When it comes to building a business, many entrepreneurs regard networking as a “necessary evil”. Even among those who enjoy attending networking events, the idea of following up with those new contacts sometimes feels uncomfortable. We don’t want to be seen as overly aggressive, or even worse – desperate.
But without follow-up, we’re letting the opportunity to nurture a potentially fantastic relationship slip through our fingers. So what’s an uneasy networker to do?
I spoke about this with Devora Zack, author of Networking for People Who Hate Networking, and she admitted that even she might be dismissive of a bland follow-up e-mail that read, “It was really nice meeting you at that event. Let’s stay in touch.” Says Zack, “I’m thinking, yeah, sure, you probably sent this to six other people too.”
But Zack says she’d react much differently to the same e-mail if it included an attached article about something of particular interest to her — for example, an article related to one of her current business projects, or a hobby she may have mentioned in conversation. The e-mail might include a line like, “I attached this article because I saw it and it made me think of what we were talking about at the event.”
This slightly different approach via e-mail “does a couple of things,” says Zack. “One, it makes you seem really thoughtful and authentic, and two, I know this (e-mail) is really intended for me and you’re not asking for anything, but providing something. At that point, you’re making me want to stay in touch with you.”
According to Zack, the key to follow-up success is personalization. Not only does it make you seem like less of a “pest”, but you’re also showing that you were truly listening to this person when you talked (closely enough to remember one of their current interests). Additionally, you’re following up with a spirit of helpfulness and generosity, rather than making this person feel like the only reason you care about them is because of what they can do for you.
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