If there is one thing that sets really effective networkers apart, it’s not how many organizations they belong to, or how well they can work a room, or even how powerful their job is.  It is, quite simply, follow-up.  

Let’s face it, we all have good intentions to follow-up with the people we meet, old contacts we run into at an event in the building lobby, and the colleagues we are connected to through social media.  We truly mean to send an email, set a date for coffee, make that introduction or send the promised information.  Great networkers actually do it.

One of the best ways to follow up with someone is to send them a short handwritten note. In today’s digital world, a handwritten note has become rare, and thus more memorable.  I know there is a whole generation of professionals who have probably never done this, but trust me, it makes an impact – especially if you are following up with someone over the age of 40!

A follow-up email is also perfectly fine, as long as it is personalized and not too sales-ish.  Reference where you met/saw them and what you talked about.  Social media is a good tool for follow-up as well, especially if you met someone for the first time.  Look at their profile on LinkedIn and then ask to connect, referencing where/when you met and making a comment about something in their bio (i.e. I saw you graduated from University of Michigan in ’94 – my brother did too!).

Remember the reason you are following up is to begin, evolve and/or maintain a relationship.  Relationships take work, and you can’t take for granted that the connection will be there if and when you need it.  Effective follow-up is always proactive, persistent and personal.  

About three years ago, I was recommended for a speaking engagement to a large banking industry association.  It didn’t work out, but I had a good experience interacting with the conference planner, and we connected via LinkedIn.  I faithfully stayed in touch with her, reaching out 2-3 times per year to update her on my new programs, congratulate her on a professional success, and ask her to keep me in mind for future opportunities.  Just a few weeks ago my follow-up paid off, and she has hired me to speak at a conference.  If I had failed to stay in touch and top of mind, she likely would not have thought of me.

So hold yourself accountable when it comes to follow-up!  You’ll see that you will get many more opportunities from your network simply by staying connected.

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