The stack of business cards in your office or home desk has remained untouched for more time than you like to admit, but guess what? Networking will net you zero if you don’t follow up.
One of the best ways to get on top of the business card or number exchange clutter is to categorize the contacts you’ve made. For example: Let's say you are a fashion blogger and you recently met an editor at a dinner where you chatted about syndicating content. Organize that contact into a “syndicated content” category. Easy, right? The more organized you keep contacts, the easier it will be for you to do the initial outreach.
The first follow-up is the hardest hurdle to jump. Our insecurities play a major role in this. There’s an assumption that if you’re reaching out, you need something—and often this is true. However, pleasantries aside, most people don’t pass out their contact information if they aren’t the slightest bit interested in doing business. The good news is, if you reach out and they aren’t interested, you’ll know soon enough. Instead of wasting time mulling over the situation, just do it.
I recently ran into a high-profile agent at an event. We chatted about upcoming projects and she told me that we should talk, even telling me that I should come to her house for coffee. We didn’t exchange contact info, so I didn’t follow up. It would have been an easy number for me to find, but one major barrier stood between me and my new opportunity: self-doubt. I convinced myself that if she had really wanted to host me, she would have given me her number. In hindsight it was a mistake, but it’s one that many of us make. We let opportunities pass us by because we get stuck running around in our own heads, instead of taking action.
The most successful people take opportunities given to them, like an invite to a dinner or event, and create something more out of it. If the dinner is the door, the contact exchange is the amuse-bouche, and the next step you take is the meal.
A successful nail salon owner in Los Angeles does this incredibly well. After she connects with people at events, she invites them into the salon. It’s a simple gesture that puts her at top of mind and makes it easier for her to reach out. You don’t need your own business to make this happen, but you should be of the mentality that you need to give to get. Make the effort and you will become memorable.
Most of us are worried that if we stick a hand out and don’t find one shaking back, we’ll feel like idiots. But who cares?
Conceding doesn’t mean giving up or giving in, but rather you need to concede to the possibility that while you have the right to work, the fruits of your labor are not a given. Concede to the reality that some people will say no, or even nothing at all. But a “no” is not a failure on your end—it’s a success. A “no” means you tried. A “no” means you’re one step closer to finding the right person.
Conceding is both the first and last step you need to take for a successful follow-up. It will help you get over the initial fear of reaching out, and it will also make it easier to move onto the next contact.
What challenges have you faced while networking and how did you overcome them?