? These are the many choices and challenges of networking in the digital age.
What’s easy versus what works
Breaking through to busy people and standing out from the crowd has become even more challenging these days with the onslaught of media channels and digital gadgets available to us. It takes less time and less courage to send a text than to pick up the telephone. You can whip out a short email much faster than you can craft a handwritten letter and mail it. Of course, retrieving it and/or correcting it is not always possible. Embarrassing!
Active versus passive communication
Whenever I think about how I want to follow up with my networking connections, I give thought to whether I am being active or passive in my approach. I know that the active routes will produce more meaningful results. Taking the time and effort to personalize my outreach and follow up has always yielded more for me and my business than hiding behind my desk sending electronic messages to the masses.
The courage to connect
I see my teenage son spending more time on Facebook than on his homework. He thinks he’s socializing and making friends using this cool tool, and maybe he is. Yet he still lacks the social skills and confidence to connect with real people in person. Facebook allows him the false illusion that he has social skills and close relationships. Yet, he still doesn’t have the courage to ask a girl to the dance. Hmm? It does take courage and effort to build relationships and to create opportunities.
It’s all about relationships
Networking is ultimately about building relationships with people. You want to create a large sphere of influence for yourself, so you need to focus both on quality and quantity of connections. Not every connection deserves your full attention, but some will. New connections will require ongoing investment of time, effort and energy if you want them to grow into a mutually beneficial relationship.
So what’s your next move?
I suppose the question really should be what do you want this new networking connection to grow into? What potential does it hold for you or others in your network? What does your gut tell you?
Your decision on the type of follow up action you take after meeting this individual will set the trajectory for the relationship. Do you want it to be a flat liner? a hockey stick? Or maybe just a slow, steady, healthy, organic progression of getting to know each other and help each other over time. The choice is yours. The action is yours.
My recommendation is that you take the time and effort to personalize your networking follow up and outreach. Make people feel special and let them know that you care about them as individuals. Connect with them on as many levels and in as many mediums as you can. By doing so, you will stand out among a sea of passive networkers.
About the writer: Kathy McAfee is known as America’s Marketing Motivator and is author of the book Networking Ahead for Business and co-founder of PowerUpYourProfessionalImage.com. 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.