It might be helpful to think of networking a bit like dating Let me be clear . . . I am NOT saying you should date the people you’re networking with!  Networking is, however, about building relationships which is also the basic premise of dating.   As with dating, if you don’t communicate between “dates,” the relationship doesn’t progress and dies.   If there is no communication with you and those you meet at networking activities between these activities, there is no relationship development.  Remember, the connections that strengthen your net are relationships.  The stronger the connections, the stronger the net.  Think of traditional networking activities as simply meet-and-greets.  The real relationships and connections are built outside the networking activities.

As we discussed in the last blog, your goal in any networking opportunity should be to discover one or two people with whom you’d like to have a conversation in the following week.  The first conversation you have outside the networking event is critical to the progression of the relationship.  There are three keys to productive and profitable follow up conversations.

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Authenticity

Successful follow up conversations must be authentic.  One of the biggest mistakes professionals make is asking for the opportunity to get together under the guise of getting to know someone then turning the conversation into a sales pitch.  This bait-and-switch approach will ruin your reputation and kill your business.  If the purpose of getting together is really to share your product or service, be sure that’s clear.   Be aware that the likelihood of success when you go directly from an introduction to a sales conversation is extremely low.  You haven’t built any trust.


Mutual Benefit

The purpose of a follow up conversation should first be to get to know each other.  Once you determine if there is alignment you can then progress to discovering if there is an opportunity for a mutually beneficial relationship.  Mutually beneficial may look different to each of the parties.  It could, of course, mean sales, but could also mean referral partner, trusted advisor, etc.  When you approach these conversations looking for a quick sale you often miss greater opportunities.


Consistency

Sales happen when relationships are present.  Loyalty happens when relationships are present.  Success happens when relationships are cultivated and nurtured.  One conversation does not make a relationship.  Effective networking requires an investment in consistent interaction.  Relationship maintenance is just as important as relationship development.  Unfortunately, many people feel they’re maintaining relationships by simply going to networking activities and asking other’s about their business.  This may feel like a relationship in the short term, but long term people recognize there is no substance to the relationship and begin to feel taken for granted.  What you believed to be a relationship becomes only an acquaintance without consistent interaction.

It’s time to evaluate your connections and determine if they are relationships or only acquaintances masquerading as relationships.  Which relationships have become stale?  In which relationships do you need to invest more time?