One of my recent posts talked about networking at RECon Vegas, the retail real estate industry’s biggest conference of the year, and the ultimate networking opportunity. As we start gearing up for the busy fall season, filled with another round of conferences, it’s the perfect time to revisit the art of following up. At the end of a conference, attendees often return home with a stack of business cards and notes. This is when the real work of networking – actual relationship building – truly begins.
Relationship building is about listening to people, making them feel important and recognizing the value of every individual, both personally and professionally. In his book, Mr. Schmooze
, author Richard Abraham talks about the power of managing relationships by knowing what motivates people. This means listening to them, figuring out what their goals are and what they value, and then using that information to build a series of connections, intentionally, over time.
In my recent blog, Networking: More Than Making Small Talk
, I talked about being intentional in how and with whom you network, and suggestions were offered for making the most of meet-and-greet events. Typically, during these types of networking opportunities, you’ll have only a few minutes to introduce yourself and have a brief conversation. It’s important to use that time wisely and listen for personal details or interesting insights that people might share that you can use in your follow-up. If you do this, your relationship building efforts will be easier, more authentic and more impactful.
Immediately following the networking event, send each new contact a handwritten note. In today’s often impersonal world of email, texts and phone calls, written notes will make you stand out. Thank them for their time, and personalize the message by using the information that you gleaned while speaking with them. If they mentioned that they were missing their child’s special event to be at the business meeting, ask them how it went. If they shared a specific insight or contributed something particularly important to the discussion, compliment them on how they added value.
After the initial follow-up letter, be intentional and disciplined in how you keep the momentum going. The frequency of your on-going outreach will depend on the person and the relationship that develops, but continue to strive for a personal touch, and try to have multiple touchpoints beyond the initial follow-up note. Connect with them on LinkedIn, send them an email later with links or information relevant to your initial discussion, or call them just to touch base. Get creative. If they talked about a big upcoming golf game, send them a sleeve of golf balls shortly before the event.
Noting and remembering what motivates people will help you keep the relationship alive and growing. Genuine efforts to conduct this kind of relationship building show that you care and that you value those around you. As Maya Angelou once said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”