Too many people fail at the followup, IMHO.
1. Press the flesh.
The core to networking is meeting people face to face. Except for rare occasions, such as long-distance online romances, all the friends and business colleagues that we trust we’ve met in person. If you think you can be an effective networker solely by engaging in social media, you’re sorely wrong. You have to get out and press the flesh.
4. Always follow up.
This is the core of all networking: following up. If you don’t do it, you might as well never have met the person. I would estimate that one out of 20 people I hand my business card to follows up. Collecting business cards without following up is a wasted engagement. It only takes days for the person to completely forget meeting you. If you follow up with some level of context of your meeting it increases the value and impact of the meeting. To remember that meeting, take notes on the business card.
When you do follow up, be specific about your follow up. Don’t just say, “Nice to have met you,” or, “We should meet for coffee sometime,” because that now puts the onus on the other person to set up the meeting and discuss its purpose. That’s quite a burden. If you want that to happen, you need to set the place, time, and purpose of the discussion.
Yes, it’s good to be directed about what you’re doing and have focus, but you’ll be a far more effective networker and make better connections if you simply listen to others. If someone else isn’t as much a talker as you are, then ask questions. Pull them out of their shell; that will let you to listen to them. Networking is not an opportunity for you to spout out marketing copy that you hope someone else will absorb. Your job is to listen and create a relationship first.
Surveys asking people to predict behavior are notoriously unreliable, but there’s other data showing the powerful impact of even a modest connection. In my book Brainfluence, I devote a chapter to “schmoozing.” One rather startling finding comes from a study performed by researcher Al Roth.
Roth used The Ultimatum Game, a clever experiment in which one subject must divide a small amount of money, say, $10, between himself and a second subject. If the second subject agrees with the split, both keep their share of the money. If the other person rejects the split, though, nobody gets any money. In its basic form, it shows that humans place a value on fairness. While a totally rational economist would accept even a mere $1 (since that’s better than the alternative of zero for a rejected offer), real people tend to reject splits that heavily favor the first subject. In fact, in the standard game only half of the offers are “fair” – arbitrarily defined as both subjects getting $4-6. About a third of the time, the deal is rejected and nobody gets any money.
Roth tried a variation on the standard game in which he let the subjects chat face to face for ten minutes before playing. This was pure socializing – they didn’t know the rules of the game they’d play, and there was no discussion of strategy. This simple bit of schmoozing had a dramatic impact on the game results. After the face to face chat, 83% of the deals were “fair,” and just 5% – one out of 20 – resulted in rejection and loss of money for both subjects.