I recently read some scary business statistics that said with every month that you are not in communication, you lose 10% of your influence. It doesn’t take too long to drain your influence to zero. We work hard to plant seeds of opportunity, whether it’s for business development or new job opportunities. Yet our follow-up is where we trip up, and as a result we let the opportunity (and influence) slip away. You’ve heard the expression “Out of sight – out of mind? Perhaps the same is true that when you go out of touch, you go out of influence.
So why is it so difficult for people to integrate networking into the daily routine? Why is follow-up such a burden and so hard to do as a regular discipline?
Many people get the “heebeegeebees” when they hear the word networking. Networking is essentially about building relationships – one person at a time. As social animals, we humans are pre-wired to build and live in relationship. Whether you are an introvert, an extrovert or have an interpersonal propensity, you already know how to network. You’ve been doing it since you were born. It’s called building relationships with other people over time.
Are you a reluctant networker?
Of course, not all of us are highly skilled or motivated to build more relationships through professional networking. Some people are reluctant networkers, preferring to stay home, stay in familiar circles, stay near their office cubicle where it is safe. (i.e., Your Comfort Zone)
Some people take a transactional approach to networking (e.g., “What can you do for me?“, Will you hire me?“, “Will you buy this?“, “What leads do you have for me?“) and as a result get negative response from other people.
To be successful in networking, you must not only acquire the right skills (i.e., interpersonal and social skills, communication skills, follow-up skills), but you must have the right attitude. When you adopt the motivated networker mindset, you start focusing on building relationships, rather than simply transacting with people or companies.
A cool thing happens when you focus on the long term relationships rather than the short term transactions. You start to genuinely care for other people and put more of your energy into helping them, not just yourself. This is the foundation of long-lasting, mutually-beneficial, professional and personal relationships. This is networking at its best.
Strive to stay visible and valuable to the people in your professional network
One of my personal goals in networking is to strive to be visible and valuable to the people that I care about. I don’t want to be one of those people who call you only when I need you; or the kind of person who disappears for long periods of time. Here’s how I define visible and valuable in the context of networking and relationship building:
- Visible: be “front of mind” with the people that you care about. Communicate regularly, through both active and passive communication channels. Show up. Show your face. Don’t just communicate by email or texting. Let them see the whole human being that you are.
- Valuable: be a resource, be helpful, know what they need and care about. Help them solve their problems. Be collaborative, not competitive. Share your ideas, experiences, thoughts, ideas, content and resources that you have discovered and find worthwhile. Introduce people to other people that potentially can help them.
How often should you stay in touch?
The question of frequency comes up often when I speak to groups about professional networking and relationship building. The goal is to stay in touch frequently enough to have influence and visibility. Think of Goldilocks and the 3 Bears:
- “This one is too soft” – i.e., you are out of touch, you don’t reach out, you are neglecting your the people in your network. They start wondering if you are alive or if you simply don’t care enough about them to stay in touch;
- “This one is too hard” – i.e, your actions are too pushy, too much, you appear aggressive or worse yet, desperate or needy because you are constantly calling/emailing;
- “This one is just right” – i.e., you use the appropriate amount of follow-up, demonstrating that you care about the relationship, you are organized and professional and that you have self-confidence in who you are.
- Note: image credited to Tito Verano, http://www.flickr.com/photos/88251752@N00/4085056238/
Here’s are some guidelines for you to consider. In the end, you must decide what is appropriate levels of frequency and what means of communication to use with the people you want to build and maintain a relationship with. (when in doubt, ask them how and how often they prefer you to stay in touch with them).
- Touching base with your top 50 networking contacts (i.e., the people that are most important to you in your network): touch base every 5 weeks or so. Watch this video for the networking strategy 50-5-10-2
- Touching base with other people in your active network: once every 3 months or so;
- Touching base with current/past clients and prospects – once every 3 months; minimum 4x / year;
- Touching base with hiring managers who have interviewed you: follow-up immediately after the interview; touch base every 2 weeks to check on the status of the hiring decision. Demonstrate your value and thought-leadership by sending the hiring manager helpful articles. Show that you are motivated and are already thinking deeply about the company’s challenges. They haven’t yet hired you, and are already adding value to the business;
- People you don’t care about and don’t want or need in your life now or anytime in the future: no follow-up required. Neglect away (at your own risk…)
Do you have your follow-up act together?
It’s one thing to understand that you need for follow-up frequently in order to maintain your relationships, it’s another challenge to do it. It seems like time is in a short supply, everyone is super busy, there are many demands on your life. Truth be told, most of us are disorganized and undisciplined.
- Buy the digital download of my training program Motivated Networking Follow-Up. Learn how you can create a systematic approach to follow-up that is easier, more enjoyable and definitely more effective that what you are doing right now. You can purchase your digital download for $9.99 right now. The ROI on this simple investment is obvious. After all, your fortune is in your follow-up.
- Do what I did. Get yourself a SendOutCards account. This very cool on-line system gives you a contact management system to organize your contact details AND a way to keep in touch by sending real greeting cards in the (snail) mail. It’s much more personalized way to stay in touch than constant emailing and texting. Studies show that only 3% of what’s in your mail box is personal mail. Sending a greeting card with a personal message through snail mail is a GREAT way to stand out from the crowd. Best of all, the SendOutCards system gives you a real SOI advantage (speed of implementation!). SOI leads to ROI. Open up a free trial account with SendOutCards and send your first card FREE on me.